Ever heard of Valladolid? It’s pretty small so I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t. But I’d bet you’ve caught wind of the Mayan ruins site, Chichen Itza. It’s quite large, even said to have been one of the biggest Mayan populations with the most diverse people of all locations. It’s also Mexico’s most visited archeological sites and is close to Valladolid, so a lot of folks tie them together or make the trek from Cancun.
If you’re into colorful buildings, authentic Yucatan and Mayan food, cenotes, and ancient cities – it’s a destination to add on to a Mexican adventure for sure!
We tacked on the detour onto my friends wedding weekend. We flew in on a Wednesday and had till Friday morning. I’d say that’s plenty of time to explore Valladolid and sourrounding areas.
On previous trips to Mexico we always used taxis, but this time around since we knew we’d be going longer distances, we opted for a rental car. We booked way in advance and saved money, but, I later found out the best service to use is Eurocar. Next time we’ll avoid the Hertz etc as they bait and switch, offering prices like $15 a day but then tack on all these crazy insurances.
So, we get our car, and we hop on the road. We still hadn’t taken a moment to get our currency exchanged, but we figured we could stop somewhere along the way. WRONG. Do not be us, do not get on the road without pesos. Because little did we know, there’d be an expensive toll booth (319MXN = $17USD!) about 45 minutes later only accepting cash. Not to mention, if we had gotten pulled over and needed to pay a bribe we wouldn’t have been prepared. (yes, that’s a real thing)
Since infancy, I fall asleep in cars instantaneously and was sleeping like a baby, until we got to the toll and I heard D saying, “all I have is this” which was about 150MXN. We were screwed. The guy goes “turn around” and moves a big barricade.
Needless to say we rode in silence for a good bit, then came the frustration with attempting to navigate off to somewhere closer for money- with no luck. Then came the “we aren’t amateurs, how could we make this mistake?! we’re loosing vacation time” – you get the point. It would be an hour or so before we got money. Then had to do the boring drive all over again. I stayed awake this time and tried to turn around the vibe.
Around 5:30/6pm, we checked into Hotel El Mesón del Marqués which I would 100% recommend. Centrally located in the square, right next to great restaurants and bars. Not to mention the beautiful courtyard with pool and connected restaurant that we dined at for all breakfasts and a dinner.
First thing we did after arriving and I got through a mini melt down from loosing 3 hours of the day with the toll incident, was get our hands on our favorite: mezcal. If you’re not familiar, it’s smokey tequila and typically served with a spicy salt and orange. It’s glorious! We usually sip it.
I bet Atlanta could hear my reaction to the mustard enclosure of the square, I mean, IT MATCHED MY OUTFIT! Love this look? More Free People here.
We had about an 1.5 left of daylight so we walked the streets to catch the sunset, visited Coqui Coqui and found a dinner spot we had all to ourselves.
After our breakfast at the hotel, we set out for Templo y Ex Convento de Santiago Domingo, a beautiful church in Uayma, just outside of Valladolid.
Read conflicting reports about when it was built (1542 and 1646) but we know it’s very very old and was restored in the early 2000s. There’s not a lot of literature about it online, someone on TripAdvisor quoted Wiki but I’ve yet to find the page. I’ll share anyways-
“The church was built originally by the Spaniards to enforce their culture in Uayma, which was at the time an important Mayan center. Stones from nearby Mayan temples (including Chichen Itza) were used to build the church, some of which can be seen on the facade.”
I’m not very religious these days but did grow up in churches. That being said, even if we don’t regularly attend church, we do seem to wind up visiting gorgeous ones while traveling. Favorites so far have been- Notre Dame and Sagrada Familia. I was impressed with this one as well. Doors wide open, we just walked in and felt welcome. Stayed for around 15 minutes taking in all the details, including the pulpit (pictured above) So stunning!
Next it was onto the main event.
Dustin loves him some archeological ruins. Initially we thought we could fit in Chichen Itza and Ek Balam but ultimately due to such little time, had to choose. Though Chichen can get very crowded with tourists, we opted for it because it’s the biggest, haha, but really thats why.
I filmed so much footage that I haven’t shared yet but – going to share on stories and save in highlights. In summary, yes, it’s pretty crowded with tourist buses but we lucked out- got great parking, went during the peak heat (yay) so it seemed like there was less people, and there was a breeze (hallelujah!). Instead of having to constantly be slathering on SPF to protect from the sun, I wore a breezy jumpsuit instead.
A hat is a must! If you forget, there’s plenty of vendors selling them. Which leads me to my one complaint. The merchants. The site let in so many around the ruins, it was insane and it’s the same stuff over and over. The jaguar noises they made were pretty cool, but they hassled everyone that walked by. A few are fine, but if you look at the time-laspe in my coverage, it’s littered with them.
Chichen Itza tips: SPF, have water on you while walking around, some sites are far from a water source, sun hat, handkerchief to protect from dust clouds, we did fine without a guide- plenty of signs to read
After surviving the Mexican sun we went to hop into cooler waters via cenotes Saamal and Oxman.
We bought the tickets for Saamal from our hotel and it came with lunch buffet which was very tasty!
It was traditional Yucatan-style. Like any buffet, they had some random stuff mixed in but we gravitate towards the meats, beans, veges, chips and plantains. Wasn’t a huge fan of the tamale after discovering a hard boil egg inside. But would 10/10 recommend buffets connected to cenotes (or buffets in Mexico in general) as we’ve always had a good experience!
Above and below are Saamal. Couldn’t get over that rainbow!
Oxman had the prettiest entrance!
Bought this one-piece last minute from Nordstrom Rack. Been loving one-pieces since last year but it’s hard to find them in comfortable styles. I have found that halters are no-nos for my neck and overall comfort, but styles like this, work out nicely. More one-pieces this way.
D did the rope swing a few times, in between some silly kids. I would have but knew we’d be too crunched for time to do any ‘getting ready’ later. Enjoyed watching Dustin of the Jungle tho!
Post swimming holes, we quickly got ready to do final exploring before our dinner reservations.
Wandered around popping into any spot that caught our eye, like La Casona de Valladolid. So glad we kept going and went all the way to the back and found this gorgeous fountain! Had we not wanted to try our hotels dinner, we would have so eaten here.
For dinner, I got my favorite, mole, and Dustin got the pineapple coconut chicken that was cooked in tequila AT THE TABLE. He wanted “his meal to be caught on fire” and that, he got. The mole was great! I’ve been avoiding dairy when we travel out of the country so no cheese on top, but it was still very tasty.
On our way out of town on Friday, we hopped over to Suyton cenote. It allows swimming but honestly unless you had a family that wanted shallower water, this one was just fine to look at.
Or dance in!
If you look closely, there’s a ton of “cenote sharks” which aren’t sharks at all but rather little harmless catfish like dudes.
Like the rest of the limestoney Yucatan, there are a lot of cenotes to choose from in and around Valladolid. Did quite a bit of research and narrowed it down to these three (Saamal, Oxman, Suyton) and would highly recommend. Very pleased with how the excursions went, and somehow managed to get to each during a pause of people.
After taking in the incredible beauty, we were on the road back to Cancun (for the second time) and off to Isle Mujeres for wedding weekend times. Will be sharing a short recap of that part of the trip, especially the dolphins, stay tuned and thanks so much for stopping by and reading about our trip!