Located mid-way between Mérida and Cancun, colonial Valladolid is the third-largest city in Yucatan and a good base from which to explore the surrounding region. Visit Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and Ek’ Balam, the Balankanche caves and Rio Lagartos, a coastal fishing village and flamingo colony located within the Reserva de la Biosfera Rio Lagartos (Lagartos Biosphere Reserve).

Valladolid is built over the ancient Maya ceremonial center of Zaci. The city centers on the Parque Francisco Cantó Rosado (Francisco Cantón Park) where you’ll find the Iglesia de San Servacio (San Servacio Church). There are seven colonial churches located in Valladolid Yucatán, and the city is nicknamed the “Sultan of the East,” because of its rich colonial splendor.

Head southwest of the central park and main plaza to arrive at the 16th century Iglesia y Convento de San Bernardino de Siena (San Bernardino Church and Convent). Locally known as the Sisal Convent, the San Bernardino Church and Convent is one of the most beautiful colonial buildings in Valladolid Yucatán. Inside the church are original frescoes and housed within the walls of the convent building are orchards, gardens and a large cenote (underwater sinkhole).

Valladolid is a great place to sample some of the distinct regional cuisine of Yucatán, including the city’s signature dish lomitas de Valladolid (pork in a tomato and garlic broth). Other Valladolid Yucatán Mayan dishes that you’re likely to find on the menus at local restaurants include longaniza (smoked sausage), pollo escabeche (Yucatecan-style marinated chicken) and pavo oriental (turkey casserole).

There are three underwater sinkholes that can be easily visited from Valladolid’s downtown area. Cenote Zaci is the easiest to access and located just a few blocks east of the central park, whereas Cenotes Dzitnup and Samulá are located several miles to the west. All are good for swimming.

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