The Yucatecan city of Valladolid
Valladolid is an old Spanish colonial town founded in 1544 on the on the site of Zaci, the Mayan era city of the Cupules. It has been the scene of rebellions and conquests for centuries and in 1849 was the ignition point for the 19th century Caste Wars between the surviving Maya and the ruling Spanish authority.
Valladolid is located midway between Cancun and Merida and is a wonderful city-town to visit for a view of a more traditional Mexico than can be found on the coast, and its people. The city centers on the zócalo, or central town plaza, where locals and visitors congregate to sit on benches, mingle and enjoy the setting. Mayan ladies can be seen in their traditional hupil hand embroidered dresses selling their wares displayed on the fence surrounding the zocalo. The Cathedral (photo left) is a point of interest on the zocalo and is one of seven colonial churches scattered around town, the most famous of which is the 16th century San Bernadino Convent. It was built over a cenote (Sis-ha), and like most of the churches, ransacked by local Indians during the wars.
Valladolid has two significant cenotes (natural freshwater wells) on either side of town. Cenote Zaci has a popular open-air restaurant with a beautiful view of the cenote and good food. Cenote Dzitnup is a spectacular underground dome room with crystal clear water and a hole in the ceiling where a shaft of light beams down during the summer months. It is certainly worth seeing but be forwarned that local children are usually about to beg for pesos.
The impressive but seldom visited Mayan ruins of Ek Balam are located not far out of town on the road to Tizimin. It is common to have these ruins to yourself on any given day and there are several plazas with stone buildings, a ball court and a massive pyramid all in a concentrated area. These ruins are on the way to the ruins of Chichen Itza, which are 40+ kilometers farther west, and so make a convenient stop if you are on a mission to see Mayan ruins.
Driving to Valladolid
From Tulum go west on the Coba Road (sign- toward Coba) approximately 40 kilometers to the fork in the road and bear right. Then bear left almost immediately around the median divider at the fork and take the road to Chemax and/or Valladolid (sign). Follow this until it ends and turn left to get to Valladolid.