A Colonial Town in the Heart of Maya Yucatan

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
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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 © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Valladolid Mexico Street at Dusk
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Nativity Scene at Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
A nativity scene at the Cathedral of San Gervasio. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
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 © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Candelaria Church in Valladolid, Mexico
Iglesia de la Candelaria, named for the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron of the town. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Valladolid street at dusk with Cathedral of san Gervasio
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Audience at the Queen of the Maya 2011 Festival in Valladolid, Mexico
The town’s Queen of the Maya festival celebrations. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Catedral De San Gervasio with stone cross in Valladolid
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Dusk view of Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Christmas Nativity Scene in Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid and street
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Valladolid Mexico Cathedral of Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion
Iglesia de la Candelaria. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Angel Holy Water Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of San Bernardino Valladolid Mexico
Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Arches of Candelaria Church in Valladolid
Iglesia de la Candelaria. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Old Doorways in Valladolid Mexico
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of san Gervasio in Valladolid
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cathedral of San Bernardino Interior
Inside the cathedral at the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com

360-degree Virtual Tour of Valladolid’s Main Square

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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.

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David Coleman / Photographer
by 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 »