So this is our very first stop on our trip around the world: Valladolid, Mexico!
After landing in the Cancun airport, we immediately left the tourist resort town destination to get more of a feel for a ‘real’ Yucatan rather than the Senor Frogs & Fat Tuesday’s version of Mexico offered in Cancun. So we caught a bus to the quaint colonial town of Valladolid, located about two hours east of Cancun. We were only able to find tickets on second-class bus, which made the commute about four hours since it does not take the highway.
Roaming Around Valladolid Mexico
After a long day of planes and buses, we arrived in Valladolid shortly after dusk to find the lovely little hotel we had reserved for only about $35, Colonial La Aurora.
We walked around the town square, looked around at the architecture, marveled at the cathedral lit up at night, and found some local Yucatan cuisine to dive right into.
The next morning called for coffee and pastries in the main plaza underneath the cathedral, which was lovely. But we came to Valladolid for two reasons:
- to experience the charm of this smaller Yucatan town and
- to visit the nearby cenotes.
So with the former essentially complete, it was time to do work on the latter.
With a city map in hand, I noticed that Cenote Zací appeared to be right smack in the middle of the city, only a few blocks away from the main square. We set off on foot to find it. We found a grassy park, paid a small entrance fee of what converted to only a little more than a dollar.
We descended a staircase that seemed to lead to the unknown. But sure enough we found a beautiful cenote. It was a great introduction to cenotes for us and we were pleasantly surprised to have this entire picturesque cenote all to ourselves! We walked all around the cenote. Yet since we just had happened to stumble across Cenote Zací, this was an impromptu visit in which we did not have our bathing suits to take a dip in the beautiful blue water. Next time!
Cenote Dtzitnup: Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken
With Cenote Zací as our first taste, we were hooked. It was time to head back to our hotel to grab our swimsuits and find these other cenotes. We got directions to Cenote Dtiznup about 4½ miles west of town. Our hotel rented us some old beat-up beach cruisers to get there. I swear riding those things over the somewhat hilly nine miles round-trip probably burns the caloric equivalent to 50 miles on a proper mountain bike. Trying to get the bikes up to a decent cruising speed was quite the workout! But it paid off in dividends when we finally got to the Cenote Dtzitnup, which actually turned out to be two completely separate cenotes: Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken.
We first checked out Cenote Samula. Its cool waters were most welcomed after the sweaty bike ride over. A neat feature about Samula is the tree growing from the hole of the cenote above in which its roots dangle down into the cavern as if it is reaching for the water. I had really wanted to snorkel around these underground caves a bit but had forgotten to pack a mask. Thankfully there was an entrepreneur-minded local who was renting masks for a few bucks so I could view the stalagmites and stalactites underneath the surface of the water. Also underwater is a large gaping hole that goes from a pretty light blue color down to a seemingly endless black abyss.
Cenote Xkeken, a short walk away, was equally impressive in its own right. We spent another hour or so there before our return bike trip.
Here’s some video I shot entering Cenote Xkeken and emerging from Cenote Samula.
A Bustling Valladolid in the Afternoon
After returning our bikes, we went back to enjoy Valladolids’s colonial charm and find another great restaurant. It was a Wednesday evening and apparently our quaint and charming town square was now bustling with people, both tourists and locals alike. Apparently Valladolid is a popular stop for tours from Cancun and the Riviera Maya. And the late afternoon is when they come.
We can definitely understand the appeal for people to flock here from Cancun as part of a day trip returning from Chitzen Itza. It must be fantastic for Valladolid’s local economy, which is great. But we just selfishly wanted our own private Valladolid back to the way we had experienced it the night before, wandering through a quiet town square. About an hour later, it had thankfully returned to that pleasant state.
We loved visiting Valladolid and particularly enjoyed exploring Valladolid’s cenotes. We’d highly recommend spending a day or two here if ever in the area. It’s also a great launching point for a bus out to the ruins of Chitzen Itza, which we took in the following day on our way to Merida.
Information: If You Go to Valladolid and its Cenotes
How to Get from Cancun to Valladolid by Bus:
There are currently seven daily first-class ADO buses running from the downtown Cancun bus station to Valladolid. Current pricing is $186 pesos one way. The Cancun to Valladolid timetable is 5:15, 8:10, 8:45, 11:20, 13:00, 14:00, and 17:05. This bus from Cancun to Valladolid takes two hours. Check the ADO website for up-to-date timetable and pricing. If timing doesn’t work well to catch an ADO bus from Cancun to Valladolid, then you may want to consider waiting rather than take a second class bus. We took the second class bus from Cancun to Valladolid and while the comfort was just fine, it took double the time.
If wanting to go from Cancun to Valladolid just for the day, a tour will prove to work much better than taking a bus. This holds particularly true if you are attempting to reach Valladolid from Cancun’s resort area. If departing from the beach, you would first have to travel from your hotel to the downtown Cancun bus station, which isn’t close. Meanwhile a tour will pick you up directly from your hotel.
How to Get from Cancun to Valladolid by Tour:
The Chichen Itza Classic Day Tours from Cancun includes a guided visit to Chichen Itza, a visit to a hacienda, a cenote, and wraps up with a visit to Valladolid:
- This Chichen Itza Day Tour from Cancun also includes a stop at a cenote and is one of the few tours that visits this lovely city of Valladolid. Check availability and prices here.
How to Get to Cenote Zaci:
Cenote Zaci can be easily walked to in just a few minutes from Valladolid’s main zocolo (town square). Find directions to using Google Maps here.
How to Get to Cenote Dtzitnup (Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken):
These two cenotes are right across the street from each other so you can easily visit both in the same trip. There are regular colectivos from Valladolid to Dtzitnup that depart regularly across the street from the main Valladolid bus station. There are also many places to rent bikes in Valladolid if you prefer to pedal the 6.5 kilometers to Cenote Dtzitnup. Here’s directions using Google Maps.
Where to Stay in Valladolid:
We stayed at Colonial La Aurora Hotel and would recommend it. The lovely interior pool and courtyard is even more charming in person than the pictures. We’d also recommend having breakfast at the rooftop cafe. Overall we thought this hotel present excellent value. Sometimes it’s priced at only about $35 USD. Check availability and rates for Colonial La Aurora here.