We rented the best accommodation of our entire journey just outside Valladolid, an entire house that we found on AirBnB https://da.airbnb.com/rooms/10201561. The owners were very helpful and attentive (They hardly spoke any English at all, but we got by anyway:-) ) and even cleaned the house for us one time during our 5 days stay there. It was just so nice to have a place that felt as a home for a while. During our 5 months’ of travel we have slept in some really poor beds sometimes, but the beds here were just fantastic.
Valladolid has a beautiful city center with a cathedral and a small park/square in the middle.
In the evening the square comes alive with vendors of Mayan clothes, shoes, souvenirs, delicacies and jewelry. There even was a small children’s area with bouncy castles, which Noah and Vitus naturally wanted to try out. They jumped around in there for 45 minutes and we paid 15 Pesos per child (around 5 DKK or less than 1 USD). They probably would have been allowed to use the bouncy castles all night, but it was getting really late and Vitus needed to go to bed.
There are lots of nice small restaurants in town. We mainly visited small simple places serving tacos and other Mexican/Yucatenean specialities. More about eating in Valladolid later in a separate blog post:-)
What we did in Valladolid
We used Valladolid as a base to explore the area in a proximity of 2 hours’ drive from the city itself. Having a rental car, it was easy and flexible for us to go when and where we wanted.
This cenote is right in the middle of Valladolid and is great to cool off in after wandering around town. The entry is 30 Pesos (10 DKK, 1,5 USD) per person, Vitus was free. It can get crowded at times when a tour bus gets here, but most of the time there is plenty of room in the cenote. It is half covered (a cave with a partly open “roof”) and has lots of good places for jumping into the water.
Noah jumped from both of the two balconies plus the cliff side 3,5 metres above the water.
Line jumped from 1,5 metres, the highest jump in her life. It doesn’t sound like much, but it took quite a lot of group pressure to talk her into it. She finally agreed to do it holding her nose, but by reflex she let go just as she hit the water and thereby swallowed a liter or so of the cenote water (at least it felt that way 🙂 ).
Jesper also challenged himself to jump from the highest place in the cenote (around 7 meters up).
We visited cenote Zaci twice during our 5 days in Valladolid.
Cenote X’keken and Cenote Samula
The problem with Cenotes is that you cannot help comparing them to the ones you have already visited. X’keken and Samula is just a 5-10 minutes drive outside Valladolid and they are both beautiful in their own right. They are within the same “park” and admission is 60 pesos for one cenote or 90 for both – children free.
We went to X’keken first and it was a very strange feeling walking through the overdeveloped and largely abandoned park. Many bungalows has been build to accommodate the tourists but all looked vacant and in various stages of decay. Large buildings had been erected to house stalls and shops but very few were occupied and we largely had the place to ourselves.
X’keken is underground and had it been our first cenote we would have been in ave by this underground cave with huge Stalactites hanging from the ceiling and the small whole in the roof allowing a thin but very bright beam of light to reach the water below. To be fair it was quite beautiful but also a bit too developed and with too much concrete structures to feel like a real natural wonder. Expecting almost endless visibility as we had had in the water at the Coba underground cenotes it was also a bit disappointing to experience murky water and very limited visibility when snorkeling. It is not that we regretted going there but you get spoiled once you have seen a few (we are now at 7 and will probably reach at least 10 before leaving Mexico)
In hindsight we should have gone to Samula first. X’keken is by far the prettiest of the two and though more light makes it through the large hole in the roof of Cenote Samula it is still pretty dull compared to X’keken with very few Stalactites. On the positive side the water is noticeably clearer but still nothing compared to the Coba Cenotes. It is deep enough to do a bit of free diving and you can get some exercise swimming from one end to the other.
Heading back to the restaurant it was hard not to wonder who had made the decision to invest so much money and time in the complex. Most looked deserted and like it was build for 50 times as many tourists as they would ever be able to attract. Even the restaurant offering buffet lunch looked like it was build for at least 200 people and though we were there at lunch-time we did not see a single guest inside.
At 180 pesos (65 DKK) for all of us to visit both cenotes it is hard to say it is not value for money. If you have not seen cenotes before it is definitely worth going and we also enjoyed our time there. They cannot, however, escape the fact that there are much prettier cenotes around and some offering much more fun in terms of platforms to jump from etc.
Ria Lagartos biosphere reserve
We visited Ria Lagartos from Valladolid, read the separate blog post here.