The Mayan City of Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico

One of the oldest cities in the peninsula and currently one of the two Magical Towns in Yucatan, Valladolid is fascinating in every way.

The Mayan City of Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico
Colonial Center of The Mayan City of Valladolid. Credit: Yucatán

The colonial city Valladolid will become a new tourist hub in the state of Yucatan because it is surrounded by natural and archeological attractions has a variety of festivals and foods and is close to Mexico's most popular sun and beach spot, Cancun.

Valladolid is fascinating in every way. Its peaceful and lively streets are home to historic sites, mansions, museums, comfortable little hotels, markets, fountains, beautiful handicraft shops, ice cream and snack stalls, parks, and many other places to explore.

Known as "The Capital of the Mayan East", Valladolid is located right in the middle of the two most important cities of the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida and Cancun, both 100 miles away. The main archaeological wonders of the area are close by Chichén Itzá at 45 kilometers, Tulum at 100 kilometers, Ek Balam at 30 kilometers, and Cobá at 35 kilometers. For this reason, to get to know Yucatan it might be a good idea to consider this destination as a starting point.

Probably the first thing that catches your attention is the kindness of its inhabitants, who will not think twice before sharing with you all they know about the place where they were born. After leaving your bags at the hotel -choose one of those around the central square, housed in old buildings-, you'll be ready to begin a tour that will transport you back to colonial times.

San Servacio Church in Valladolid.
San Servacio Church in Valladolid.

About Valladolid

Valladolid was built on the ruins of the Mayan city of Zaci, which in Mayan means "White Sparrowhawk." It is a colonial city with a happy atmosphere and a location that is attracting more and more tourists who want to find out more about it and enjoy the cenotes, archeological sites, living culture, and the nearby Mexican Caribbean.

Local, state, and federal governments are working together to make it the center of tourism development in the Mayan East. It will be a place for tourists to stay overnight and a starting point for trips to places like the Magic Town of Izamal, Chichen Itza, the natural reserves of Punta Laguna, where the spider monkey lives, San Felipe, and Rio Lagartos, the municipality of Temozon, which has a luxury hotel in a former hacienda, and the Mayan city of Ek Balam, as well as other tourist spots.

Valladolid, Yucatan, is the capital of the same-named municipality. It is between Merida, the state capital, and Cancun, Quintana Roo. It is 162 kilometers east of Merida and 158 kilometers south of Cancun. It is only 40 kilometers from Chichen Itza, an ancient Mayan city, and 1,483 kilometers from Mexico City.

It is the second most important city in Yucatan and has the third most people, after Merida and Kanasin. Kanasin is part of the capital's metropolitan area. It is flat, 30 meters above sea level, and has a warm, subhumid climate with regular rain in the summer and an average annual temperature of 25.8 °C, which is cooled in the afternoons by a sea breeze from the nearby coast.

Fountain of La Mestiza in Valladolid
Fountain of La Mestiza in Valladolid

The architectural heritage of Valladolid

The fortified convent of San Bernardino de Siena, from the 16th century (1549), was built with stones from ancient Mayan temples and partly over a cenote, part of which rests on the vault of the cavity. The interior is decorated with murals that mix Mayan art with the Christian religion, but they are hidden under several layers of paint.

Walk along the Avenida de Los Frailes from the convent to the center of town to see old mansions. This was the route that the friars had to take to get to the Cathedral of San Servacio, the most important building in Valladolid, which is a baroque complex from the early 1800s. Also the Temple of San Juan de Dios, Santa Ana, San Roque, Santa Luca, La Candelaria, El Telar, the Central Park, and the Municipal Palace.

The Candelaria Fair, which happens every year on February 2, the handicrafts market, the Zac Xkeken, and Dzitnup cenotes, the handicrafts market, and restaurants with regional, national, and international food, like the tenderloins and sausages at the Zac Xkeken restaurants, are also great things to do.

In Reginal Artisan Center Zací you will find many crafts that you will like to take with you like embroidered huipiles, guayaberas, basketry, jewelry, and saddlery. To pamper your palate you will find local restaurants that offer Yucatan delicacies, deer pipian, salbutes, panuchos and papadzules, stuffed cheese, cochinita pibil, chicken and bean stew with pork; in short, the specialties that have placed the Yucatan cuisine among the best. At the end of the meal, we recommend xtabentún.

Calzada de Los Frailes in Valladolid.
Calzada de Los Frailes in Valladolid.

Historical events in Valladolid

The Federal Government's Magical Towns Program includes Valladolid. It was founded on May 28, 1543, by Francisco de Montejo at a place called Chauac Há. His goal was to take control of the area, which was run by the Cupules when the Spaniards arrived. The conquistadors gave it the name Valladolid to honor the city of the same name in Spain.

But two years later, it had to be moved because the place was too dirty and had too many diseases. From where it is now, it became the center of growth in the eastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Valladolid has been at the center of many important events in history. In 1847, the Caste War began here. In 1910, it was the site of the first spark of the Mexican Revolution. In the city, the first steam-powered yarn and fabric factory in Mexico was built between 1833 and 1847. It was called "The dawn of the Yucatecan industry".

During the Caste War in 1848, a group of Mayan indigenous rebels took over the city. Many mestizos were kicked out with the white people, though some died during the invasion. Government troops took back the city after a few months. However. During the war between Yucatan's different ethnic groups, people kept bothering Valladolid for years.

The state and federal governments each put millions into Valladolid for the third stage of saving the Historic Center. This includes stamped concrete, wiring for the subway, and improving the look of the first square and 30 streets around it, including the 40th, which is famous for its beautiful mansions. These are all things that have helped tourist businesses start to grow.

Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico.
Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico.

Festivities in Valladolid

Candlemas Festival, January 26 to February 3. Artistic, cultural, artisan, and gastronomic exhibitions.

Feast of the Holy Cross, 23 April to 3 May. Dance of jarana, rosaries, and typical food.

First Spark of the Revolution, 3 - 4 June. Remember the Revolution.

San Servicio, October. In the temple of the historical center.

Cultural autumn of Valladolid, October / November. Cultural, artistic and social events.