Day Trip to Valladolid, Mexico

Posted by | January 07, 2014 | culture, Mexico | 13 Comments
Doors in Valladolid, Mexico

One of the best aspects of living long-term on the ground in any given destination is that you have more opportunities to explore the surrounding countryside and villages in comparison to backpackers who are just flitting through for a two or three-night stay. It’s the difference between skim-reading the novel and actually reading the whole thing cover to cover.

While I’ve been to Valladolid in the past, our recent day trip over the holidays with Ryan and Angela from Jets Like Taxis along with Devlin from Dream In Reality was jam-packed with over 500 photos shot, 2 hours of video footage filmed (including two Life on the Road entries for International Travel Writers), a massive lunch and two naps in between (there and back again via ADO). The following post is our adventure for the day, complete with a Viajes Con Cristina episode to boot :)

One of the first things you notice between Cancun (and the Riviera Maya as a whole) and Valladolid is the architechture. While most of the modern Riviera Maya has a history of less than 50 years (with the exception of the Maya ruins; I’m talking cities here), while walking the streets of Valladolid you are struck with a sense of age.

The buildings here have actually seen things over the years. They are crumbling in some places, well-kept in others, but the overall style is more colonial than what you’ll find throughout the Riviera, and there’s quite a bit of history to the place, from the churches to the cenote to the surrounding ruins of Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and beyond.

La Chispa Restaurant

Corner store

street view

more street views

Mexican man on bike

colorful tri-scooter

colorful Valladolid

IMG_San Monastery of Bernardino de Siena 1150

run-down buildings

San Servacio Cathedral

house on the corner

Valladolid architecture


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But Valladolid is about more than just the architecture and the Maya ruins surrounding. There’s also a long and convoluted history to the town that dates back to 1543, when the the first official town of the same name was founded some distance away in the municipality of Tizimin by the nephew of Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo.

However, after only a couple of short years, the Spaniards were in misery due to the heat, humidity and the mosquitos, so they relocated to the current location where the Maya people had an established village known as Zaci or Zaci-Val, build on top and around the cenote Zaci that now sits in the heart of the current city. Natural air conditioning, if you will, plus a fresh water supply.

Granted, the natives didn’t take too kindly to the Spaniards just moving in and taking over, and there was a bloody series of revolutions and wars fought afterwards. For more information on the history of Valladolid, you can read the Wiki or this excellent article on Yucatan Today.

Cenote Zaci

view of the cenote

the cenote

the team for the day

Cris walking

Tim filming


the cenote

view from inside the cenote

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While it’s certainly a town that I’d consider worth spending at least a few weeks to even a few months in, there’s not much there in terms of infrastructure, which makes it difficult for those of us who work online and need banks + reliable Internet and the like.

That being said, if you are looking for a place to spend a few days while exploring the surrounding countryside, Maya ruins, cenotes and thousands of years of history, this is easily one of the better places in the Yucatan to do so…especially if you like the quiet life of the village as opposed to the city living you’ll find in Merida, Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

Don’t forget the zocalo, as well. Just like every other town in Mexico, this is the beating heart of the cultural scene, as well as one of the primary open markets where you can pick up souvenirs and the like. There’s always something going on, especially Friday, Saturday and Sundays, the traditional day off for Mexicans, and when the majority of people come in from the surrounding pueblos for some downtime with the family.

fountain at the zocalo

horse and carraige

zocalo market


Popsicle man

people shopping


boy on the lam

market vendors

I find it to be one of my favorite day-trips from Cancun, and I’ve stayed the night while exploring Ek Balam to the north. But there is something to keep in mind: Valladolid is a tourist destination. Which means anything in the center of the town is going to be tourist-priced (we stopped for coffee at a place in the morning and a simple coffee + milk was 50 pesos). If you want to go cheap and only pay 50 pesos for a plate of beans, tortillas, meat and water of the day, you’ll find plenty of corner stalls serving up staple foods.

Our phenomenal lunch, courtesy of the El Meson De Marques hotel, cost five of us around $100, which was pretty damn cheap considering the quality of the place (20 bucks a pop for what I consider to be one of the best meals I had throughout 2013), but it’s certainly more than what you’ll pay four or five streets out…but then again, if you go four to five streets out you’ll be eating typical Mexican fare (tacos and quesadillas and sopas and cheap staple foods) as opposed to Yucatan specialties.

There’s also an open market with fresh juices, vegetables, fruits and meats as well as plenty of street food if you are into it, over on the north end of the town, north of the cenote. But if you want cultural specialties (see Yucatan dishes), you’ll find the best restaurants near the zocalo, as well as the Cenote Zaci Restaurant, but be prepared to spend 20-30 dollars per person to eat a decent meal.

El Meson Del Marques

El Meson Del Marques diners

hotel balconies above restaurant

restaurant fountain

fresh fruits

milanesa de puerco

cochinita pibil

milanesa de res


the full monty

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All in all, if you enjoy the quiet life and want to set up shop in a backwater colonial town and spend a few months writing your next book, building your website, working on building up your brand platform and the like, this is one of the perfect places to do so. Or if you just want a quiet, out-of-the-way place to enjoy a few weeks of downtime, I highly recommend Valladolid. If you need infrastructure and banking, you’ll be better off going to Merida or Cancun/Playa del Carmen.

Don’t forget to check out the video below and if you have any questions don’t hesitate to shoot us a mail!

If you want to rough it on your own, head on over to our Cancun travel page for boots-on-the-ground information, or pick up our best-selling Cancun travel guide (on sale since 2011!)

cancun travel guide

Don’t forget to check our Cancun page for dozens of videos from our time here, as well as other Cancun-specific posts below.
Cost of Living in Cancun, Mexico
Modern Mexico: The Real Story
Cancun, Mexico – Beyond The Hotel Zone
Living Off The Grid in Cancun, Mexico
Market 23 in Cancun
Market 28 in Cancun
Gourmet Italian in Cancun – Assaggiare
Tacos in Cancun – Tacos Rigo
Beaches in Cancun – Puerto Morelos

About T.W. Anderson

T.W. Anderson is the founder of the Marginal Boundaries brand. He is the writer, editor, videographer, photographer, and social media guru alongside Cristina Barrios, the other half of the brand. In his spare time, he is the creative director of the Saga of Lucimia, a forthcoming MMORPG from Stormhaven Studios, LLC.


  • Love these pictures and looks like a great day trip.

  • One of our favorite little getaways, Mary….thanks for stopping by.

  • Looks like a nice day trip! I really enjoyed reading this and seeing the pictures. Thank you for sharing!

  • Heck yeah, Dan; if you guys end up heading this way, let us know :) Lots of hidden little towns in the Riviera Maya :)

  • Awesome photos! We love taking walks around historic towns such as these. They have to much character!

  • Yep, non-stop rain the past five months…rainiest year in 20+ years some of the locals are telling me @ Manuel.

  • Manuel says:

    Thank goodness the rain stopped a bit in Cancun today. I visited Kabah Nature Park this morning because I wanted to take a walk and one of your posts about it took my interest. And then hailed a cab to take me to —– Isla Blanca. It was beautiful! I paid the guy 300 pesos to wait for me while I wallow on one of the beaches at Isla Blanca for 15 minutes and asked for a short stop at El Mecco. Went over budget for a day but its well worth it. Will do it again in Tulum and Rio Lagartos. Nice to have a break after 2 days of non-stop raining. Hopefully the weather cooperates in the next couple of days.

  • Cheer, Kenin. A LOT has changed in the past 10+ years, that’s for sure. I love it here :) Still has a lot of issues going on, but what country doesn’t?

    Culture, culture, everywhere!

  • Every time I see posts like this, it takes me back to my first trip to Mexico back in 2001. I must go back soon, thanks for the great post.

  • It’s possible to live like a local there, Manual, if you want to live on the staple foods and be 4-5 blocks out from centro…tacos and beans/rice + a simple apartment = you can live for 400-500 USD a month, easy.

    But if you want to live and eat in the center, it’s tourist prices for the Yucatan specialties…and the residencies. No different than any other city, to be honest.

  • Manuel says:

    Thanks for the tip, I would have to avoid spending a few days there, then. If it’s that expensive, I would probably detour to Merida after Rio Lagartos before heading back to Cancun on the way home.

  • We love it, Valen. Great for visits. Not sure that I’d live there long-term (lack of infrastructure as noted in the piece), but it’s amazing for a few short days of down time. Beautiful and soooo laid back.

  • Great pictures!! This looks like a place in Mexico that I will have to visit!

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