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Please don’t visit Valladolid – I’d like to keep this town for myself… Valladolid was only supposed to be a quick stop before our month-long stay in Playa del Carmen, but it turned in to one of our favorite places in all of Mexico. We’d like it to stay that way…
The sleepy colonial town in the center of the Yucatan peninsula has a classic, authentic feel. It is the kind of place which is somehow still devoid of major tourism despite its proximity to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and several beautiful cenotes. The town is exactly what I picture when reading the magical realism of Latin American literature, usually stories set in the late 19th or early 20th century. When you visit Valladolid, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Though most towns on the Yucatan don’t have a main square, or Zocalo, Vallodolid has a large, beautifully-designed, clean main square. It is the type of relaxing center where children play, old men watch the world go by and couples canoodle. It is a place to relax and lose yourself in the to-ing and fro-ing of the locals.
That is not to say that Valladolid is stuck in the past. Restaurants for all price ranges are available in town, and the Zocalo has both a higher-end wine and cheese restaurant as well as an indoor food market with several restaurants serving up delicious local fare on the cheap. Valladolid has a small cinema, plenty of bars and a good range of shops for clothes and also tourist trinkets. While the town is easily small enough to explore on foot, there are plenty of bike rental places to visit the surrounding areas on two wheels. Part of the magic of the place might have to do with our hostel. Valladolid is still small enough that when exiting the bus station, the shop directly across the street has an advert for La Candelaria, a hostel that sat on a nearby square called La Candelaria. This hostel is exactly how we would run a hostel after taking all the experience acquired from traveling and staying in everything from five-star hotels to the dankest and dirtiest of hostels. La Candelaria has fresh, clean rooms, comfortable beds, cable TV and the dorms are open, light and airy.Breakfast is not served as much as it is simply ‘made available’. Serve yourself bread and coffee, and freshly cut fruit bowls are laid out in the main kitchen, which is in a covered outdoor area that stretches far back and encompasses two chill-out spaces, the kitchen, and an area with three hammocks. Inside, there is a second kitchen (both have full cooking facilities, fridge, and clean (!) cutlery and dishes) and a TV room for guests who stay in the dorms. Cool cruiser bikes are for rent for 15 pesos per hour – great for exploring the nearby cenotes Samula and X-Keken located 7 km from town. The owners are super friendly, the showers are very clean, and there are two chihuahuas and a couple of friendly cats for animal lovers to play with as well.
After a month in Playa del Carmen, where over-priced tours to Chichen Itza include a quick stop-off in Valladolid, we decided to return to this romantic town to soak up a few last days of Mexico before leaving for Belize. Who knows when and if we will ever have the time or chance to return to Valldolid. More importantly, who knows if Valladolid will have kept its charm in the meantime, as more and more tourists discover the town.
This is why we’d like you not to visit Valladolid. And if you do go (which you really should) please don’t tell anyone else about it…or at least tell them to keep it quiet too….
Spoiler alert: I was able to visit Valladolid again after my first stay there back in 2010. One of my return visits was during my epic Yucatan road trip. I just want to say that all these years later, I still love Valladolid as much as I loved it when I first discovered it, and it hasn’t lost any of its charm, even though I believe that quite a few more tourists stop in Valladolid these days.
For a detailed Valladolid Travel Guide, check out this ultimate guide to Valladolid, Mexico.