Valladolid, Mexico – Cenotes, Pyramid Ruins, Colonial Yucatan City

Valladolid at night tour

Valladolid at night.

Valladolid, Mexico – Cenotes, Pyramid Ruins, Colonial Yucatan City

Valladolid, Mexico is sometimes referred to as “Little Mérida” and is a beautiful colonial city in central Yucatán. It is located only a short distance from Cancún, Mérida, or Chichén-Itzá. Nearby are many amazing “cenotes” – underground or partially-underground  swimming holes! Valladolid is a great choice as a basecamp for day trips to pyramid and temple ruins in the area. It is also conveniently situated as the first stop on Tren Maya, Mexico’s new, electric, high-speed train.

Things to do in Valladolid, Mexico.

Valladolid is full of activities. It’s a great place to ride bikes, swim, explore archaeological sites, or dive into Yucatán, Mexico food and culture. About 50,000 people live in the city of Valladolid, but you only have to bike for a few miles until you are alone in nature with the monkeys (there are 6 types of monkeys in Mexico).

valladolid cenotes by bike tour

Cenote swimming hole.

Centotes: ancient subterranean swimming holes.

Our favorite activity around Valladolid is riding bikes to nearby cenote swimming holes. We rented the bikes in town for the day, and rode out of the city on a safe, dedicated bike path. Eventually the path emptied onto quiet Yucatan roads, flat and shaded by the big trees on the side of the road. It was easy riding in the morning and soon we were at our first stop.

Xkeken Cenote – a cool open-top cenote with turquoise water. It was very cool and there weren’t very many people there. Some cenotes require life vests when you are swimming, but this one will look the other way if you take it off. The entrance fee was about 100 pesos ($5). There were a few spots where you could jump into the deep water and it was nice that it was shaded from the hot sun in the morning. Definitely arrive early before the tour buses.

Dzitnup Cenote and Cenote Xlakaj – These two cenotes are right next to each other on opposite sides of the street. It costs about 300 pesos for the two entrances combined. Both of these cenotes are completely underground, one with a small light hole and the other one fully enclosed but lit inside with artificial light. Swimming underground is an incredible experience, in clean blue water which comes from an underground river. Dzitnup and Xlakaj get a lot of tour buses in the afternoon but it still wasn’t very busy.

Most of the tours to to Oxman Cenote nearby which we didn’t go to because we sometimes avoid the most touristy areas. It does look really nice in pictures so next time we will have to check it out.

biking tour to cenotes Valladolid

Biking to cenotes and checking out the plants!

The bike ride to the three centoes and back to Valladolid was about 19 miles in total and we departed about 8:30am and arrived home around 2pm. The route followed a dedicated bike trail out of Valladolid then switched onto sleepy jungle roads without a lot of traffic. Yucatan is very safe so you can bike around pretty much anywhere you want. The people are very friendly and you will surely have to stop for some chats!

Riding bikes to the cenotes allowed us to be closer to the nature around us, experiencing the smells and sounds, and saying hola! to any people we saw. The little towns are very sleepy, not a lot going on, and it’s really interesting to see what life is like out in the Yucatán jungles.

Mayan pyramid ruins: world-class archaeological sites.

There are several Mayan ruins nearby that make great day trips. These places can be busy and HOT in the afternoons so we recommend getting there when they open. There are usually local vans or buses that will take you earlier than the tour buses leave. This gives you about an hour on arrival of peace and quiet before the groups arrive.

chichen itza tour tren maya

Chichén-Itzá near Valladolid.

Chichén-Itzá: one of the 7 Wonders of the World – A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Chichén-Itzá is like Disneyland for pyramid lovers. Yes, there are a lot of people, but it’s so, so worth it. Just get there in the morning! Click here to buy tickets in advance and skip the line!

Ek Balam: – Another amazing local site. A lot smaller than it’s more famous friends and for that reason it gets a lot less visitors. This one is really cool because you can still climb the pyramids, which isn’t allowed at many of the other sites. It’s a quick van ride out from Valladolid city and well worth spending a few hours.

Valladolid food tour

Some molé in Valladolid.

Yucatan Cuisine: a foodie paradise.

There are never-ending food options in Yucatán, Mexico, and Valladolid is no exception. The region has some cool things that you don’t see in other Mexican states. People who don’t know Mexican food think that it is all just tacos and fajitas. The reality is that the cuisine varies a lot. The spices change, as do the chilies, the local fruits, the hands the form the masa. There are so many factors making Yucatán food very difficult to re-create anywhere else!

You can find an al pastor tacos in any Mexican city, similar to McDonald’s Big Mac in American food.  What changes is the accessibility and affordability of ingredients. What you can’t find in the United States is the local specialties which come from mom and pop restaurants.

Here are some unique foods and ingredients served in Valladolid and other parts of the Yucatan.

Chaya – a green spinach-like leaf that comes from a tree. In Yucatan you can get it in everything. It has more than twice the nutrients of spinach but you need to cook it well to make it edible. The taste is mild and it is often put in drinks like pineapple chaya or chaya lemonade.

Sikil P’ak (pumpkin seed salsa) – it’s like a chunky hummus that you dip your tortilla chips in.

Salbutes – these are flat, fried masa (corn meal) that are similar to sopes. Once fried they are topped with beans and cheese or meat and usually cabbage slaw and salsa. These are our go-to cheap street food that fills you up.

Mame Fruit (sapote or zapote) – an orange fruit that grows just about everywhere. Tastes like tropical brown sugar and they are good in smoothies which liquify the grainy texture.

Is Valladolid worth visiting?

We loved our time in Valladolid and would recommended it to anyone. Weather you are interested in biking to cenotes, pyramid ruins, or soaking up Mexican food and culture, Valladoild in Yucatán is definitely on a must visit list!

Is Yucatán, Mexico safe?

Most of Yucatán is extremely safe, with some of the safest cities in the Americas. Of course you should use a normal travelers common sense, but it is rare to have a problem in Valladolid, Mérida, or other places in Yucatán.

Travel to Valladolid on a Tren Maya tour!

We host 6 day and 11 day train tours that stop in Valladolid and travel by Tren Maya! Click here to check out all of our retreats and tours that we currently have available!