After a long but quick Thanksgiving-to-Christmas run here in Cancun – our busiest time of year on the work side of things – we decided we needed to start getting out more and seeing some of the places that surround us.
First on the list is the town of Valladolid, a very old town whose colonial history stretches all the way back to 1540. That’s a far, far cry from our digs in Cancun, a city that has only existed since around 1970.
We got our bus tickets in advance in order to avoid any of them filling up on the day we went, and headed off early on a Sunday morning with our friends Tim and Cris from Marginal Boundaries (that’s Tim in the back with the camcorder)…
…and our old friend Devlin from 1life2Bags / Dream in Reality.
Valladolid is a smallish town of less than 50,000 people, situated in the state of Yucatan about halfway between Cancun and Merida. It’s about a two-hour bus ride from where we are, but the first-class coach we rode on was comfortable enough with its lean-back seats, air-con, and movies playing the whole ride.
Because it’s a first-class bus and it’s highway all the way, there were no stops for us en route before we unloaded in town and the bus continued its journey to Merida.
Stepping out of the bus station and into the city, we were immediately struck at how traditional the city looks compared to the black-and-white ‘Hotel Zone Area or Employees of the Hotel Zone Area’ feeling that we get in Cancun, where most everything is nearly the same age as we are.
Centuries-old buildings line Valladolid; and while it’s not all-pretty all the time, it does lend an air of what you’d think you should feel when you’re in Old Mexico.
Because we’re us and we’re not so happy with the lack of cafés in Cancun, we immediately made our way to the center and aimed at sitting down outside, drinking some espresso, and watching the world go by.
Unfortunately for us, most of the cafés and restaurants here are targeted at tourists, so we didn’t last long before we decided to stroll around in search of other interesting adventures.
While Tim and Cris went to film a museum, we loitered outside taking pictures of doorways and Life After People moments.
We then headed to the famed Cenote Zaci, which is the centrally-located, natural sinkhole for which much of this region is famous.
We didn’t take a dip ourselves, but Ang stuck her feet in to test the waters, and we marveled at the cenote from every angle.
For some reason, I like this shot of a swimmer taking a break on the ledge.
Afterwards, we pressed a local for good restaurants and headed back to the zocalo in town to eat at El Mesón del Marqués, a traditional Yucatecan restaurant that serves local specialties. It’s also a hotel, but we don’t advise staying there unless you want to shell out some bucks.
The food itself was muy delicioso, and we marveled at all of the foods we were able to chow down on, which aren’t readily available in Cancun. Longaniza (Yucatecan sausage)…
…and the specialty called cochinita pibil. This dish is pork, onions, and spices that are wrapped in banana leaves and slow-roasted underground for hours. The flavor is quite astonishing, and I had no trouble stuffing my belly with it and the handmade tortillas that accompanied my dish.
Speaking of that, the lady making tortillas was doing so about 15 feet from our table. She was kind enough to let me take a picture of her and the delicious goodness she is tasked with preparing.
Doing our best to avoid a food coma, we walked through the zócalo and headed down to another church at the end of town so Tim could get some more footage.
Making our way back, everyone decided that ice cream and paletas would do just right in the mid-afternoon, although I was more on the hunt for an outdoor café, of which there unfortunately aren’t too many in this town.
We did find one at Parque de la Candelaria in a quieter part of town, which is actually much more of a plaza and not much of a park.
Sadly, the café was shuttered for the day, as was the Italian restaurant next door. Regardless, we decided to rest in the shade for a while and finish digesting our heavy meals from earlier in the day.
If you’re into hostels and you’re looking to stay the night in Valladolid, it seems the most popular one is in this plaza. Not for us no matter how you slice it, but it was quite active and we saw quite a few travelers making their way in and out of the building. Actually, it was one of the few places outside the center of town where people were actually milling about.
Back on the hunt for caffeine, we found a café called Squimz, near the bus station, which we decided would make for a proper resting place until our bus was ready to head back to Cancun. There is no outside seating, but we were blessed with iced coffees around the table. Too focused on the coffee, no pictures for you. 🙂 Good enough for the time being!
And that’s a wrap. There is not a lot to do in Valladolid, other than walk around, shop at the market, or go to one of the local cenotes. It’s certainly worth a day trip, and we appreciated the ability to sort of laze about for the entire day, taking in the city without forcing ourselves to see all the sights.
Valladolid also makes a great pit-stop or day trip from Cancun, Merida, or another surrounding city. It also serves as a base for Chichen Itza and other ruins or tourist towns that are nearby. If you’re in the region, just hop on a bus and go check it out.
The fact that Valladolid is nearly 500 years old is reason enough, as that provides the opportunity for a lot of history to see and imagine as you walk its streets.
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Have you ever been to Valladolid in Mexico? Any thoughts about it? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!