How to Spend 36 Hours in Valladolid
Late(ish) Arrival in Valladolid
If you plan to spend a couple of nights in Valladolid rather than a quick stop as part of a day tour from elsewhere, it’s likely you won’t arrive until late afternoon or early evening. We arrived at about 7:30 pm (or so we thought) on the bus from Chiquila, the port that serves Isla Holbox.
Sound and Light Show
Local Life, Culture and Sightseeing
Get up bright and breezy and have a good breakfast to prepare yourself for a busy day. Make the most of your only full day in Valladolid with a nice mix of local life, culture and sightseeing.
Browse the Local Market and Shops
Casa de Los Venados
At 10:00 am head over to Casa de Los Venados (House of the Deer). With its very own coat-of-arms, this private home in the centre of town (Calle 40, off 41st Avenue) houses an amazing collection of Mexican folk art. It opens to the public once a day for guided tours and whilst there is no entrance fee, there is a suggested 100 peso (£3.74) donation which all goes to charity.
The collection is such a spectacle to behold, it would take weeks to look at and admire every piece. The owner John and guide David were clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the collection; it was a fantastic tour.
Palacio Municipal Historic Murals
Once you’ve been wowed by Casa de Los Venados move on to the Palacio Municipal. Here you’ll find a second-floor collection of historic murals depicting Valladolid’s history from the Caste War to the Mexican Revolution. You don’t need much time here but it’s a free attraction and definitely worth a look. The gallery also has open balconies which offer a lovely view over the main square.
Wander the Plaza and Streets
With a bit more time to kill before lunch, wander around the main square or Plaza Principal and the streets leading away from it. It’s also known as Francisco Canton Rosado Parque.
The streets lined with colourful colonial buildings and the pretty plaza with its white benches, love-seats and a big central fountain make for great photo opportunities.
The most well-known historic street in Valladolid is the beautiful Calzada de Los Frailes. This fully restored colonial, cobbled street leads from Plaza Principal down to towards Convento de San Bernadino. Down each side are brightly coloured colonial buildings, restaurants and quirky shops with colourful, decorative facades. One shop not to miss is Fabrica de Chocolate Artesanal Maya Chocol Haa which sells traditional Mayan chocolate in different flavours.
San Servacio Cathedral
Towering over Plaza Principal is San Servacio Cathedral, built in 1543 from the stones of a Mayan temple. It’s not as ornate as many cathedrals but beautiful in its simplicity nonetheless. You only need about 15 minutes or so to look around the inside. Sunday mass was underway when we went so we stayed outside as we didn’t feel it appropriate to enter. If you do go in make sure you dress appropriately; so nothing revealing, and no hats or sunglasses.
Lunch in El Bazaar Municipal Food Court
Andy and I both opted for a torta de conchinita (suckling pig baguette) for just 20 pesos (£0.75) and an aguas de pinas (pineapple water) for 15 pesos (£0.56). Both were delicious bargains; don’t leave Valladolid without eating at Loncheria’s at least once.
Ek Balam and Cenote X’Canche
Depending on how long you spend at Ek Balam and Cenote X’Chance, it will likely be late afternoon or early evening when you get back to Valladolid. If it’s the former you may still have time for a quick visit to Cenote Zaci, built on the Mayan settlement ‘Zaci’.
This partially open-air cenote is located a few blocks away from the main plaza so is very easy to find. It’s about 25 metres wide and 35 metres long with its greeny-blue waters being a depth of 40 metres at its deepest. The limestone overhang decorated with stalactites, hanging roots and vines offers some shade, at least for part of the day.
Access to Cenote Zaci is via a stone staircase leading through a tunnel and the entry fee is just 30 pesos (£1.12). When we arrived we realised we’d forgotten our swim stuff so decided to give it a miss. We were still able to view the cenote though by sneaking in through the adjacent restaurant onto the viewing platform. Luckily we didn’t mind that we didn’t get to take a dip as we’d been already been spoilt by our earlier visit to the Choo Ha Cenote with Layla Guesthouse in Puerto Morelos.
Although Cenote Zaci looked quite safe for swimming I’d still recommend wearing a life-jacket. You should also wash off any insect repellant and sunscreen before you go in as it can damage the eco-system. If it’s a sunny day you can always use an eco-friendly, biodegradable sunscreen.
Enjoy Dinner in Restaurant Oasis Familiar
After an hour or so rest and relaxation back at your hotel or guesthouse it’s time to head back out for dinner. If like us you enjoy sampling ALL the local dishes I’d recommend you try out Restaurant Oasis Familiar. It’s kind of a cross between a restaurant and a cantina and comes recommended by the locals. If like us you’re always on the look-out for real, authentic, local food then you can’t go wrong here. The menu is full of reasonably priced traditional Mexican and Yucatan dishes. They also serve beer and soft drinks, including huge freshly-made fruit juices which looked amazing.
For dinner, I had the Yucatan speciality sopa de lima, a chicken and lime soup with crispy tortilla strips which cost me just 65 pesos (£2.43). It may sound simple (and a little strange), but I can assure you it was delicious. The fresh, citrusy, aromatic flavours work amazingly together. Andy opted for fajitas combinados, similar to those we cook in the UK, except made with several types of meat and served with rice and beans. It was a huge portion and I think it was meant for two people, even so, it still only cost 110 pesos (£4.12). As is the norm in most local Mexican restaurants our food also came with a massive pile of tortillas.
Plaza Principal by Night
Photo Credit: flickr photo by Adach Photo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license.
After dinner, you’ll definitely feel the need to walk off all that food so take a stroll back to the main Plaza to see it by night in a different light. You’ll find in the majority of Mexican towns and cities that as the day draws to a close and the sun sets, locals flock to the main plazas to walk and socialise with friends and family. Valladolid is no different, by night Plaza Principal buzzes with locals enjoying their evening.
We were there on a Friday night which I think was probably busier than a weeknight but from past experience, I expect it would still be fairly busy any night of the week. Of an evening (especially on the weekend), you may also find street food stalls, and street performers and musicians to entertain you.
Sample Mamey Icecream in Wabi Gelato
If you have a sweet-tooth you have to sample another local delicacy – mamey ice cream. Mamey is a fruit with bright orange flesh, said to have a unique taste – creamy and sweet with a complex mix of flavours including almond, pumpkin, and peach. It seems everyone interprets its flavour differently so I was desperate to try it for myself. I’d heard the ice-cream palour Wabi Gelato was THE place to try mamey ice cream, so we spent ages during our after-dinner stroll trying to find it. We were completely unsuccessful and in the end, we gave up.
All was not lost though and later, as we wandered around we stumbled upon the quaint little ice cream palour on Calle 41. So I did get to try mamey ice cream after all. It was 35 pesos (£1.31) a scoop and was definitely unique. It was quite tasty but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what the flavour was like. You’ll just have to try it yourself.
You may like to finish your evening off with a drink or two in a traditional Mexican cantina. This was our plan and we’d heard about a lively traditional Mexican cantina, complete with swinging doors called Cantina Joyita. We like trying out local drinking establishments and especially enjoy a beer or two on a Friday night (Engish tradition), so we were disappointed to find Joyita closed that night. It was recommended to us by several people though so if you do pop in there for a drink, or have been there already, we’d love to hear how it was.
Where to Stay in Valladolid
We were hosted for two nights in Valladolid by Casa Hamaca Guesthouse. Read more in our full Product Review Disclosure.
Casa Hamaca Guesthouse
Located on the corner of the quiet Parque San Juan within walking distance of the bus station and the main plaza is Casa Hamaca Guesthouse. To reach this beautiful restored Mexican Hacienda you first walk along a wooden pathway through tropical gardens full of swaying palms, leafy tropical plants, flowers and birds. Casa Hamaca has a selection of rooms: twin and king rooms (sleeping two), triple rooms and queen rooms with two queen beds (sleeping four) (two queen beds). These range in price from $80 USD (£59.96) to $150 USD (£112.43).
When we arrived we were greeted warmly by the owner Denis Larsen who has lovingly restored the hacienda to create the guesthouse it is today. He prides himself on offering a welcoming home from home for his guests; as he says ‘mi casa is su casa’ (‘my home is your home’). We had a quick chat with him and were invited to join him on his daily trip to the local market next morning which we readily accepted. He then introduced us to a member of staff who showed us to our room and gave as all the information we could possibly need for our stay.
Each room at Casa Hamaca is tastefully decorated with its own theme; each is a work of art in its own right. We stayed in ‘Tree Suite Che Na’, one of the air-conditioned King Suites on the ground floor, leading to the central lounge area. Much to my delight, the decor had an emphasis on the colour green – my favourite colour. I loved the amazing leafy mural at the head of our huge comfy bed.
In the room was everything we needed for a comfortable stay: a bamboo sofa, green soft furnishings, a deck chair, a bamboo sofa and best of all a green hammock – perfect for nap after a busy day sightseeing. If you like to unpack, the room also has a wardrobe and bedside tables so there’s plenty of room for your belongings.
Breakfast, included in our room rate, was served in Restaurant XocoLoco set under a palapa that extended out from the main house. You could either eat there or out on the veranda overlooking the gardens.
Andy has also made a vlog on our stay at Casa Hamaca Guesthouse.
Other Accommodation Options in Valladolid
If you need accommodation more suited to a different budget or travel style there are lots of other options to choose from in Valladolid:
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Have you been to Valladolid? Can you recommend anything else I may have missed?
P.S. You can read more about my time in Mexico via the following link:
Product Review Disclosure: Casa Hamaca Guesthouse provided us with a complimentary two-night stay. This did not influence my post in any way and as always I’ve provided balanced and honest reviews. Read more in our full Product Review Disclosure