Once one of the oldest Spanish town foundations on the American continent was a ceremonial center of the Maya and was called Zaci – white falcon.
Valladolid received its present name in 1543 from the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo, in memory of the Spanish Valladolid, where in 1479 Isabella of Castile married Ferdinand of Aragón and thus created a Spanish state structure.
Just a few years ago, Spain selected the Yucatecan Valladolid as one of the most authentic Spanish cities in the Americas and provided large sums for the preservation and restoration of the colonial cityscape.
The city, divided into eight city districts, follows the classical chessboard pattern of Spanish cities. The Plaza of the Center is dominated by the mighty Cathedral of San Gervasio. Its first building from the year 1570 was violently defiled by the Mayan during the war against the Spanish conquerors in 1702, then destroyed and rebuilt. As a sign of their punishment, the main portal of the new building pointed to the north instead of the west.
One of the most important and imposing church buildings in the Yucatán is the former Franciscan Monastery of San Bernardino de Siena known as Sisal among the locals. It was built in the middle of the 16th century as one of the first church buildings on the American mainland above the vault of a cenote. Surrounded by fruit and vegetable gardens, the monks lived here as self-sustaining farmers.
Today, the ex-convent is a tourist highlight of Valladolid – in addition to the two Cenotes Zaci and Dzitnup, which are located in the town center and 7 km west of the same. Especially the Cenote Dzitnup impresses with its bizarr limestone formations and an elaborate illumination. Bathing in the clear, deep-green water is a special experience.
Apart from Valladolid’s own attractions, the city has long been a favorite base to visit Chichén Itzá. For a number of years, the spectacular excavations at Ek Balám, which is located just a few kilometers to the north, are also well worth a visit.
Valladolid’s San Roque Museum, located one block east of the central plaza, is dedicated to the everyday culture of the Mayan people in northern Yucatán and their centuries-long resistance to the Spanish “conquerors”.
Compared to the hectic Mérida, Valladolid is a quite tranquil city. Until now – disregarding the day tourists from Cancún – Valladolids hotel and restaurant scene caters to the individual traveller. Accordingly, there is a good selection of cheap hotels and restaurants.