Valladolid is a small historic town, surrounded by dozens of cenotes and not far from Chichen Itza. When I spoke to other travelers who’d been to the Yucatan, they all talked about the cenotes, how beautiful they are and how Valladolid is the perfect base for exploring the many cenotes and ruins in the area.
The town of approximately 50,000 people was established in 1543 and named after the capital of Spain (Valladolid), at that time. The town was originally built not far from the current location, at a lagoon called Chouac-Ha in the municipality of Tizimin, but people complained about the mosquitos and humidity at the original location, and petitioned to have the city moved further inland. On March 24, 1545, Valladolid was relocated to its current location, built atop a Maya town called Zaci or Zaci-Val, whose buildings were dismantled to reuse the stones to build the Spanish colonial town. (wiki)
It was a fairly quick ride (2 hrs.) to Valladolid from Merida. Not much along the way but dry desert brush, a few very small villages, but no noticeable towns along the way. I arrived midday, so it was quite hot outside. From the ADO station to my hotel was only a few blocks.
I’d chosen Hotel y Hostel Casa Don Alfonso, because it was just around the corner from central park, looked like a quaint little hostel and the reviews were also very good. Walking into the place felt like walking into someone’s home. There were rustic cabinets, chairs and old paintings on the walls. It did feel quite cozy and in the back, there is a nice big open outdoor space to eat and hang. The price was only about $5, including breakfast.
After checking in, I took a bit of a siesta before heading into town. By around 5:00, it started cooling down, and central park began filling up with people. I went into the cathedral and had a look around. The walls were a bit plain, not as many of the beautiful paintings you find on the walls of most cathedrals, but there were some interesting little figurines and statues.
There were quite a few buses parked along central park and big groups roaming the streets. I believe a lot of tour buses go to Chichen Itza for the day and stop in Valladolid in the evening for a quick look around and dinner.
At the hostel that evening, everyone was talking about “The Virus“… Corona Virus. I’d heard a bit about it along the way, but wasn’t following the news, by the sounds of it though, things were starting to get real. They were talking about closing some of the sites and cenotes and there was also some information that the city was going to start implementing quarantine measures. Several people at the hostel were actually cutting their travels short and heading home, to be with family. I started thinking about where I wanted to be stuck, for what could be quite some time!
The next morning, I woke fairly early, had breakfast and went for a walk around the city. There were a lot of nice old buildings and shops. At around 11:00, I walked over to the city market. It was a fairly small market, when compared to the size of the town. It was nice on the inside, had several vendors, but seemed to be more targeted towards tourists than locals.
I had a look around the market, grabbed a bit of lunch, then headed over to Zaci Cenote. The cenote is actually right in the middle of town and only about a 5 minute walk from the market. There is a small thatched kiosk at the top of the stairs, where you pay the 30 peso entrance fee. I was looking forward to getting into that water, as it was just past noon and getting fairly hot!
As I walked down the steps, I saw the blue waters below. There were a few people swimming, but the cenote was large enough to accomodate quite a few people at once. The sun was rising over the eastern side of the opening, so several were sunning on the rocks. There was an area to sit and change, so I changed into my trunks and went for a swim. It was heaven! The water was ever so clear, clean and cool.
As the day went on, more and more people arrived and the atmosphere was nice. People diving from several different points along the edge. At one point, a few of the guys went up to the upper ledges, which were actually quite high, and jumped off into the water. I stuck to the 10 foot drops! 🙂
Spending the afternoon at this cenote was well worth it. It was a nice group of people and the cenote was just right for a good sized group.
In the evening, I walked around with Lori, an Italian friend, who I’d bumped into at several points along the way. She had stayed at the same hostel in Merida, as well as, San Cristobal. We were following the same route around the Yucatan. At this point, she was trying to figure out what to do about her travels, as Italy was at the peak of the virus and travel was becoming more difficult as time went along. Her travels were actually coming to an end, but she was wondering if she would even be able to fly.
Well, as we walked around town, we ran across a notice posted by the city on a door of one of the government offices that said that all public events and tourist sites will be closed, as of that afternoon. I had made it to Zaci just in time! Only thing was, that all of the sites would be closed and Valladolid really didn’t have much else to offer. The town was cute, but I wouldn’t want to be stuck there for months on end.
That evening, a group of us sat in the dorm room and discussed the situation. Again, many of the travelers were going to cut and run, but I really didn’t have anything to run back to. I was going to have to find a place to hunker down for a while and wasn’t quite sure where. I had planned on heading to Tulum next and thought maybe Playa del Carmen could be an option. One of the guys, an older hippie who’d traveled the coast of Quintana Roo (QR), told me that I would not like either of them (I’d told him I hate busy, crowded beaches). They were both over built, busy cities and not the best beaches. He said that I should go to Mahaual. He had camped on the beach there and it was absolutely beautiful. Still a small fishing village, with only one main strip or boardwalk along the beach.
Well, the next day, we were all preoccupied with planning next steps. I spent most of the day researching the beaches along the coast of Quintana Roo, hostels and bus tickets. I figured I would just continue to Tulum, as originally planned, see what it was like…. and go from there. The ADO bus ticket was only 156 pesos (+/-$7) and took about an hour and a half. There was a decent looking hostel, Chalupa, that was right on the corner of the main strip going through town and the access road to the beach. Didn’t really see any affordable hostels right on the water. 🙁
I had hoped to stay a bit longer in Valladolid, but all of the sites were closed now, transportation options looked like they were starting to become a challenge and the thought of being locked in a hostel, in this tiny, hot, dry little town didn’t interest me at all. I wanted to be at the beach! So, the next day, I was on my way to Tulum and would see what comes next.