Valladolid: It’s more than Chichen Itza.

Hello Pals,
Valladolid quickly became one of my favourite places within Mexico, and maybe even took the number one position. It’s vibrant colours, cobblestone streets, food halls and cute cafes – Valladolid has much to offer. It’s rich in history but showcases mostly, as a lot of Mexican cities, the Spanish Influence. If you look out – you’ll still be able to see examples of Maya Architecture.

While in Valladolid, I also managed to spend half a day at Chichen Itza, organising it by myself (okay well a friend organised it and we just tagged along.) You can read about that too.

If you would like to know “How to spend a few days in Valladolid ” click ‘read more’

In this article, you’ll find: (click to be taken there)
The Basics: How to get there.
Getting Around: Transport Options
My Top Choices: What you should see.
Chichen Itza One of the 7 wonders of the world.
My Recommendations: Where to eat & drink, What to listen to & read.
Where to Stay: Where I stayed or where friends stayed.
What I did: My diary entry.
Other Recommendations: Things we missed.

All my posts have a key:
⏰ Opening Hours. 📍Location 🕒Distance
💰Cost 🎫Ticket 📝 To note. 🎒What to bring.
♿ Accessibility 🌱Vegan / Veg Options.

  TO NOTE:

  • For all important information regarding Mexico, read my
    “Before You Go” post here.
  • You cannot drink the tap water in Valladolid.
  • Always shower before getting into a cenote.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen impacts Cenotes and their eco-systems! The more people who swim with sunscreen, the more they look like an oil spill due to the thin layer of shimmer on them. Avoid ingredients: oxybenzone and octinoxate.
Biodegradable sunscreen is not easy to come by so the best option is to search at your local health store. If you’re in the UK; Lush offers it.
ARTICLE: Travel&Leisure: How to Know If Your Sunscreen Is Killing Coral Reefs — and the Brands to Try Instead

THE BASICS

Getting to Valladolid.

✈️Fly from Mexico City

Fly to either Merida or Cancun first.
Local Airlines:
• Aeromexico (Skyteam frequent flyer network)
• Interjet (which has incredible leg room & really good luggage – I flew with them to Cuba.)
• Volaris – cheap flights between Mexico + USA.
• VivaAerobus is also an airline you’ll hear about; but they’ll charge you extra for luggage, seating and even printing your ticket at the airport!

🚌 Bus from Cancun

📍Calle Pino, SM23, MZ56, Lt 1 y 2, Centro, 23, 77500 Cancún
💰 $162 – $625 MXN | €9.76 – €30.52  EURO| $16 – $50 AUD
$9.00 – $33.10 USD | ‎£6.64 – £25.56 GBP
🕒2 – 2.45 hrs.

🚌 Bus from Tulum

💰$85 – $550 MXN | €4 – 26 EURO | $7 – $45 AUD |
$4.50 – 29.10 USD | ‎£3.50 – 22.50 GBP.
🕒2h 30m

 Bus Basics : The ADO

Autobuses de Oriente is the largest company within Mexico. They’ve got free wifi at stations, and often on the bus too. Toilets, reclinable chairs, outlets and a film (in Spanish) are all on there too.

💰 Prices Vary – but make sure you book at LEAST a day in advance, this often saves you 30-50% off the price.
🕒 Occasionally delays do happen – make sure you’ve got some reading material, podcast downloads and Netflix downloads just in case.
📝 You can’t purchase your tickets online unless you’ve got a Mexican card but you can use a third party website; ClickBus which charges slightly more.
the downside is that you’ll pay third party fee + you need to print.
📝 If you’ve got the time and 100% know when you want to go – just go to the station and buy them.
📝 For a full interactive guide on using the ADO Buses, read Off Path Travel’s post here.


GETTING AROUND

Getting Around in Valladolid:

In terms of the actual city – most things aren’t more than 15 minutes away so you can walk.
🚲 Rent a bike or Scooter!
Now, I’m not going to link the bike rental place we used, because it was terrible and our fault for not testing before we took off. Based on reviews online I would suggest: Scooter & Bike Rental Ko’ox Balak’ Valladolid.
🚕Grab a Cab!
Always ask the price for wherever you are going before you accept. Ask your hostel/hotel/airbnb host for an estimate cost to ensure you’re not paying extra.

TOP CHOICES!

Chichen Itza

⏰ 08:00 – 16:00
📍Yucatan, Mexico
Admission General:
💰$481.00 MXN | €23.22 EURO| $37.44 AUD| $25.63 USD | ‎£19.56 GBP
🎫 Those who are Mexican with Identification; $202.00 MXN.
🎒Sunscreen, Hat, Water, Extra Water, Comfortable Walking Shoes.
📝 Wear Breathable Clothes; Cotton, Linen etc.
♿An intensive guide from APieceOfTravel here.
———-
I would not go to Chichen Itza after 11:00am. Tour buses, Cruise Ship Groups and all the market vendors start offering their prices at around 10:30. Also, once that Sun rises around 11:00 it becomes very, very hot.

Although one of the biggest tourist attractions within Mexico, it’s still unknown to how it came to be. Over 740 acres (300 hectares) of Maya and Toltec influences it means “the mouth of the well of the Itzas.” From 2007 it’s been named a “New Seven Wonder of the World”.

The main pyramid is El Castillo, dedicated to the powerful snake god Kukulcan. It has an acoustic echo that is supposed to sound like a bird or raindrops (just sounds like a clapping echo to me… but still cool.) The total amount of steps counts to 365 which is to represent the days of the year.
The Sacred Cenote, located within Chichen Itza was used to make sacrifices in order to appeal to the gods for rain and fertile fields.

How to get there via collectivo:

💰$35.00 MXN | €1.67 EURO| $2.70 AUD| $1.86 USD | ‎£1.43
⏰ 07:00 (take one of the earliest collectivos) they run every 20 – 40 mins.
📝TAKE THE WHITE COLLECTIVO ONLY.
🎫 Tour: $100 MXN per person *!!
🎒Headphones, Battery Charger, Phone + downloaded book/podcast.

Generally speaking, collectivos will pick people up along the way and take a while. If you’re getting one of the first ones, this won’t happen as it’ll be full.

What I Did:
At 7:00am we met pals and walked towards the ADO station where (from city side) we were greeted by men yelling “Chichen Itza” – simple and easy, the way I wish all my travels went. Roami approached us advising he was a registered tour guide and for $100 MXN, per person, he would do a full tour. I can’t recommend him enough – I wouldn’t have seen or learnt anything near as much as what he taught us.

If you would like to book with Roami, his facebook is here.

You can take an ADO, however, they start running later – meaning you’re most likely to get there with the tour groups and cruises. If that’s what you wanna do, by all means, go ahead but you can’t say I didn’t warn you!

ARTICLES:
– CNN | Travel – New Seven Wonders of the World: See our greatest achievement + New 7 Wonders of the Wonders : Chichen Itza
– CNN | Travel – Chichen Itza and beyond: Mayan ruins in Yucatan, Mexico
– Nature | Mystery of Chirping Pyramid Decoded.
– Ancient Origins | Kukulcan, the Snake God of the Maya, Remains as a Legacy of the Once-Powerful Civilization
– reuters: Ancient Maya sacrificed boys not girls: study

Cenote Zaci

⏰ 8 am to 5, 30 pm 
📍Sta Ana, Valladolid
💰$30.00 MXN | €1.45 EURO| $2.34 AUD| $1.60 USD | ‎£1.22 GBP
🎒Water, Towel, Swim Shoes.
♿The restaurant is accessible and has viewing points into the cenote.
———-
Zaci, meaning “white hawk” in Maya, the city was founded in 1543. Cenote Zaci is a partially collapsed cavern with the flora and ferns leading your way down. It’s around 25-30 meters in the shallow parts ad 100m in the deeper parts. I’d recommend you wear your bathers there, as there are no lockers.

Convent of San Bernardino of Siena

⏰08:00 – 19:00
📍Calle 50 210B, Sisal, Valladolid
💰$30.00 MXN | €1.45 EURO| $2.34 AUD| $1.60 USD | ‎£1.22 GBP
———-
At 9:20pm-9:30pm they have a free light show displaying the “Nights of the heroic Valladolid” for 20 minutes which teaches you about the region. If you’d like to test your Spanish, grab the 9pm show.
The convent was built over a cenote from 1552 – 1560 by Franciscan monks. It was abandoned in 1755.

Iglesia de San Servacio

📍Calle 41, Centro, Valladolid
💰Free
📝 the walking tour takes you here.
———-
Interestingly, this church has a north-facing entrance while all others in the Yucatan are east-facing (towards Rome). After being demolished in 1545, while being rebuilt the entrance was to represent a form of punishment for challenging authority. I didn’t go inside, but I believe that there are no wall paintings and it’s pretty simple.

La Mestiza Park

📍Cancun – Valladolid 30, Centro,
💰Free
———-
“La Mestiza” stands for “mixed-race woman” and pays respect to the Yucatec women. The fountain was sculpted back in 1924, although the one standing now is a replica. Occasionally you’ll be able to see performances of dancing and singing. The park gives you access to great spots and is a nice way to cut across / take a break or meet up with people.

Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman

⏰ 08:00 – 18:00
📍Calle 54, Valladolid
💰Cenote Entry only: $80 MXN
Cenote + Food & Drink Voucher + Pool.
$150 MXN| €7.21 EURO| $11.68 AUD| $7.95 USD | ‎£6.08 GBP
You get the full $150 to spend at the cenote – beers, chips, guac etc.
🎒Water, Towel, Swim Shoes, Sunscreen, Book.
📝Tips appreciated for the swing attendant.
———-
Oxman was probably my favourite cenote within Valladolid (sorry zaci.) There was a few tours that came through, but once they left the experience was better (sorry tours.) The package means you can relax by the pool and read while eating chips, nachos and drinking cold Mexican beers. The cenote has showers to use before you descend down the steps (over 70) and arrive at people screaming and trying to do backflips off the swing (some successfully, but mostly not. especially us.) There is a spot you can jump off the ledge and ropes on the side for when you get too tired to swim. Remember not to grab the dangling roots and communicate with other swimmers before jumping! The only thing to note is that the stairs are slippery and a bit dodge.

Cenote Saamal

⏰ 09:00 – 17:00
📍Hacienda Selva Maya, Valladolid
💰Cenote Entry only: $80 MXN
$250 MXN| €12.30 EURO| $19.94 AUD| $13.42 USD | ‎£10.36 GBP
For 250 you get access to the all you can eat buffet, refillable sodas.
🎒Water, Towel, Swim Shoes, Sunscreen, Book.
📝Called ‘ Hacienda Selva Maya ‘ on maps.
📝 You are forced to wear a life jacket.
———- ———— ————
This was possibly my least favourite cenote, and literally because we were forced to wear life jackets. I understand having the option, but when you can actually swim and there is a staff member swimming without one, you feel a bit annoyed. It does ruin not only the photos, but you can’t jump properly or swim fast enough/dive down a little bit. The actual site of Hacienda Selva Maya is quite beautiful, with fountains, ponds, cute cafe areas and stores with various Mexican Artesanales (handcrafts.)

disclaimer: we were both incredibly tired which could have had something to do with being angry at the life jacket situation but even now it bugs me.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS

🥘 Churros Pavin

📍Located within Parque La Mestiza
🌱Vegetarian.
Churros. Churros that are 30 pesos. Churros that have been sold for many years. Churros!!! Churros!!!

🥘 Zaci-Hual

📍 Valladolid 30, Centro
🌱Vegetarian + Vegan options.
It is a whole hall of different foods. I recommend the first one when you come in from the park. It has really, really reasonable prices. Friends went and got Chinese food from the back and it looked good.

🥘 Restaurante El Jardin de los Frailes

⏰ 07:00 – 23:00
📍 97780, Sisal, 97780 Valladolid
🌱vegetarian tacos, pumpkin disk and vegetables known to the region.
📝bring mosquito spray
Although not a lot of english is spoken by the staff, our waitress was very friendly. We really enjoyed the local cuisine and the garden was atmospheric.

☕ Cafe Arte

⏰ 07:00 – 23:00
📍Calle 40 192, Centro, 97780 Valladolid, 
🌱 soy milk .
A small cafe, but with soy milk – perfect. Really reasonable prices, located within the food court so you can take a drink to go. I suggest taking it iced or “cafe frio con leche de soya.”

☕ Soletana Café Santuario

🌱 soy milk .
Located within Verde Morada Hotel, it has a beautiful outdoor garden (that we didn’t sit in due to mosquitos) and lovely filter coffee. The Staff are friendly and they have good wifi.

WHERE TO STAY

Hostel Candelaria

⏰ Check In: 13:00 – 16:00 | Check Out: 12:00 – 13:00 
📍 Calle 35 201, Candelaria, 97780 Valladolid,
📝 – Refundable MXN 100 deposit | Min Age 18. No Kids.
———-
If you’re travelling solo, Candelaria is the most popular of the Hostels within Valladolid. I suggest you book generally, it gets pretty full and you don’t want to be turned away getting into a new city.The only downside, is that there is no pool and Valladolid gets HUMID and HOT.

🍽Breakfast Freshly made breakfast daily which consists of pancakes and bananas.
🛁Bathroomsbathrooms were clean ( and cleaned daily).
🛏RoomsYou’ll make your own beds & collect sheets when you check out. Rooms are slightly small. AC from 9pm to 9am.
🎲FacilitiesTerrace, outdoor area and garden. shared kitchen with oil, pepper, salt as well as pots and pans. Designated smoking area.
24 hour reception desk.
Rent bikes for 100 MXN
🍺BarN/A
disclaimer: i did not stay at this hostel – my friends did

Casona Oox

⏰ Check In: 13:00 – 00:00 | Check Out: 00:00 – 12:00
📍 213 Calle 41, 97780 Valladolid
📝 has a pool!
———-
We stayed here mostly for the location, the pool and the cost. It’s 3 minutes away from the Bus Station, has a pool when you’re hot and large lockers for our bags. Staff are friendly, with limited English but researched how we could get to Chichen Itza. The beds were comfy and showers/bathrooms were clean. You get a free towel. It’s a no frill, no fuss hostel but we didn’t have an issue. If you’re there during peak season – it might not be the best.

WHAT I DID

Catching the ADO Bus from Tulum (after getting changed seeing as we were soaking wet from torrential rain) it took us 5 minutes instead of 3 to get to our hostel (mostly because maps was freaking out on us.)

We managed to catch the 5pm walking tour of Valladolid through ‘Free Walking Tours‘ | Website to Book | which took us to the classic spots of Valladolid; Cenote Zaci in which we learnt how cenotes were formed, to Museo San Roque; showcasing historical sources, diverse testimonies and documents that speak of Mayan legends and tales. Admission is free, and is housed in a small church/convent. The only english is that of the front sign. Palacio Municipal Valladolid in which the second floor not only gives you a great view of the Iglesia de San Servacio but showcases large paintings telling the story of the Maya world pre Spain, treatment of the Maya under Spanish rule, Revolt of the Maya and then the 1910 Revolution.

I took a walk by around the centre of Valladolid in the morning to grab a coffee at Cafe Arte and I stumbled upon the a crafts mall Centro Artesanal which showcases arts and crafts from the local vendors in Valladolid.

We rented bikes and I cannot stress enough how poorly they ran. I’m talking google maps telling us 20 minutes and we arrived in 45 minutes and yes, we know how to ride a bike. The seats didn’t go up or down, the gears didn’t work and it was hardly oiled – just thinking about those bikes makes me mad. Our bad for not realising before getting out of town. Eventually, we got to Cenote Oxman where we got to jump into the cenote, relax by the pool and eat a lot of fries, guac and some beers. Then we reluctantly took those bikes to the next three cenotes (at this point i think we were punishing ourselves because it was hot, hilly and just ooooof.) Of course, after another terrible, frustrating bike ride we managed to be forced into life jackets to jump into Cenote Saamal. The over-reaction in hindsight, was due 100% due to the bikes. The last cenote was X’Keken y Samula and the reason that it’s not in “Top Recommendations” is because people had been pissing (yes pissing) on the stairs. I mean come on, just go to the bathrooms. We could smell the pee and also it was weirdly warmer than the water elsewhere. So I’ma call it – pee.

Cenotes X’kekén y Samula

⏰ 08:00 – 19:00
📍Dzitnup, Yucatán
💰$125 MXN| €6.23  EURO| $10.04 AUD| $6.74 USD | ‎£5.17 GBP
🎒Water, Towel, Swim Shoes, Sunscreen, Book.
📝They have caged animals, which isn’t cool.
———————————
You can pick to only go to one cenote and they have a vast area to visit, including a maze of market. At the time we went, around 4/5pm there weren’t a lot of people there.

Spending the day at Chichen Itza was impressive but, I’m not going to lie – it was a tad overhyped. Don’t get me wrong, I get it. The history of the site and the Mayas, I love it, but I didn’t have that WOW feeling I did when visiting other sites such as Machu Picchu in Peru. The most interesting fact about The Mayas was that they mastered astrology, created the number 0 in around 4 A.D. and dedicated the stairs to the number of days within the calendar. That’s a lot of cool stuff. 
Taking about two and a half hours to explore the grounds, with the tour – which, again, I cannot recommend enough. We learnt a lot of info, took a lot of dumb photos, retook said dumb photos and got real hot, real fast once that sun started shining.
Friends went to the Ek Balam and advised they enjoyed those more. You can read a full post by travel blogger, Brittany on them here

After the tour, the group organised once back to grab some food at Zaci Haul and grabbed all available spring rolls from the Chinese place, we ate a range of foods from the first restaurant. After, we took a quick breather (aka nap) and met up again at the park. My friend burnt her mouth eating the churros from Churros Pavin, so at least you know it’s fresh.
Spending the afternoon in Cenote Zaci with everyone was the best way to cool down (literally) after Chichen Itza.  You’re not supposed to bring in food or beverages, especially not beers so I’m not going to say that we did. We ended up stopping at Musée de la Tequila to taste a few options.

That night we had a pot luck, in which we ate too much, probably drank too much and walked at least 30 minutes to Santos Vaia, the only bar open on that day and it was a weird experience. people were screaming it.was.a.lot. Also, during the dinner someone practically said i sounded like a Muppet (think: Beaker) and i’m still mad about it.

Our final day was having breakfast at Soletana Café Santuario and walking down Calz. de Los Frailes (between the city and the convent.) If you keep your eyes open, you’ll be able to see an example of a Mayan house that’s been preserved. We then took the bus back to Cancun, before heading to Isla Mujeres.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

  • Casa de los Venados : the largest collection of Mexican folk art owned by a private household. Check out Carmens’s blog post here.
  • Cenote Suytun: titled the “instagram cenote” we didn’t go here due to the popularity, we wanted to relax & swim. Read a blog post here.
  • Haciendas. Haciendas are mansions with colonial architecture theming in influences taken from the Spanish, French and Arabs. They’re now mostly used as hotels, so a bit over our budget. You can find a list of different ones here.

Have you been?
What did you see / eat / do?
Let me know below.
As always, stay cool.
– Sarah.

Sources:



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