We fell a little bit in love with Valladolid. Its pastel-coloured, sun-bleached walls contrast sharply with the gaudy blazes of colour in Cancún, and the pace of life feels far more relaxed.
It was in Valladolid that we started to learn how to amble again. Living in London for four years was pretty effective at beating the ability to amble out of us – if you walk around London at any speed other than a borderline sprint you will be swallowed up in a cacophony of tutting – so it was especially nice to enjoy such a laid back city. We spent our first day and a half simply walking around and people watching.
Despite it feeling more relaxed, Valladolid is far from quiet. Music blares at full volume from every shop and street corner. The locals meet and gather in the streets to talk and eat food from street vendors. Taxis blare their horns at you as they drive past, just in case you need a ride.
We stayed in Hostel La Candelaria, a quirky, colourful hostel where we managed to get a private room at an even cheaper rate than our dorm beds in Cancún. It’s a really lovely place, with super helpful staff who will give you a map and guide you to any of the top tourist spots around the city. It also has a beautiful outdoor kitchen and garden area, complete with a hammock zone that’s perfect for an afternoon siestsa. The breakfasts here are also pretty legendary, with things like freshly made pancakes, breakfast sandwiches and omelettes all included in the price.
Valladolid is a great base for exploring some amazing ruins and cenotes that are close by. On our third day we visited Chichén Itzá, a world-famous complex of Mayan ruins that is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The site is home to many incredible monuments including the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, which demonstrates the Mayan’s in-depth knowledge of astronomy – the temple has a total of 365 steps, one for each day of the year. Chichén Itzá also has an ancient ball court, where competitors would play a hardcore version of basketball where the losers were put to death! The main water sources came from several cenotes that are dotted around the site, the largest of which young women were thrown into, live, as sacrifices to the Mayan rain god.
It’s very easy to get to Chichén Itzá from Valladolid. You can get a first class ADO bus from around 9.30am onwards that departs from the main bus station, and the departures and returns are fairly regular throughout the day. However, we decided to get a second class Oriente bus, which only costs 86 pesos (approx £3) return, and you had the option of leaving earlier in the morning. This was perfect for us, as we got to the site by 9am and had a good two hours to explore mostly by ourselves before the other buses and tour groups started arriving. When we left at about 12pm the place was heaving – and the heat was relentless – so if you can go earlier we really recommend it.
The day after Chichén Itzá we wanted to visit a cenote, and there are a number of different ones to choose from that are all easily accessible by bike, taxi, collectivo (a slightly cheaper shuttle bus style taxi) or on foot. In the end, on the recommendation of a group of Germans we befriended at the hostel one night, we went for Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman. Oxman is a short taxi ride outside of Valladolid and is said to be the least touristy cenote. We certainly found this to be the case, as when we arrived we had the place to ourselves for the best part of an hour. The water was blissfully cold and a beautiful, clear blue – and full of the little fishes that are used in pedicures to clear the dead skin from your feet, so we got a cenote experience and a pedicure all in one!
We extended our stay in Valladolid by one night just so we could explore the city a bit more and try out some local places to eat. One of these was the bazaar on the main square, where you can get a variety of different types of street food – it was delicious, plentiful and crazy cheap. Another place we visited was Oasis Familiar, where we tried an assortment of empanadas, tacos and quesadillas, washed down with a few cervezas – it’s definitely worth a visit!