The Perfect Valladolid, Mexico Itinerary: 1-7 Days

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The Perfect Valladolid, Mexico Itinerary: 1-7 Days

Trying to plan a trip to the enchanting colonial city of Valladolid, Mexico?

I recently spent a lovely week exploring Valladolid. I’ve already visited all the most popular tourist destinations on the Yucatán peninsula (Bacalar, Tulum, Cozumel, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and more), and this unassuming little town is my new favorite!

I think you’ll love Valladolid, too, especially if you’re looking for a taste of life in a colorful, artsy historical town, want to swim in some of Mexico’s most beautiful cenotes, and want to see the striking ruins of Chichén Itzá without the crowds.

This flexible Valladolid itinerary includes all of those things, and more!

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Valladolid Mexico Itinerary

Valladolid is situated on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, just under two hours away from Cancun, making it an easy place to visit if you fly into Cancun.

It is classified as a pueblo magico (‘magical town’) by the Mexican government, and it doesn’t take much time to understand why. Valladolid’s streets are lined with brightly colored stucco buildings housing cute cafes, boutique shops, art galleries, and local restaurants.

But Valladolid’s city center isn’t all that the area has to offer—this part of Mexico is also home to some of the most beautiful cenotes (natural sinkholes) in the country. One of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá, is also a short drive away, as is Ek Balam, another Mayan archaeological site.

Valladolid Itinerary Overview:

Day 1: Get to know Valladolid as you join the city’s free walking tour and wander the pink halls of a 16th century convent
Day 2: Swim in several in turquoise blue cenotes and see a one-of-a-kind church
Day 3: Take a day trip to the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá and explore the yellow city of Izamal
Day 4: Swim in a cave pool and get a massage at my favorite Valladolid hotel and return to the convent after dark for a special show
Day 5: Visit Valladolid’s best cenotes and see the ruins of Ek Balam

Visiting Valladolid for more or less than five days? Jump forward to my other itineraries:

★ One day in Valladolid Itinerary
★ Valladolid 3 Day Itinerary
★ One week in Valladolid Itinerary

Overview of the Cenotes on this Valladolid Itinerary

Swimming in turquoise blue cenotes is one of the best things to do in Valladolid!

These natural sinkholes formed when underground limestone caves collapse. There are thousands of cenotes on the Yucatan peninsula, ranging from small pools hidden in caves to large, deep open cenotes surrounded by limestone formations.

You’ll have the chance to visit several cenotes in and around Valladolid. Here is a quick overview of the cenotes I recommend in this itienary:

Day 1: Option to visit Cenote Zaci in downtown Valladolid.
Day 2: Visit an open cenote and two closed (cave) cenotes southwest of the city.
Day 3: Option to visit a cenote if you join this guided Chichen Itza tour.
Day 4: No cenotes in the itinerary.
Day 5: Visit two of my favorite cenotes near Valladolid, northeast of the city. *If you only plan to go to 1-2 cenotes, make sure its these ones!*

PS: I don’t include some of the most popular Instagram cenotes like Cenote Suytun and Cenote Ik Kil as I personally prefer less crowded cenotes!

How to Spend 5 Days in Valladolid, Mexico

Day 1: Getting Acquainted with Valladolid

I start of many of my Mexico itineraries with a free walking tour. These pay-by-donation walking tours are available many cities across Mexico and the world.

Valladolid’s free walking tour happens daily at 10am, 5pm, and 7pm. Just head to Valladolid’s main square (Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado) at the right time and look the guide carrying a red umbrella. Check the free walking tour’s Instagram for up-to-date info and to DM them if you have any questions.

I will be honest, I did not get the chance to join this tour during my time in Valladolid, but all the positive reviews makes me think its worth recommending.

If you choose not to go on the walking tour, here are some places to see in Valladolid’s center:

👟 Calz. de Los Frailes: Valladolid’s most picturequse street, lined with colorful buildings housing vintage shops, cafes, bars, and plenty of hidden gems.

⛲ Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado: The main square, a great place for people watching, right across from Iglesia de San Servacio

👙 Cenote Zaci: A beautiful cenote just a few blocks from the main square! It gets very busy, but if you arrive early you can swim here for only $60 pesos.

🖼 Casa de los Venados: A small museum filled with Mexican folk art, located in a private house.

🏺 Museo San Roque: A small free museum about the history of Valladolid surrounding areas (mostly in Spanish).

🍦 Wabi Gelato: A gelateria with delicious Italian gelato (including vegan options!)

🍔 Elela Organic Cafe: A vegan cafe with delicious healthy food, most of which is made with sesame. The cafe is right across the street from Convento de San Bernardino de Siena.

☕ Onza Rooftop Coffee: The perfect spot for a coffee break overlooking beautiful Calz. de Los Frailes

🍹 Tostaquería del Mar: A cheerful restaurant and bar with unique cocktails made from local seasonal ingredients

Whether you join the walking tour, visit some of the sites above, or a combination of both, be sure to reserve some time to visit Convento de San Bernardino de Siena (the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena).

The convent’s picturequse porticos surrounding the inner courtyard are all painted pink, which is something I’ve never seen in a building like this before.

The convent is also home to a small museum about the property’s history, and an interesting well where archaeologists have discovered stashed firearms from the Caste War.

I’ll be honest, besides those highlights, there isn’t a lot to see inside the convent, but it only costs $20 pesos to enter and is definitely an iconic sight in Valladolid.

Uayma church (left) and swimming Cenote Samaal (right)

Day 2: Cenote Hopping & Uayma

Valladolid is surrounded by a diversity of gorgeous cenotes. I’ve saved the area’s BEST cenotes for the last day, but on day two, I recommend three unique cenotes that are just 10-15 minutes outside of the city.

Then, after plenty of swimming, drive 15 minutes northwest to see a one-of-a-kind church.

The easiest way to visit these cenotes and the church is by renting your own car or scooter for the day. However, it is possible to do it in a taxi (I did), just keep in mind that the first two cenotes are about a 15-20 minute walk apart, and it can be tricky to catch a taxi back unless you contact a taxi driver via WhatsApp.

One more thing to note: all three of these cenotes require visitors to wear lifejackets. This is standard for almost all cenotes near Valladolid (besides the two we’ll visit on day 5).

View of a cenote near Valladolid, Mexico, one of the best places to visit on this Valladolid Mexico itinerary

Cenote Saamal at Selva Maya

The first cenote is called Cenote Saamal and it is located at Selva Maya, a historical hacienda that now has a popular restaurant, zip lines, and other attractions. Selva Maya is very touristic, but Cenote Saamal is breathtaking, and you can get the place to yourself if you arrive when it opens at 9am.

Pictures barely do this place justice, you just have to see it for yourself—the deep blue hole, dramatic cliff-sides covered in green foliage, and the (man-made) waterfall dripping into the pool.

I visited right at 9am on a weekday and was able to take pictures, swim, and cliff jump for 20+ minutes before anyone else arrived.

It costs $200 pesos to enter, which includes a locker and a lifejacket—the lifejackets here at Selva Maya were much higher quality than at other cenotes I’ve visited, and the friendly attendant helped me find a comfortable lifejacket that actually fit (it makes all the difference!)

After you’ve had plenty of time at Cenote Samaal, head just a few minutes down the road to Xkeken, a park home to two cenotes: Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula (also called Cenote Dzitnup). The drive between Selva Maya and Xkeken is only 2 minutes.

You can also walk (I did), it takes just over 20 minutes and there is a well-maintained path beside the road. I didn’t mind the walk in the morning, but it might be a different story in the heat of the day.

Upon arrival at Xkeken you’ll pay your entry fee ($226 pesos) which covers both cenotes. You may be approached by a tour guide at the entry trying to help you in exchange for a tip, but according to other travelers, it is not worth it.

After paying, you’ll get your required lifejacket and choose which cenote you want to see first. I went across the street to Cenote Xkeken first. It is a covered cenote, with striking stalagmites and stalagmites, and a calm, shallow blue pool of water—completely different than the first cenote of the day.

Once you’re done, head back to where you came from, and follow the signs to Cenote Samula. I actually thought it was a little difficult to find the cenotes as you have to walk through a small market where locals sell souvenirs.

Cenote Samula is a larger closed cenote with an opening at the top where light streams in, glistening on the blue water below.

Related: Rent a scooter in Valladolid

Woman standing in front of cave formations in one of Valladolid's cenotes

Cenote Xkeken, a gorgeous covered cenote (I’m in the corner in this photo, the cenote is much larger!)

If you’re hungry for lunch, you could head back into Valladolid as it is only a short detour before visiting Uayma.

Uayma’s unique church, Santo Domingo de Guzman Church, is probably the visually striking church you’ll find in this part of Mexico. Interestingly, it was built by the Spaniards using stones from nearby Mayan temples at Ek Balam and Chichen Itza. It later burned down during the Caste War but was restored in the 20th century.

The red in the facade symbolizes the blood of Jesus, and the blue stars supposedly represent Mary. There is a double headed eagle above the church’s door, which apparently represented the Hapsburgs rulers of Spain. The walls inside of the church feature a similar, but less vibrant design.

There is a small park across the street from the church, with a Uayma sign, which is a lovely place for picnic if you packed a lunch! You can also wander through this small town, but there isn’t much more to do.

Woman standing in front of El Castillo at Chichen Itza, a must visit spot on this Valladolid itinerary

Day 3: Chichén Itzá & Izamal

On day three take a day trip to one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá. (It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site!)

This pre-hispanic archeological site is undoubtedly the most popular place to visit in the Yucatan, with millions of visitors each year. It is one of the best day trips from hotspots like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum, but since Valladolid is only about 45 minutes away, you have an advantage!

If you have a rental car, you can visit Chichén Itzá independently, and you can also take a taxi for about $1000 pesos roundtrip. Then, you have the option to hire a private guide at the entrance of the site.

However, my suggestion is to sign up for this Chichen Itza day trip from Valladolid because it also includes a visit to Izamal, Yucatan’s beautiful ‘yellow city,’ and another amazing cenote.

The guided tour includes roundtrip transport in a vehicle with AC, traditional Mayan lunch, plus a certified multilingual guide to show you around the ancient city of Chichen Itza. Best of all, you’ll get to the site right at opening time before the big tour buses from Cancun have arrived.

Yellow buildings lining the street in Izamal, Mexico

Photo credit: Jan Dommerholt on Unsplash

Is Chichen Itza really worth visiting? Yes! Although I’ve visited dozens of Mayan sites across Mexico and Belize, the unique architecture at Chichen Itza really took my breath away. El Castillo, the main temple you see in all the photos, is truly striking, but its just the beginning. Chichen Itza also features hundreds of mysterious stone pillars, an astronomical observatory, and two cenotes where human sacrifices were made. Of course, visiting Chichen Itza might be less enjoyable if you’re there with all the crowds, but you can avoid that by taking this early morning tour, or showing up close to closing time.

PS: Love Valladolid’s colonial architecture? You may also love San Cristobal de las Casas and Oaxaca City!

Woman standing in cave pool at Zentik, my recommended hotel for this 5 day Valladolid itinerary

Day 4: Relaxation Day & Convento de San Bernardino de Siena Light Show

My perfect vacation includes combination of adventure and relaxation. Day four is the relaxation part of this Valladolid itinerary!

If you booked a Valladolid hotel with a pool, now is the time to enjoy it! Or, you can snag a day pass to hotel, like Zentik, which has an underground cave pool, a normal pool, a spa, an onsite restaurant, and tons of other interesting features.

I stayed at Zentik Hotel, and I would definitely recommend it if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Valladolid.

My husband and I spent a tranquil day just hanging out Zentik to get some much-needed rest during our adventure-filled 1.5 month trip through Belize and Mexico.

We thought that it felt similar to being at a more luxurious resort, like Hamanasi in Belize or Habitas Bacalar, but without the above-and-beyond-service, high-end finishes, and other details you get at a pricer place.

That being said, we loved being able to relax poolside and order snacks from the restaurant while sunbathing and playing card games and even order drinks straight to the cave pool. We also got a couples massage and it was one of our best massages ever!

Even if you don’t stay at Zentik, you can purchase a day pass, which includes access to the property, plus a massage.

Woman standing in front of the convent in Valladolid Mexico

Wherever you stay, take some time to slow down on day four, but keep your evening open for the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena Light Show!

This production happens almost every night, with the story of Valladolid told through videos projected on the outside of the convent. It starts in Spanish at 9pm, and the English version usually starts around 9:15pm.

Woman sitting on top of building at Ek Balam, a Mayan site to visit if you have 5 days in Valladolid Mexico

Sitting on top of the tallest building in Ek Balam (100+ steps up!)

Day 5: Ek Balam & Valladolid’s Best Cenotes

As promised, I saved the best cenotes for last!

But first, we have to climb the 100+ steps to the top of giant Ek Balam temple, overlooking the jungle and the ancient city below.

Like Chichen Itza, Ek Balam is an archeological site with ruins of a Mayan city. But the two sites could not be more different. Most notably, you can climb the temples at Ek Balam, but this is strictly forbidden at Chichen Itza.

And although Ek Balam is less busy than Chichen Itza, it is still a good idea to start your day early and get there at or around opening time. Dedicate about an hour, or more for Ek Balam, and then head straight to my favorite cenotes!

Quick note: I explored Ek Balam and these cenotes on an Airbnb Experience with Alvin. You can do the same thing, just make sure you request Ek Balam and the cenotes (he does a different tour each day). I am not affiliated with Airbnb or the tour guide at all, but I enjoyed it so I’m recommending it here! However, you can also easily reach Ek Balam and the cenotes with a rental car, or a scooter.

Cenote Xcanahaltun (left) and Cenote Secreto Maya (right—do you see the guy cliff jumping?)

The first cenote is Cenote Xcanahaltun, which is about 35 minutes from Ek Balam. It is a large underground cave with an expansive turquoise pool and an opening at the top where light trickles in. It is somewhat similar to Cenote Samula, but more grand, and you don’t have to wear a life jacket!

I have to say, I think this cenote is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen, and the photos really don’t do it justice!

The second cenote is Cenote Secreto Maya, which is about a five minute drive away from the first cenote. You can actually stay at an eco hut onsite, and the property is really nice, with a small pool, restaurant, and several other amenities, plus of course the huge open cenote!

Wether you stay at the cenote or not, definitely don’t miss it. It is the best cenote for cliff jumping and it has a thrilling rope swing! You can jump from a platform just a few feet above the water, another about 10 feet up, another 23 feet up, and if you’re really adventurous, you can jump from the top—69 meters (226 feet) up.

Two guys jumped from 69 meters while I was there. It is something I would personally never do (or recommend…) but it is fun to watch!

Also see: 21 Mexico City Hidden Gems

How to spend 1 day in Valladolid

If you only have one day in Valladolid, make sure to arrive as early as possible to make the most of your time in this precious town!

Visiting Chichen Itza is optional, but I know many folks travel to Valladolid just to see this striking ancient city (and for good reason!)

If you only have one day in Valladolid, I actually recommend visiting Chichen Itza ~3 hours before the site closes. If you do this, you free up your morning to swim in cenotes before they get crowded with tourists. And you still get to see Chichen Itza without the crowds that are common earlier in the day. It will still be vusy when you get there, but will quickly clear up as folks leave for the day. Just keep in mind that you will be asked to leave 30 minutes before closing, so be sure to budget enough time!

With that in mind, here is an overview of my recommended one day Valladolid Mexico itinerary:

🌞 Morning cenote hopping: Get on your bathing suit and head to a cenote or two right as they open around 9am (each cenote has a different opening time). Trust me, there is a huge difference if you get there at 9am vs 11am—tour busses drop off loads of tourists daily and cenotes are so much more enjoyable without the crowds. If you’ve read my main 5 day Valladolid itinerary (above) you know that Cenote Xcanahaltun and Cenote Secreto Maya are my favorites, but they’re also a little further out of town. Cenote Saamal and the two nearby cenotes at Xkeken are some other great options close to town.

🌶 Lunch and Valladolid highlights: Grab lunch in Valladolid (I loved Elela Organic Cafe but there are plenty of other great Valladolid restaurants) and then spend some time wandering along the colorful streets of Calz. de Los Frailes, check out Convento de San Bernardino de Siena (go inside too if you have time), and see Parque Principal Francisco Cantón Rosado (the main square). You can also grab a rooftop coffee at Onza if you have time to spare!

🥾 Chichen Itza at closing time: I recommend arriving ~3 hours before closing time. Make sure you check the current opening hours, but typically the site closes at 5pm. And calculate how long it’ll take to travel between Valladolid and the site, it is typically about a 45 minute drive.

⛪ Uayma church (optional): An optional stop on your way back from Chichen Itza! This gorgeous church is a little out of the way but definitely worth it in my opinion—the facade is like nothing else I’ve seen in this part of Mexico!

🍦 Dinner and gelato: Make sure to fuel up in Valladolid. Tostaquería del Mar is a charming restaurant/bar with lots of interesting drinks! And if you’re craving a treat, head to Wabi Gelato!

🔦 Optional lights show: There is a light show depicting the story of Valladolid most nights at 9pm (9:15pm in English). Just beware that it doesn’t happen every day!

City street of Valladolid with taxi driving by

How to spend 3 days in Valladolid

Three days is a decent amount of time in Valladolid!

I recommend following the first three days of my five day Valladolid itinerary (above), which includes exploring the city, visiting Chichen Itza, swimming in several cenotes, and seeing the gorgeous Uayma church. You can also swap out some of the activities to visit the cenotes I recommend on day 5, they’re the most beautiful cenotes in Valladolid!

1 week Valladolid itinerary

If you have 7 days in Valladolid, you’re in for a treat!

Start off your Valladolid itinerary by following my 5 day itinerary (above), and add on one additional chill day, plus one more day trip. Some interesting day trips include Merida, Rio Lagartos, Los Colorados (the pink lake), Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, and Punta Laguna.

Drinks at a rooftop coffeeshop in Valladolid, Mexico

Valladolid Itinerary FAQs

How long do you need in Valladolid, Mexico?

While you can see a lot of Valladolid in a day, you should ideally spend at least 2-3 days in Valladolid to see all the area has to offer without rushing. The historical city itself is just the start, you can also swim in dozens of nearby cenotes (natural sinkholes), and visiting Mayan archaeological sites like Chichen Itza and Ek Balam.

When is the best time to visit Valladolid, Mexico?

Most people visit Valladolid in the winter time and early spring (November through May) when there is less rain and milder temperatures, but Valladolid is still lovely in the more rainy summertime. If you’re trying to beat the crowds while avoiding rain, try to visit in the shoulder season, either November or May.

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