A Colonial Town in the Heart of Maya Yucatan

VALLADOLID, Mexico — Valladolid is a place to stop and savor. A charming Spanish colonial town in the center of the Yucatán Peninsula, it’s within easy striking distance of Cancun and Merida.

Valladolid's Cathedral of San Gervasio and Main Square at night

Valladolid is a place to stop and savor. A charming Spanish colonial town in the center of the Yucatán Peninsula, it’s within easy striking distance of Cancun and Merida. It makes for a pleasant, laid-back place to stop for a few days in its own right, but an added appeal is that it’s also a great base for exploring the nearby Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Ek’Balam, especially if you want to get the morning jump on the tourist buses rolling in from Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Given its great location in the heart of Mayan Mexico, it’s a bit surprising that Valladolid hasn’t yet become overrun with tourists. The lack of an airport is one good reason. Merida and Cancun, both of which are bigger and have busy international airports, are more than happy to soak up the tourist dollars. But the result is that Valladolid itself remains quiet and relaxed.

The town was built by the Spanish on a Maya ceremonial site. For much of the time after that, the indigenous Maya population was repressed, something that has only been redressed in more recent times. Much of the money these days in Valladolid comes from being a financial and administrative hub for local agriculture.

Like so many Spanish colonial towns, Valladolid is laid out on a classic grid radiating from a central town square, in this case, the Parque Francisco Canton Rosado. And this being the Yucatan, there are no rivers or hills to speak of, so it’s an easy place to walk, drive, or ride. Around the town square are some comfortable hotels and restaurants, the town hall, and a 16th-century Spanish colonial Cathedral of San Gervasio with its twin steeples towering over the town. And if you’re lucky enough to be there for one of the seemingly endless streams of Maya celebrations, like the Queen of the Maya Festival, you’ll be in for a treat.

Wandering a little further, by car or bike, both Cenote X’kekén (also known as Cenote Dzitnup) and the Church of San Bernardino de Siena, with its convent next door, are well worth a visit.

Photos of Valladolid

Valladolid Downtown Street Mexico
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Valladolid Mexico Street at Dusk
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Nativity Scene at Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
A nativity scene at the Cathedral of San Gervasio. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Night Nativity scene in Valladolid's main square
An outdoor nativity scene in the main square. You can just see the top of one of the Cathedral of San Gervasio’s towers in the background. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Candelaria Church in Valladolid, Mexico
Iglesia de la Candelaria, named for the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron of the town. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Valladolid street at dusk with Cathedral of san Gervasio
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Audience at the Queen of the Maya 2011 Festival in Valladolid, Mexico
The town’s Queen of the Maya festival celebrations. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Catedral De San Gervasio with stone cross in Valladolid
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Dusk view of Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Christmas Nativity Scene in Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid and street
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Valladolid Mexico Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion
Iglesia de la Candelaria. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Angel Holy Water Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Cathedral of San Bernardino Valladolid Mexico
Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Arches of Candelaria Church in Valladolid
Iglesia de la Candelaria. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Old Doorways in Valladolid Mexico
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Cathedral of San Bernardino Interior
Inside the cathedral at the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel

360-degree Virtual Tour of Valladolid’s Main Square

[pano file=”https://s3.amazonaws.com/panos.davidcolemanphoto.com/mexico-valladolid/valladolid01.html”]

What to Know Before You Go

Valladolid makes for a charming, convenient, and affordable stop for a night or two and if you’re headed to the northern Maya civilization ruins of Chichen Itza, Ek’Balam, or Coba, especially if you’re looking to get away from the tourist crowds of Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or the Maya Riviera. There are some charming and quite reasonably priced hotels right on the main town square–I personally like both the restaurant and accommodations of Meson del Marques Hotel–and just a few blocks away is a highly rated hostel, La Candelaria, which is in what was once a nunnery.

Valladolid is an easy drive from either Cancun or Merida; it’s about halfway between them.

More About Valladolid Mexico

  • Founded in 1543 by Francisco de Montejo y León
  • Known as the “Sultaness of the East”
  • Rich in Spanish colonial architecture
  • Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  • Offers easy access to various cenotes and archaeological sites

Valladolid, founded in 1543 by Francisco de Montejo y León, is a city located in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Often referred to as the “Sultaness of the East,” Valladolid is rich in Spanish colonial architecture, showcasing a blend of cultural influences throughout its history. Its vibrant streets are lined with colorful buildings, historical monuments, and charming squares that reflect the city’s architectural heritage.

Valladolid’s strategic location makes it an ideal base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula, as it offers easy access to various cenotes, archaeological sites, and other natural attractions. Additionally, the city boasts a variety of museums, galleries, and cultural institutions that provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the region’s history and culture.

The local cuisine of Valladolid is another highlight, featuring traditional Yucatecan dishes with a distinctive blend of flavors and ingredients. From popular street food to upscale restaurants, Valladolid offers a range of culinary experiences for visitors to savor. The city also hosts several cultural events and festivals throughout the year, celebrating its rich heritage and fostering a lively atmosphere.

What’s Nearby to Valladolid Mexico

How to Get to Valladolid Mexico

  • Located in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  • Nearest airport: Cancun International Airport (CUN)
  • Nearest public transport hub: Valladolid ADO Bus Station

Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico

David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »