With so many amazing options, it can be tough to know the best things to do in Valladolid, Mexico.

Valladolid is a dynamic city in Mexico’s Yucatan state that is full of stunning cenotes, top-notch restaurants, invigorating markets, traditional art, and colonial architecture. 

Unlike other places on the Yucatan Peninsula such as Merida, Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen, Valladolid is a laid-back city that prides itself on culture and experience.

Lucky for you, I spent my time in Valladolid doing all the top activities to suss out what’s really worth your time and money.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • ✅ The 11 best things to do in Valladolid
  • ✅ If Valladolid is truly worth your time
  • How to get around Valladolid
  • ✅ How much Valladolid costs
  • ✅ If Valladolid is safe
  • And so much more!

Let’s dive in!

 

The 11 Best Things to do in Valladolid, Mexico

 

The best things to do in Valladolid Mexico Pinterest Pin

 

#1 – Visit the Convent de San Bernardino

The ex-convent of San Bernardino is located in Valladolid’s Sisal neighborhood and is one of the most poignant examples of Spanish colonization and the Christianization of the Yucatan. 

One of the oldest colonial structures in the state, the building was constructed between 1552 and 1560 and was Valladolid’s first home of the Franciscan Order. At the onset, it was partially a religious center and partially a fortress.

Today, the Convent is still used as a church, although it also is home to a covered cenote and a Sound & Light show that is put on during the high season.

To fully grasp how the Spanish settled the area and understand how they sought to “convert” the Yucatec Maya, I recommend taking a tour (Tripadvisor has a few). Definitely book your tickets ahead of time though, as it can get quite busy during peak seasons.

A sign describing the Convent de San Bernardino in Valladolid Mexico

 

#2 – Stroll Catedral de San Servacio (Gervacio)

A Catholic church that was founded in 1545 (and rebuilt in the 1700s), the Iglesia de San Servacio consists of two towering bell towers and is easily the most recognizable building in the city.

Access to the cathedral is free and, whether you’re religious or not, taking a stroll among the pews and checking out the ornate details is worth it (stepping inside is a great way to beat the midday heat!)

Read More: Three Days in Valladolid and Chichen Itza: An Introduction to Mexico

Catedral de San Servacio in Valladolid Mexico from across the street

 

#3 – Take a Photo Walk

Honestly, one of the best things you can do to acquaint yourself with Valladolid is to just walk around and take photos.

Valladolid is an incredibly colorful city, full of colonial Spanish architecture and pastel buildings, and spending an afternoon strolling the streets camera in hand won’t disappoint. 

In particular, I recommend you photograph Cenote Chan Suytun (yes, this is the famous cenote from Instagram), the Cathedral of San Servacio, the street beetles (of the VW variety), the Casona fountain, and the main square. 

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture (pun intended). 

A colorful street in Valladolid Mexico

 

#4 – Take a Food Tour

Even more so than other places I visited on the Yucatan Peninsula, I found that the food in Valladolid was something to be savored.

It’s up to you whether you want to hire a foodie guide or just hit up all the top restaurants and food carts yourself, but there is no shame in eating your way through Valladolid.

In particular, I recommend the following restaurants:

  • 🍴 La Casona de Valladolid
  • 🍴 La Selva
  • 🍴 Yerbabuena de Sisal (has some great vegetarian options)
  • 🍴 Taberna de Los Frailes (this is a beautiful restaurant that offers some traditional dishes)

Read More: Is Coba, Mexico Safe?

People dine at a downtown restaurant in Valladolid Mexico

 

#5 – Take a Day Trip to Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas

Do you dream of pink lagoons, flamingos, and small-town Mexican charm? Then a day trip to Rio Lagartos and Las Coloradas is for you!

A village on the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula, Rio Lagartos is a fishing community that is perfect for wildlife-seekers and bird watchers. Also a UNESCO-protected biosphere, Rio Lagartos means “estuary of the lizard” and indeed you’ll spot some crocodiles here (from a distance, of course). 

Additionally, the saltwater wetlands are lined with mangroves home to over 300 species of birds, including storks, flamingos, pelicans, kingfishers, and more.

Las Coloradas is about a 20-minute drive from Rio Lagartos.

Due to its high salt concentration, this lake is a breeding ground for reddish algae — which gives the lake its bright pink color. Keep in mind though that this is actually a private area, and swimming is not allowed. An easy way to get in is to take a “guided tour” with a local — but this is one of those things that you’ll really only be doing for the photo op. 

Buses from Valladolid to Rio Lagartos run daily (grab the one to Tizimin, and then another bus or colectivo north from there). 

🔥 Fun Alert! A tour is also a great way to see this area. While not from Valladolid, This Rio Lagartos and Los Coloradas Tour will pick you up in either Cancun or Playa del Carmen and take you to the hotspots plus Cenote Hubiku.

Flamingos dance in the water in Mexico

How cute are these flamingos? Photo by Alvaro Rosado.

 

#6 – Walk Down Calle 41A

One of the most beautiful, colorful, streets in all of Valladolid, Calle 41A is worth setting aside an entire afternoon. While generally fairly quiet, 41A is full of restaurants, hotels, boutique shops, and so much more. 

Don’t hesitate to peruse what it has on offer, and make sure to take a million photos.

Read More: Tulum, Mexico Travel Guide: Tips For Planning Your Dream Trip

Pink and orange buildings against a bright blue sky in Valladolid Mexico

 

#7 – Hang Out in Plaza Central

If eating from food carts and people watching sounds like a great way to spend an hour or two, then head over to the central plaza and park. 

Located across the street from the cathedral, the park is the perfect place to grab an ice cream and relax during the day, but it’s nighttime when it really shines.

When the sun goes down and the heat becomes less stifling, the locals come out to relax, play music, and congregate. The atmosphere is wonderful, and there is a ton to check out.

Plaza Central in Valladolid Mexico

Plaza Central is such a beautiful spot to hang out.

 

#8 – Explore the Ek Balam Ruins

Just a half-hour from Valladolid (and best reached by car, colectivo, or tour), the Ek Balam Ruins are great for uncovering ancient Mayan history without the crowds that you’ll get at other popular sites.

With a name that translates to “the black jaguar”, Ek Balam was in operation for over 1000 years, with construction starting around 100B.C.

Once a fully operational city, today only the center of the ruins have been excavated – about one-twelfth of the site.

While visiting, you’ll be able to explore the large pyramid — El Torre, several temples, and other smaller buildings. 

Read More: 12 Essential Tips for Visiting the Coba Ruins in Quintana Roo, Mexico

A traditional Mayan hut in downtown Valladolid Mexico

Not the Ek Balam Ruins, but how cute is this Valladolid building?!

 

#9 – Shop at Mercado Municipal

If you’re looking to do a little shopping, grab some food, and explore homemade art, then definitely stop in at Mercado Municipal. 

And don’t miss out on getting a taco from here — they’re some of the best in Valladolid.

Pink, red, blue, and yellow buildings line the street in downtown Valladolid Mexico Yucatan Peninsula

 

#10 – Explore a Cenote

Swimming in a cenote is a must when visiting Valladolid. What are essentially limestone sinkholes filled with freshwater, cenotes are some of the most refreshing and beautiful sites you can visit.

💦 Cenote #1 – Cenote Zaci

Located just outside Valladolid’s city center, this cenote is a convenient spot that’s great for cliff jumping. Featuring a semi-open sky, this cenote is 100 meters (300 feet) deep and is essentially a natural public swimming pool (it can get busy).

💦 Cenote #2 – Cenote Suytun

The closed-roof cenote that has taken Instagram by storm, this magical cenote includes a walking platform to a circle in the center and a pool of light that illuminates it through a small hole in the roof. To get the best photos of this, visit mid-day.

💦 Cenote #3 – Cenote Xkeken (Dzitnup)

Located in the small village of Dzitnup near Valladolid, Zkeken is a closed-roof cenote that has a very eerie/mysterious vibe. It’s a dark cenote featuring very little natural light, 20-meter deep water, and narrow staircases.

🔥  This private Cenote Maya experience will give you access to the largest vaulted cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula!

Read More: 10 Essential Tips for Visiting Cenotes in Mexico

A man stands in Cenote Suytun, illuminated by a cone of light

Cenote Suytun — Photo by Jared Rice

 

#11 – Take a Day Trip to Chichen Itza

Oftentimes, travelers plan their trip to Valladolid as a convenient way to take a day trip to Chichen Itza. 

One of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichen Itza is an ancient Mayan city featuring pyramids, temples, vendors, and so much more. 

For the best experience at Chichen Itza, I recommend getting there as early in the day as possible. Not only will this allow you to beat the heat, but it’ll also mean you beat the hordes of other tourists that descend on it every day. 

Taylor stands in front of the main pyramid of Chichen Itza

My day trip to Chichen Itza was an absolute highlight!

 

Valladolid FAQ

 

Is Valladolid Mexico Worth Visiting?

In my experience, Valladolid is definitely worth visiting. It has a distinct flair that sets it apart from other Yucatan cities and has a ton of great things to do.

 

Is Valladolid Mexico Safe?

Valladolid, Mexico is one of the safest cities in the Yucatan Peninsula. While I would advise against walking around alone at night or getting too inebriated, Valladolid is much less touristy than other destinations and much more friendly.

A green VW bug sits outside a pink building as a man rides a bicycle in Valladolid Mexico

 

What is Valladolid Mexico known for?

A small city, Valladolid is known for its art, architecture, history, cuisine, and culture. The downtown core has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.

 

How far is Valladolid from Cancun?

Valladolid is 156.2km (96 miles) from Cancun and can be reached by car or bus. 

***

That’s it for my best things to do in Valladolid, Mexico!

Valladolid is truly a gem of a city and a great place to add to your Mexico itinerary.

Have fun in Valladolid!

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