Valladolid is a small quiet colonial town in the interior of the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico. which is very pleasant and manageable to wander around and pass away the hours people watching while sipping a cooling jugo de Jamaica (hibiscus tea). Also known as the ‘sultan of the east’, Valladolid is one of those places where you just feel good. There aren’t too many tourists, the people are nice and you feel safe. I often find I have my most authentically ‘real’ experiences in small towns, after the hustle and hoopla of the hot spots. It’s a chance to see the natural daily rhythms of the locals where foreigners do not distort the perspective. There are tourists in Valladolid, but people tend to pass through quickly.
Things to see and do in Valladolid:
- The main cathedral San Gervasio in the main town square is worth a visit.
- Cenotes, such as Cenote Zaki, which are natural pools, some underground. There are cenotes in town and in the surrounding areas.
- Ruins such as Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and Coba.
An artist’s hotel
I stayed at a wonderful hotel Project Zentik, a ten minute walk from the centre of Valladolid. Each room and the public areas were decorated by a different artist. In fact if you are an artist, they will offer a stay in exchange for a mural. Get in touch with them here: firstname.lastname@example.org
This hotel offers a welcome bowl of tequila and as part of the delicious breakfast, tequila coffee and pumpkin jam on toast. As they were building the hotel they discovered an underground cenote beneath, which guests can use as well as the swimming pools. The staff are particularly helpful and friendly.
What to buy in the market:
The central market in Valladolid sells cheap and instagram swoon-worthy white stone molcajetes, the traditional heavy-weight Mexican pestle and mortar. (I bought one and because I couldn’t fit it in my check-in luggage it was confiscated as a dangerous weapon, so make sure you wrap it and check it in).
Other market treasures include various pastes which they call ‘recado’. Bought by weight, recados come in green, red or black and keep for a long time. The red is made with achiote, the black with roasted chillies and the green from pumpkin seeds (recipe below).
Buy jicama (again check it in), poblano mild chillies and entire pumpkins infused with syrup.
I also bought seeds for growing Mexican vegetables and home-made chilli sauces.
I saw several whole agave or honey candied pumpkins with holes drilled in the bottom. These are October/November seasonal treats made for the Day of the Dead. Various gossiping Mayan grandmas gave me instructions on how to make this.
There is also a craft market near the main town square where you can buy light-weight colourful hammacks, Mayan style dresses and artisanal wares.
Pictures at the Market at Valladolid
Calabaza en tacha, candied whole pumpkin. Another recipe I must try.
Recipe for Mayan pumpkin seed dip ‘Sikil pak’or green recado
- can be used as a dip
- watered down and used as a sauce
- blended with oil to make a marinade
- added to stews such as pipian (recipe soon).