While living in Mérida, Mexico last summer I rented a car and went on many road trips around the Yucatán Peninsula. Most days I set out to visit ancient Mayan sites and haciendas, but I was able to visit a few of the area’s Pueblos Magicos including the second-largest city in the Yucatán State, Valladolid. Here’s how to spend a day in Valladolid, Mexico, known as the Capital of the Mayan East.
COFFEE AT GRAN CHAN CAFE
Try to arrive in Valladolid in the morning so you can make the most of your time in the town. If you’re planning to stay overnight, check out these Valladolid hotels. There’s so much to do here including swimming in cenotes, shopping at local markets and in high-end local boutiques, admiring the architecture, and enjoying the gastronomy.
Start your day with a dose of caffeine at the bohemian Gran Chan Café. You can enjoy your coffee in the rustic cafe or take your coffee out to the square to people watch. It was very easy to find free public parking in this area.
TAKE A STROLL
Once you’re properly caffeinated for the day head across the street from Gran Chan Café to Parque Sisal. If you’re into colonization and Christian conquering of LATAM you can visit the Convento de Bernadino. Personally, I tend to avoid going into most churches and convents as a stand against the Europeans who slaughtered my ancestors. You can admire the architecture of the convent from outside and ponder the terrible things that happened here or take a cheery photo of the Valladolid letters located conveniently right outside the convent.
From the convent, you can make your way towards the center by walking up the beautiful Calzada de los Frailes street. Here you’ll find endless pastel-hued facades, darling doorways, and perfectly positioned Vochos, VW Beetles.
In the town center, situated around Francisco Canton Rosado Main Park, you’ll find the Palacio Municipal Valladolid. Be sure to go inside to see the paintings that depict local history and folklore. You’ll have a great view of the square from the gigantic windows.
SHOP FROM LOCAL PURVEYORS
There are quite a few gorgeous boutiques along Calzada de Los Frailes so be sure to pop in and buy a meaningful souvenir from your trip and support a local business! The shops mostly sell Tulum-esque linen pieces that are very much so my personal aesthetic. Some of my favorite boutiques were Dutzi, La Troupe, Folks Valladolid, and Caravana.
As you make your way towards the center of the town you’ll pass by the Mercado Artesanias. It’s a great spot to pick up some gifts or keepsakes from Mexico from local vendors.
TAKE A DIP IN A CENOTE
I didn’t have enough time to visit Valladolid’s cenotes as I was only in town for a day trip and wanted to drive back to Mérida before dark. The city is home to two cenotes that are the perfect place to cool off between shopping and site seeing. Cenote Zaci and Cenote X’Canche ae near the city center. You can take a tour to Cenote Maya for a phenomenal experience. Most cenotes require bathers to shower before entering and only allow guests to use reef-friendly sunscreen in order to help preserve the cenote’s fragile ecosystem.
GO HUNTING FOR STREET ART
If you are driving to Valladolid you’ll notice that there are quite a few beautiful murals in the town’s exterior neighborhoods. I couldn’t find these pieces marked on the map but if you dive around you’re sure to find them or similar beautiful murals that feature local flora and fauna.
For a more in-depth tour of Valladolid, you can join one of these free GuruWalk tours.
LUNCH AT YERBABUENA DEL SISAL
Vegans, rejoice! There’s an excellent vegetarian restaurant in Valladolid. The ambiance at Yerbabuena Del Sisal is just as wonderful as the food. Snag a table outside and dig into delicious vegetable-forward Mexican food. I had a stuffed squash that was fantastic and very filling.
CLIMB THE PYRAMID AT EK’ BALAM
Ek’ Balam is a Mayan archeological site near Valladolid. I visited in the afternoon to skip the heat and avoid morning tourist bus crowds. Many of the buildings of the once-bustling Mayan city have yet to be excavated so much of the area is still covered with verdant jungle.
The site is dedicated to the Jaguar, a sacred Maya symbol. Visitors are allowed to climb the 104-foot-tall pyramid which overs jaw-dropping vistas. On a clear day, you can see Chichen Itzá from the top of the Ek’ Balam pyramid.
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