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Valladolid is a charming town in the Yucatan Peninsula. Many people stop by en route to/from Chichen Itza, but it is worth spending a full day here if you have the time. The colorful architecture, colonial churches, and ample amount of ice cream will keep you curious and satisfied all day long.
Weather: The weather in the Yucatan Peninsula varies from warm to hot year round, but there are two noticeable wet and dry seasons. The wet season, (also known as the hurricane season) typically starts in June and ends in October. The dry season begins in November and lasts through May. An optimal time to travel is in May after Spring Break and before June. Prices tend to be a little lower, the volume of visitors have decreased, and the weather is still great. If you plan to book your trip in the summer months be sure to check the weather patterns. Valladolid generally tends to be hotter because it is inland.
Basic Style Etiquette for Men and Women: Casual. Men and women should pack clothing that is light and breathable; leave your jeans at home. For women: when you are touring around, it is acceptable to wear a bathing suit with a tank top, shorts, and sneakers. Men can wear similar attire when touring; bathing suit, shirt, and sneakers. If you plan on spending the night, dinner attire is also casual. Even though Valladolid is inland, respectable bathing suits underneath attire can be worn if you plan on going to a cenote (underground sink hole ideal for swimming and exploring).
Culture: Valladolid has a small town friendly feel to it; they are very welcoming to visitors. Please be respectful of the town to maintain the charm. The staff at the visitors center (located across the main park) are also available to answer any questions you have, and signs are bi-lingual.
Shopping: If you love chocolate, you are in the right place. Chocolate Artesenal Maya Chocol Haa is a museum, cafe, and store. Learn about the importance of chocolate, taste the 10 different varieties, and buy your favorite flavor. You can find this gem on Calzada de los Frailes, a beautiful road mixed with Mexican stores and restaurants.
Some Suggested Activities In Valladolid:
Calzada de los Frailes: Walk around this colorful street, search for your perfect souvenir, and try local delicacies such as Lomitos de Valladolid, a pork dish in fresh tomato sauce.
Francisco Canton Rosado: Take a walk around the central park, eat ice cream, and people watch. It's one of my favorite things to do, and you can learn so much culture through observation. You will hear laughter, see lovers, and watch entrepreneurs making the most out of a hot day.
Traditional Agave Distillery: Take a tour of the blue agave distillery, walk through the fields, and learn about the traditional step by step process to obtain the agave liquid. This tradition has lasted for over 400 years; and will add special insight about customs and culture of the Maya. At the end of the tour, you will have the opportunity to take some tequila home with you!
If You Are A Foodie: Enjoy fresh Mexican food atop the Cenote Zaci. Savor fresh salsa, tortillas, nachos, plantains, and other Mexican specialities. A bonus: if you have lunch here, you will get free admission to the cenote.
Safety Tip: Carry water, biodegradable sunblock, a snack, and an umbrella and/or a hat when you are touring. You do not want to get dehydrated or sunburnt on your trip, do you?
Chichen Itza, one of the new seven wonders of the world is truly a wonder to be witnessed by the naked eye. The amount of science and math involved when these structures were built will leave you in awe and wonder. Even though you cannot enter or climb the Mayan Ruins, you will be able to learn why an observatory was constructed, how ancient games were played while standing in the playing field, and understand why your claps generate sounds from the top of El Castillo.
The best way to enjoy Chichen Itza is to take your time. We rented a car so we could manage our own time, and we also decided to get a local tour guide to talk/walk us through the experience. These two factors immensely maximized our trip experience, and are highly recommended.
Weather: The weather in the Yucatan Peninsula varies from warm to hot year round, but there are two noticeable wet and dry seasons. The wet season, (also known as the hurricane season) typically starts in June and ends in October. The dry season begins in November and lasts through May. An optimal time to travel is in May after Spring Break and before June. Prices tend to be a little lower, the volume of visitors have decreased, and the weather is still great. If you plan to book your trip in the summer months be sure to check the weather patterns.
Basic Style Etiquette for Men and Women: Casual and sophisticated. Men and women should pack clothing that is light and breathable; leave your jeans at home. For women: when you are touring around, it is acceptable to wear a bathing suit with a tank top, shorts, and sneakers. Men can wear similar attire when touring; bathing suit, shirt, and sneakers. If you plan on spending the night in Chichen Itza or dinner attire is smart casual.
Culture: Many of the tour guides and vendors are from the surrounding towns. They are very much connected to the local culture and history. Ask your tour guide questions. I was particularly interested about the construction of the city itself and how the townspeople uphold traditions of their ancestors through the modern day.
Shopping: If you are looking for a variety of handmade goods, be sure to make time to check out what the vendors have to offer. Be ready to bargain; you will have multiple vendors selling the same product. Inspect the quality of the product, and make sure it resonates with your style. Personally, I wished I would have picked up hand painted bowls, and slightly regret not doing so.
Some Suggested Activities In Chichen Itza:
Clap In Front of the Mayan Temple of Kukulcan (the feathered serpent god): The sound of your clapping generates sacred sounds of the quetzal bird. As we said before, it is all about science and math. The number of steps, sides, and dimensions were designed to create this sound. The spring and autumn equinoxes are also a great time to visit. It has been said that Kukulcan returns to earth to provide blessings before entering the sacred water on his way to the underworld, expressed in this picture below. You can see a serpent crawling down the temple; a little creepy yet fascinating.
The Observatory: El Caracol is named after its interior spiral shaped staircase, is a Mayan ruin built to observe a 360 view of the stars, to track eclipses, and equinoxes. Windows were constructed to follow the movement of Venus in conjunction with the movement of Earth.
Juego de Pelota - The games played in this field were no joking matter. The losing team is dishonored by sacrificing the winning team leader in front of all spectators. By killing the winner, they now have the honor to be with the Gods.
If You Are A Foodie: It is a little difficult to find restaurants near Chichen Itza. Surrounding hotels tend to provide a buffet lunch after you have toured the ruins. The Lodge at Chichen Itza was a place we discovered en route after taking the toll road from Riviera Maya. If you are driving, expect to have people from the lodge stop you to offer a packaged deal exclusive of parking, easy access to an entrance, and lunch. The deal was hassle free, and the local food was delicious.
Safety Tip: Carry water, sunblock, a snack, and an umbrella and/or a hat when you are touring. You do not want to get dehydrated or sunburnt on your trip, do you?
Everyone loves to find special mementoes from their trip. The trick is to find pieces that will always hold value and remind you of an unforgettable moment. While traveling in Mexico, I found a few pieces that caught my eye. If you travel to this part of the world keep your eye out for these crafts, or contact me for more information.
Jellyfish Lamps - These elegant lamps are made out of local gourds, seeds, seashells, handblown glass, and stain glass. Mayan artists undergo four years of training to create these beautiful works of art. The carvings you see in this picture represent a variety of Mayan symbols which represent luck, protection, and love. These lamps are delicate for use indoors and durable enough to withstand rain and humidity in the outdoors.
Hats - We found these suave hats made out of natural palm fiber off of 5th Avenue and 12th Street in Playa Del Carmen. Each hat is carefully weaved and dried in the sun with care. Not only is each hat unique, they smell fresh, and are bendable/portable for your travels.
Custom Made Furniture - On our drive to Coba from Tulum, we saw these meticulously handcrafted chairs made by Miguel Angel Quijano Cassanova on the roadside that we had to stop for. Chairs with this design have started to become popular in modern furniture stores, but we thought these pieces were special because we were able to meet the maker and support his skill set. Miguel also makes tables and cabinets out of high quality wood. Depending on what you purchase, you may have to ship it back home. Pakmail on 12th Street in Playa Del Carmen was an outstanding service. Miguel's contact information is available upon request.
Hand-painted Ceramics - These ceramics are one of a kind because of the varying designs per artist. While they can be found in many places throughout the Peninsula, I recommend finding your favorite one from vendors in Chichen Itza. Not only do you have a variety of colors and sizes to choose from, but you have a lot leverage to bargain your price because of the number of vendors selling local merchandise.
Hand-Carved Wooden Statues - The level of attention and time it takes to make these wooden carvings just amazes me. Many of these crafters use natural dyes from flowers and plants unique to Mexico. If you decide to purchase one of these pieces be sure to check the quality of the wood; your piece should have some heft to it.