Last Updated on November 23, 2023 by Eric Livingston
Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico is Amazing!
Valladolid is a Pueblo Mágico in Yucatán
Dani and I wanted a weekend getaway, so we decided to go to Valladolid. It’s a pueblo mágico in the state of Yucatán, México and it’s amazing! Valladolid is located 162 kilometers (100 miles) from Mérida, the capital of the state of Yucatán from where we departed. It’s smack dab in the middle between Cancún and Mérida. We traveled via the ADO bus. It’s located 157 kilometers (97 miles) from the resort city of Cancún and 42 kilometers (26 miles) from the world-famous Maya pyramid of Chichén Itzá. North of Valladolid is an equally impressive, but lesser-known Maya ruin, Ek’ Balam as well as the amazing pink waters of Rio Lagartos.
Everything Happens Around Parque Francisco Cantón Rosado in Valladolid
When we arrived in Valladolid at night so there wasn’t much to do but grab dinner. The first thing we did was check in at the Hotel Fundadores. It’s a basic hotel, nothing fancy, but I specifically remember the shower had excellent water pressure! It’s also perfectly located, being only two blocks from the historic center of Valladolid and its central park called Parque Francisco Cantón Rosado. The receptionist recommended the restaurant El Atrio del Mayab (Spanish) which is located next to the Church of San Servacio in the historic center. I honestly don’t recall what we ate but the ambiance and dining al fresco was perfect, and the food was absolutely delicious. It was so great that we went back there for New Year’s 2021!
Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico is Surrounded by Cenotes
Valladolid is a stop on many tours heading towards Chichen Itzá. It’s surrounded by numerous cenotes, which are natural “pools” created by the Chicxulub Crater that occurred when an asteroid collided with the earth approximately 66 million years ago causing the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs. Cenotes are caves with natural pool water resulting from the disintegration of the underlying limestone that exposes the groundwater. Grutas are caves like cenotes but are dry.
The Bike Trek to the Cenotes was a Real Workout
That was enough for one day. We rode back to Valladolid and returned the bikes. I gotta tell ya, if you haven’t ridden a bike for a while, you’re in for a real workout if you follow the sequence, we did on day one; especially if you’re carrying a heavy backpack with camera gear. I added up the estimated total distance and it was 16 kilometers (10 miles) on day one round trip. Also, these bikes are like mountain bikes with knobby tires, not 10 speeds. In any event, I felt tired, but I felt great. After leaving the bikes we wanted something to eat. We went to Las Campanas restaurant right at the corner of the main square. When we arrived, there were many people waiting for a table. It was around six o’clock. We were pretty beat and opted for takeout.
Cenote Saamal at Hacienda Selva Maya
The first cenote we visited was located within Hacienda Selva Maya. The actual cenote is called Saamal. It’s located 5.1 kilometers (3.1 miles) from the center of Valladolid or about 20 minutes by bike. I don’t recall the entrance fee, but there were two options. The first was the fee just to enjoy the cenote and the second granted access to the cenote and to their buffet. We chose to just visit the cenote. Upon arrival there are bathrooms, dressing rooms and a staff member provided us with a life vest as it’s obligatory. The view was pretty. A waterfall descends into the cenote. The best part of this particular cenote is is that you can jump off a platform they built. I jumped several times like a little kid and videotaped it. It was fun for sure.
Cenotes Samulá and X’keken aka Dzitnup
1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) from Hacienda Selva Maya are the Samulá and X’keken cenotes. They are both in the same place which is also referred to as “Dzitnup”. The entrance fee for both cenotes was 125 pesos. The Samulá cenote was the first one we entered. It’s an underground cavern that is filled with stalactites hanging from above. Its crystalline turquoise blue waters are illuminated by a hole in the upper part of the cavern. Foliage from trees that surround the cenote hangs down from above. The greenery decorates the walls reaching as far as the water.
Climb Down Stairs of Stone to Reach the Cenotes
To access this cenote, we had to carefully climb down the stairs made of stone which were a bit slippery. From the first level there is a spectacular view of the cenote below. Next, we ventured down some wooden stairs to the second level which gave us a different viewpoint of the cenote below. Finally, we descended onto a small platform where we left our camera gear. I took a quick dip in the water and took in the scenery. The cenote X’keken is inside an underground cavern. The sun passes through a small hole at the top of the cenote. As with most cenotes, stalactites formations are present. The water was naturally lit creating a reflection of the water. The entrance to the cenote is quite narrow. Once below, there were stones for us to leave our stuff and wade in the water for a bit.
Rent a Bicycle or Scooter to Visit the Cenotes
The following day we found a tour company called MexiGo Tours that rents bicycles. I don’t remember the exact cost for each bike. I think we paid 300 pesos for the whole day. I think Jorge was the name of the guy in charge that day and he was very kind. He explained the route to take to visit the cenotes by bicycle and gave us a map. The second time we visited we rented a scooter. It was nice to arrive at the cenotes without being exhausted from the bike ride. The scooter rental was quick and easy. Check out the video below of us driving around Valladolid on the scooter.
Cenote Suytun is a Sight to Behold
The next day, Sunday, it was time to go back to Mérida. But before returning we decided to visit the Suytun cenote, which is famous for its Instagrammable photos on the man-made platform that extends out to the middle of the cenote. We went back to rent the bikes and off we went. It seemed like a long ride, but it was well worth it. Suytun doesn’t disappoint with the exception of the bus load of tourists.
The Orange Vested Hordes of Tourists at Cenote Suytun Was a Bit of a Buzz Kill
It’s such a beautiful cenote but seeing what seemed like hundreds of people with orange life jackets wading in the water sort of killed the buzz, at least temporarily. Tourists on bus tours have a schedule to maintain so once it’s time for them to leave you can pretty much have the cenote to yourself or at least with a lot less people. That’s why I only “do my own thing” if possible. Riding bikes to visit these cenotes, while a bit exhausting, was one of the best experiences of my life.
Go On Your Own and Skip Tourist Busses, Seriously – You’ll Have a Much Better Experience
I couldn’t imagine myself being on a huge tour bus on a tight-lipped schedule with loads of strangers. When I refer to “huge” tour bus I’m not exaggerating. There were several full-sized busses all of the same sky-blue color run by a tourism company apparently called Del Valle. At least that was the sticker on the windows of the busses outside of Suytun when we arrived. No thanks.
Visit Suytun at Around Mid-Day to Catch that Ray of Light
The Suytun cenote has a good size hole at the top that lets the sun in. If it’s a sunny day and you’re there at the right time, you can get some amazing photos standing on the platform assuming the “orange vest” people aren’t photo bombing you. I think the best time is around noon to one o’clock or so. This is one instance where “golden hour” wouldn’t work. At around noon or one, if sunny, a strong beam shoots through the roof down on the platform. It’s gorgeous. Instagrammers have taken thousands of photos on the platform of Suytun that have made it so popular.
Performers Dress as Maya Warriors and Billow Smoke
There’s also a demonstration of Maya rituals on the platform with smoke and all. The performers are dressed as warriors and honestly, it’s a bit cheesy if you ask me but I understand everyone in this world needs to make money. They perform while the tour busses are present. They take pictures with the tourists, get some tips, and leave when the tour busses leave. After Suytun we returned to the hotel, grabbed our things and went to the ADO bus terminal to return to Mérida.
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