Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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Valladolid has long had the reputation of being Yucatán’s second city, though in terms of population it has long been dwarfed by municipalities on Mérida’s periphery, such as Kanasín.
But this is by no way to imply that Valladolid has not been growing. This colonía of approximately 50,000 people is in the middle of a major cultural, economic, and artistic boom.
Valladolid is also home to a growing number of expats, attracted by the community’s charm, laidback lifestyle, cenotes, and proximity to the Riviera Maya.
In fact, one of the factors most likely contributing to Valladolid’s increasingly positive reputation is the construction of a new highway that connects Valladolid to Tulum in about one hour.
Like almost all colonial cities in Mexico, Valladolid’s downtown is made up of a plaza on a carefully laid-out grid. The plaza is flanked by the city’s main Catholic church, government buildings, and colonial homes which were among the first built by European conquistadors.
Founded just one year after Mérida in 1543, Valladolid’s early history followed a very similar pattern to that of Yucatán’s capital. By the time the Europeans arrived, the area was occupied by a Mayan city that had fallen into decline centuries before but was still inhabited.
Also like Mérida, Valladolid was founded by the Montejo family and was named after a city in Spain, though why exactly the Conquistadors chose this particular Spanish city is up for debate.
Valladolid is also commonly known as “La Ciudad Heroica,” or “The Heroic City,” for the role played by its inhabitants in 1910 to kick off the Mexican Revolution.
But unlike Mérida, the city was under the control of Francisco de Montejo “El Sobrino,” or “the nephew” as opposed to Francisco de Montejo Senior, or his son known as “El Mozo.” Does anyone else wish the Montejos would have chosen names other than Francisco? Family gatherings must have been very confusing.
Aside from its main church dedicated to San Servacio, Valladolid’s most famous colonial-era construction is its stunning San Bernardino convent.
At night, San Bernardino hosts a free video-mapping show which depicts the history of Yucatán and Valladolid starting with pre-Colombian times before moving on to the conquest and caste war.
Valladolid is also home to several fantastic museums and galleries, including the Museum of Ethnic Clothing of Mexico or MUREM, and Casa de Los Venados — a private home open to the public containing Mexico’s largest collection of folk art.
One of the things that most surprises newcomers to Valladolid is just how posh certain areas of the city have become.
However, this is not to say that more affordable options are not available. Very comfortable hotel rooms with air-conditioning and breakfast can be had for as low as 600 pesos or around US$30 a night.
Yucatán’s famous city is also well known for its cuisine and its local specialties which include longaniza de Valladolid, a type of skinny savory sausage somewhat like chorizo, as well Lomitos de Valladolid, pork loin in a sauce of tomato and onions.
Valladolid and its surroundings are also home to several cenotes, including cenote Zaci, just a short walk away from the town’s main square.
Archaeological sites including Chichén Itzá and Ek-Balam are also nearby, making day trips very easy. This is especially true because of the wide number of tour companies operating in the city.
Just 30 minutes from downtown Valladolid is the tiny town of Uayma, famous for its highly unusual and ornate church.
One of the things you are likely to notice about tourism in Valladolid is how hip and young it has become, certainly a far cry from the years when one would struggle to find a single place open after 8 p.m.
If you go
Getting to Valladolid from Mérida or the Mayan Rivera is very easy, with both toll and free routes being available. Bus connectivity to the city is also quite good, with ticket prices running from approximately 200 to 400 pesos.