Tulum, Valladolid, Cenotes and Chichen Itza…A Very Full Yucatan Day

Days and days on the world´s best beach are perfect for me.  But the mind needs a bit of culture now and again.  What do they say?  All beach and no play?  Anyway… Just 70 kilometer away from the perfect beach town of Tulum is Valladolid  (Pronounced:  Buy-ah-doh-LEED), an old Spanish colonial city.  We decided to rent a car and take a drive.  $500  to $600 pesos gets you a little compact car (standard or automatic) and you are on your way.

It´s an easy drive.  An hour and 20 minutes later on a VERY well labelled highway and you are there.  You could also take a bus, but I´m wouldn´t suggest it.  To me, a few hours in Valladolid is perfect.  And the option to leave in your own vehicle and explore the surrounding area is a good one.

A bit like Merida, but on a much less grand scale, Valladolid was founded in 1543 to 1545 in the middle of the Yucatan Peninsula.

There is a beautiful cathedral, a proper town square (the Spanish really knew their architecture) and some good shopping.  The town seems to be known for pork rinds (I ate a bunch), wedding and quinceria dresses (the Mexican equivalent of a sweet 15 birthday party) and Jesus-like leather sandals.  I almost bought a pair of the sandals but apparently size 9 US is too mucho grande.  Not totally surprising.  The mainly Mayan population in this area is mucho tiny.

We found some delicious frozen fruit pops of every flavor on the main square.  Pineapple, coconut, rose, jamaica, pitaya, tamarind, lime, cilantro, honey…honestly, endless choices.  STOP IN THIS SHOP.  $10 pesos or 80 cents US.  So tasty.

The streets are very colonial Spanish.  Lots of cobblestone.

And they have a cenote right in the middle of town.  I was, as you might expect, thinking the worst.  How could there be a pristine water hole in the middle of a city?  You´d be suprised.  Only $15 pesos to visit.  If you are in Valladolid for an hour or two, definitely stop by.

Yes, there are man-made cement stairs leading down to it but it is really beautiful.  Plus, did you really want to lower yourself into the cavern on a rope?

We then packed back into the car.   Two more cenotes are right outside of town…about 2 miles away.  Cenote Dzitnup or Xkeken and Cenote Samulla.  They are doing some SERIOUS build up for these spots right now.  HUGE tour bus parking lots, lots of bathroom facilities.  Lots of people selling things, lots of annoying hustler kids that should be in school.  Kids that get angry when you don´t tip them for ¨watching the car¨.   Each cenote´s entrance fee is $52 pesos.  They were cool (stop by in the morning when the light is shining through the hole)…but I would imagine that very quickly they are going to be overwhelmed with people.  Plus, the multi-colored light show seems a bit over the top.   I could have skipped this stop.

The ice cool water, though, felt fantastic.

Next stop?  Mayan Temples.  We had passed by Coba on the way to Valladolid (supposedly the main temple is bigger than Chichen Itza).  Ek Balam is just a short drive north and that is supposed to be the ¨next Chichen Itza¨, very impressive but not fully groomed.   My brother wanted to see Chichen Itza…one of the great wonders of the world.  Ugh.  I had been before.  My recollection?  Tour guides in Cancun shouting ¨chicken and pizza¨at me (am I Homer Simpson?)…huge crowds…lots of tour buses.

But okay…it´s just 40 minutes away.

And it is always impressive.

The vendors are relentless!  I won´t go back.   I understand that there are no repeat customers at Chichen Itza.  So why not annoy the crap out of everyone…but these guys are brutal.  You walk up and down paths to see the ruins that are lined with people trying to sell you the same things.  And not in a passive way.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of them.

My opinion?  The Tulum ruins are a much better experience.  Though not as impressive in size, the location is beautiful, the ruins are stunning, it is well groomed and there are no vendors at all.  No one yelling at you the whole time that you there.

If you are in Tulum for a few days, this is a day trip worth taking.  Exhausting but tons to see.  And gave me something to think about…I´m going to start looking for a job as a reviewer of cenotes.  Please let me know if you see anything pop up in the want ads.