As we started daydreaming of our trip to Mexico, we imagined bright blue cenotes, colorful towns and Mayan ruins. We didn’t know yet that we were actually picturing the town of Valladolid, Mexico. This little town is less than an hour and a half’s drive from popular Tulum or a short two hours from Cancun. It has everything you might picture when thinking of Mexico, making it a must-visit on your trip. We listed the best things to do in Valladolid in Mexico to help you prepare your visit.
8 best things to do in Valladolid, Mexico
# 1 Pink lakes and flamingos in Las Coloradas
North of Valladolid is a beautiful natural phenomenon on the coast in the Parque Natural Ria Lagartos reserve. Flamingos are the main reason for many travelers to visit the park and many boat trips are offered to spot them. Not necessary, because you also see them as you drive or walk along the pink lakes. Those pink lakes were what attracted us to Las Coloradas. A certain kind of red-colored algae makes the water pink, a magical sight!
# 2 Clear blue cenotes
Vallodalid is located in the middle of the epicenter of all cenotes in Mexico. Cenotes are an underground water hole with bright blue water, fish and lots of mystery. Almost all of them are connected to each other underground, but that system has still not been properly mapped. We do understand why the Mayans saw these places as a gateway to the underworld and therefore as holy places! Did you know that in many cenotes offerings from Mayans have also been found? Yes, also human sacrifices.
Near Vallodalid you will find dozens of special places like this. The best known and closest cenotes are Cenote Suytun (with the famous and photogenic plateau under a beam of light), the duo Cenotes X’keken and Samula and Cenota Oxman. The latter is ideal if you do not have a rental car, because you can also come here with a bicycle. In the middle of Valladolid is also Cenote Zaci. Less natural, but ideally close.
# 3 Chichen Itza, the world wonder of Mexico
The most famous Mayan site in Mexico is without a doubt Chichen Itza. It is even called one of the seven wonders of the world. In your travel preparations you have undoubtedly seen places of the largest temple of this complex, the El Castillo pyramid. But Chichen Itza is more than just this famous pyramid. The entire complex is incredibly large! There are dozens of other Mayan buildings and you also have an important cenote for the Mayans where human sacrifices were made. From Valladolid you can be there in 40 minutes.
Tip: You are not allowed to climb El Castillo. But other pyramids in Yucatan, such as the one at Coba, are allowed!
# 4 The Mayan ruins of Ek’Balam
Off the beaten track Ek’Balam is only half an hour away from Valladolid. Here too you can explore Mayan ruins, but without tourist crowds. Unlike Chichen Itza’s El Castillo, you can climb the largest structure here for a good view of the rest of the complex and the green jungle. It is not very big – it cannot be compared to Chichen Itza or Tikal in Guatemala – but there are still new excavated and restored temples.
# 5 The local market of Valladolid
Do you want to get to know the real local life of a country? Then the market is always a good starting point. In Valladolid, too, the market is a fascinating place to see some of the country and culture. Everything is sold. From clothing to vegetables and from toys to flowers. For a cheap lunch or snack you also have to be here. The stalls sell local dishes for a small price.
# 6 The colorful streets of Valladolid
I didn’t call Valladolid colorful for nothing. The town is known for its colorful streets with pastel-colored houses. The best way to see some of the city is, therefore, to simply wander through all the streets. Don’t miss out on Calle de los Frailes. Because of all the colorful buildings and nice restaurants, this is our favorite in Valladolid. The street runs obliquely from the center to the square with the San Bernardino monastery.
# 7 The light show at the San Bernardino monastery
Every evening at 9.00 a colorful light show is projected on the outer walls of the San Bernardino monastery. It’s just outside in this park, at the end of Calle de los Frailes, and you don’t have to pay an entrance fee. Unfortunately we only discovered this after our overnight stay in Valladolid, when we walked past the monastery. Such a shame, because the photos online look spectacular!
# 8 The nicest coffee spots and restaurants in Valladolid
For a small town like Valladolid, it is full of nice coffee spots and restaurants. You can find the best options on Calle de los Frailes. A selection from our favorites? The colorful shop and coffee spot with only 2 tables of KuxTal Galeria, vegan restaurant Le Ka’at (just opened at the time of writing) and the sustainable Elela spot. A blog with all our hotspot tips for Valladolid will follow!