How to Spend 36 Hours in Valladolid – Mexico

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  • Post last modified:18/06/2024
How to Spend 36 Hours in Valladolid, Mexico. Image of the fountain in plaza principal.

Valladolid in Yucatan state, Mexico is located in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s steeped in Mayan and Colonial Spanish History and quite rightly deserves its ‘Pueblo Magico’ title.

Despite this Valladolid is often overlooked by travellers, many of whom tend to just pass through en route from Cancun and Playa del Carmen to other popular Yucatan tourist attractions such as Chitzen Itza, Tulum and the Pink Lakes at Las Coloradas.

We’re suckers for somewhere a bit less-visited though, so a couple of days in Valladolid, just had to be done. Unfortunately, due to boat and bus times, we only ended up with about 36 hours in Valladolid.

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What to Do in Valladolid in 36 Hours

How to Spend 36 Hours in Valladolid, Mexico. Image of the fountain in plaza principal.

Despite the little time we had, we made the most of our quick visit to Valladolid, one of Mexico’s 111 Pueblo Magicos or Magical Towns. Here are our suggestions for how to spend (about) 36 hours in Valladolid, the perfect addition to any Yucatan Road Trip, either before or after Merida.

Day 1 – Late(ish) Arrival in Valladolid

Multicoloured Valladolid sign.

Photo Credit: flickr photo by A Couple for the Road shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license.

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 and where we caught our ferry to (and from) the island. Bookaway enables you to book your bus ticket from Chiquila to Valladolid online.


You’ll notice I said ‘or as we thought’, that’s because you need to be aware that when arriving in Valladolid from Quintana Roo state there’s a time difference. Slightly odd is that Yucatan is one hour behind Quintana Roo. Don’t be like us and only realise this the morning after a very confusing evening.

Depending on your time of arrival, you’ll hopefully have some time to chill out a bit before getting ready to head out for the evening. 

Sound and Light Show

Covento de Bernadino Sound and Light Show in Valladolid, Mexico Colourful lights projected onto the stone walls.

After some downtime, it’s time for an evening meal and some entertainment. If you’re in Valladolid any night Thursday to Tuesday, make sure you don’t miss the revered historical sound and light show at the Convento de Bernadino.

First wander down Calzada de Los Frailes towards Convento de Bernadino, stopping for dinner on the way. We (thought we) were running late so picked the first restaurant we saw that was within our budget near the Convent. Unfortunately, the food was uninspiring and I can’t remember the restaurant’s name. In hindsight, we should have splurged at the nearby Taberna de Los Frailes which comes recommended.

There are two sittings for the 25-minute sound and light show, a Spanish version at 9 pm and an English version at 9:25 pm. We perched on a wall opposite the large convent and waited and waited for the show to start, beginning to suspect technical issues. Just as I realised we hadn’t heard the 9 pm Spanish version from the restaurant, the lights went out and the show started…in Spanish. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, and as we found out the next day this was due to the time difference, not because the organisers were late starting!

We only stuck around for the Spanish version and despite only understanding snippets of what was being said, it was a spectacular, clever show. The colourful visuals projected on the facade of the convent along with the audio, tell stories of Valladolid’s lively history. During the day (9 am to 7 pm) on Monday to Saturday, you can also look around the convent for a small entry fee.

After the show, walk or taxi back to your hotel for a good night’s sleep. You’ll need an early start the next day if you want to fit in as much as possible.

Day 2 – 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

Mercardo Municipal - Local Market in Valladolid, Mexico

A great way to get a real insight into everyday local life is with an early morning trip to Valladolid’s local market ‘Mercardo Municipal’ and shops. We were lucky enough to be invited to accompany the owner of our guesthouse there on his daily grocery shop. You could easily do this by yourself though! The bustling, colourful market was the most authentic we saw during our time in Mexico. Many of the vendors still dress in traditional Mayan clothes, the women in white costumes with bright-coloured embroidery.

Take a browse of the stalls full of local produce including fruit, vegetables, homewares, and local soft drinks ‘aguas frescas’. There’s also a meat section which was one of the most sterile we’ve seen in markets on our travels. This won’t be for everyone though as there were animal parts everywhere, with little left to the imagination, so you may prefer to skip it.

I especially enjoyed looking at a section full of stalls selling traditional sweets and desserts. Most vendors won’t mind you taking photos, but be sure to ask first as there are a couple of families who don’t like it.

Once you’ve finished in the market go across the road to look in a couple of very traditional local shops. Amongst others, there’s a tortelleria selling tortilla dough and ready-made tortillas. There’s also a cheese shop selling a selection of fresh Mexican cheeses. 

Depending on how you’re doing for time, you could also have a quick look around a local supermarket like we did. Andy has a bit of an obsession with foreign supermarkets so was in his element. Seriously, I’ve lost count of the number of Mexican supermarkets he’s dragged me around! As he rightly says though, along with markets, supermarkets help give you a better understanding of the local life of the place you’re visiting!

Casa de Los Venados

Coat of Arms of Casa de los Venados in Valladolid, Mexico

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 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 passionate and knowledgeable about the collection; it was a fantastic tour.

Andy and I aren’t art enthusiasts but we do like unusual, weird and wonderful things, curiosities and oddities. Casa de Los Venados has plenty of those; my favourite piece had to be the card table.

This is a ‘must-visit’ when in Valladolid. Even though it’s not being an official tourist attraction it’s made its way to the number one spot on TripAdvisor for ‘Things to do in Valladolid’. 

Palacio Municipal Historic Murals

Palacio Municipal Murals in Valladolid, Mexico

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 worth a look. The gallery also has open balconies which offer a lovely view over the main square. 

Wander the Plaza and Streets

Plaza Principal - Francisco Canton Rosado Parque in Valladolid, Mexico

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 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

San Servacio Cathedral in Valladolid, Mexico

Towering over Plaza Principal is San Servacio Cathedral, which was 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 

Loncheria el Amigo Casiano in Valladolid, Mexico

At this point, you’re bound to have worked up an appetite and will need to refuel for the rest of the day. In our opinion, the best spot for lunch is in El Bazaar Municipal, an open-air food court on the corner of Plaza Principal. The food court has a good selection of inexpensive local eateries offering a whole range of traditional dishes. The most popular eatery, recognised by the queue, is Loncheria el Amigo Casiano, near the far left of the food court.

Loncheria’s mouthwatering menu includes many Mexican and Yucatan specialities including tacos, salbutes, sopes, cochinita pibil and poc chuuc. The menu is all in Spanish and very little English is spoken, making this a real authentic Mexican dining experience. You order and pay at the counter, then wait for your meal at one of the picnic tables nearby.

Andy and I both opted for a torta de conchinita (suckling pig baguette) and an aguas de pinas (pineapple water). Both were very cheap, delicious bargains; don’t leave Valladolid without eating at Loncheria’s at least once.

Ek Balam and Cenote X’Canche

Ek Balam Sign near Valladolid in Mexico

Hunger sated it’s time to venture outside of Valladolid for several hours sightseeing at Ek Balam ruins and Cenote X’Canche. Located about 25 minutes away from Valladolid the easiest way to get there is by colectivo taxi. These aren’t the mini-bus colectivos we’d used in Quintana Roo, instead, they’re car taxis that take up to four passengers.

A colectivo to El Balam and X’Chanche (both at the same site) is charged at the price of the vehicle split between the number of passengers. You can find one on Calle 44, between Calles 35 and 37. Drivers also tout for customers on the streets nearby, which is how we found ours. Our driver told us to wait on a bench for a few minutes whilst he went off to find two more passengers. 

The entrance fee for Ek Balam was reasonable, but if you want to shoot any video, which Andy did, there’s an additional charge. Ek Balam is one of the more off-the-beaten-track ruins and gets significantly fewer visitors than the ruins of Chitzen Itza, Coba and Tulum. In fact, during our visit, we only saw about ten other people. It’s also one of only a few ruins that you’re still able to climb and explore the inside of which makes it even more interesting.

Birds Eye View of Ek Balam near Valladolid in Mexico

Dense jungle surrounds the ruins; you can get a great view of this if you climb to the top of the main pyramid as we did. It only took us about an hour to explore Ek Balam, but we were kind of rushing it as it was an extremely hot day, the hottest day we’d had in Mexico so far. You could take much longer but be sure to take plenty of water, a sunhat and sunscreen with you.

Once you’ve had your fill of ruins you could also take a walk via a 1.5-mile jungle trail to the peaceful Cenote X’Canche, just one of the many cenotes in this area. At this natural limestone sinkhole, you can take a refreshing dip to cool off. Sadly we had to skip this as we had other things we still wanted to see back in Valladolid and were running out of time.

Head back to the car park to find a colectivo to return you to Valladolid. If you’re lucky there may be one waiting, otherwise, you may have to be patient. The return journey should be the same price, so you can either pay for the whole car and leave straight away or wait for other people to leave the ruins and share with you. We opted for the latter and had about a half an hour to wait in the shade of a palapa.

Cenote Zaci

Cenote Zaci in Valladolid, Mexico

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 has a small entry fee. 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 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 ecosystem. If it’s a sunny day you can always use an eco-friendly, biodegradable sunscreen.

Enjoy Dinner in Restaurant Oasis Familiar

Sopa de Limon in Oasis Familiar in Valladolid, Mexico

After an hour or so of rest 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 lookout 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. 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 was still priced very low. As is the norm in most local Mexican restaurants our food also came with a massive pile of tortillas.

Plaza Principal by Night

Plaza Principal by Night in Valladolid, Mexico

Photo Credit: flickr photo by Adach Photo shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license.

After dinner, you’ll 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 experience, I expect it would still be fairly busy any night of the week. In the 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

Wabi Gelato in Valladolid, Mexico

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 parlour 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 parlour on Calle 41. So I did get to try mamey ice cream after all, and it was rather 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.

Cantina Joyita

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 (English 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

When we visited Valladolid we stayed at the gorgeous Casa Hamaca, however, we recently learnt it has since closed.

Do not despair though as there are lots of other accommodation options in Valladolid to choose from that suit all budgets and travel styles.


So those are our suggestions for how to spend 36 hours in Valladolid. Of course, there are several other things you could choose to see and do depending on your preferences and time restrictions.

For example, there are lots of other cenotes around Valladolid and Merida or the famous ruins of Coba or Chitzen Itza.

Have you been to Valladolid? Can you recommend anything else I may have missed? 

Planning Your Trip to Valladolid?

Planning your trip to Valladolid in Mexico? Here are some of our recommended useful resources to help you have the best time possible.

TRAVEL INSURANCE IS AN IMPORTANT CONSIDERATION! World Nomads offers cover for travellers in over 100 countries and True Traveller is a great option if you’re from the UK or EU.

SafetyWing is another solution, particularly for digital nomads and long-term travellers.

● Use Wise (formerly Transferwise) for sending or receiving money internationally. It’s cheap, easy and transparent.

● Find amazing flight deals on Skyscanner and Kayak.

● Compare rental car prices on

Book other ground transportation with 12Go and  Bookaway.

● usually have the best hotel prices.

● Our go-to for self-catering accommodation is Vrbo.

● Discover fantastic trips and activities with Viator and GetYourGuide.

● Check out Bookmundi, G Adventures, and  Intrepid Travel for group holidays and tours.

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How to Spend 36 Hours in Valladolid

Tanya Korteling

Tanya is the founder and head content creator for Can Travel Will Travel. She combines freelance SEO, CRO, Data and Marketing consultancy with exploring the world. Passionate about adventure, nature, wildlife and food, she incorporates these in her travels as much as possible. She also loves immersing herself in new cultures. She's visited hundreds of destinations in 50+ countries and lived in 4 countries. Tanya worked as a Data Planning Manager and Digital Marketing Strategist before leaving the UK in 2016 with her husband Andy, to travel, live and work abroad indefinitely. Together they share their experiences and useful information to inspire and encourage others to do the same.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Kirtika saha

    Such an excellent and very cool idea and great content of different kinds of the valuable information’s. Thanks for sharing this information.

  2. Rob B.

    I enjoyed reading the comments on Valladolid since I lived there for sometime. Having lived there, many of the choices are much different than I would like as far as where to eat and what to see but all opinions are interesting.
    First I would mention that night is never a good time to go to a Cantina since they are popular afternoon spots. By law, a cantina cannot be open late at night.
    While I did go to the market to do some shopping, I find it pretty much like the market in most in any town in Mexico
    Valladolid does have some good eating establishments and it’s a shame you had no chance to try them. I wouldn’t go to the area mentioned with the food stalls at the corner of the Plaza which is one place I do avoid. I was warned when first moving there but went anyway and have to say one of the few places where I have gotten sick in Mexico.
    As far as accommodations for overnight visitors, Valladolid has so many it is difficult to choose. I do try to frequent the locally owned hotels and my favorite has long been the Hotel Zaci. Located just halfway between the bus terminal in the main Square, it has nice grounds and all the amenities for a very reasonable price.
    I do recommend the visit to Valladolid, it has something for everyone.

    1. TanyaKorteling

      Hi Rob,

      Thank you so much for your comments, it’s always helpful to hear the thoughts of someone who has lived in a place for a while.
      We said ourselves Valladolid is definitely somewhere we could live.

      As an ‘insider’ it’s a given you’ll know Valladolid so much better than those of us just visiting for a short time or passing through. My husband and I are the same with Siem Reap in Cambodia where we lived for 14 months – we always recommend very different things than people do who
      have just passed through. My post was based on our experience of the time we had there and recommendations we received from locals and
      expats whilst there, but of course everyone has different opinions 🙂

      If you have any specific recommendations on restaurants/ places to eat please feel free to share in the comments as I’d
      love to give our readers some additional information from someone that’s spent more time in Valladolid.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment 🙂


  3. Victor

    where do i find the flamingos on the side of the road.. i remember driving and seeing flamingos to buy but didn’t stop.. I am going in July and want to buy a few.

    1. TanyaKorteling

      Hi Victor,

      That’s a very good question, I didn’t see any flamingoes at the side of the road when we travelled to or from Valladolid – sorry!
      I’m sure there’ll still be there somewhere. I may well have dozed off on the buses and missed them as it was a pretty busy few days!

      I hope you find your flamingoes 🙂

  4. jennybhatia

    Wow! What an adventure. These pictures are so vibrant and beautiful. I pinned to “Bucket List”

    1. TanyaKorteling

      Thanks Jenny, it really is a lovely city to spend some time in. Thanks for pinning 🙂

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