Valladolid & Chichen Itza

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¡Hola Mexico!

After a month in Cuba all we wanted was a slower pace, decent internet and for things to just be a little easier.

Our first stop was Playa del Carmen and it was exactly that. We spent two days lazing around Coco's Cabanas, catching up with emails, eating huge bowls of guacamole and taking dips in the pool.

And then we caught a bus to Valladolid and realised, oh yeah, we're in Mexico!

Two months later we're still here and it's become one of my very favourite countries (like, top 3).

Valladolid

Valladolid is a small, colourful town in the Yucatan Peninsula. It's known for its food, and walking around you can smell the corn in the air.

The plaza in the town centre is full of trees, sweet stalls (tamarind and chilli flavours are big here) and the 20 shoe shiners that you'll find in every Mexican town. And the quiet streets that radiate out from the square are perfect for wandering. Calzada de los Frailes in particular is lined with little boutiques and restaurants.

There are sights and things to see in Valladolid, but we didn't do much. We were just happy to be in Mexico and take it all in, stopping to look in shops (still a novelty after a month in Cuba) and snack on bowls of our new favourite dish, zizilpak (a rich, earthy Yucatan dip made from sunflower seeds).

The colourful streets of Valladolid

A yellow house Colin looking up at a red house

A cactus

Valladolid's cathedral An ice cream seller

As usual, we had a look around the local market, a 15 minute walk from the centre of town. We sat on plastic stools outside, elbow-to-elbow with Mayan women with plaited hair and embroidered dresses. And I tried my first tamale, silky smooth corn with chicken inside, covered in a fiery red salsa.

The local market

Fruit and vegetables for sale Habenero chillies

We only spent 2 days in Valladolid, but I'd love to go back. And at only 2 hours from Cancun it's an easy place to visit if you're on a beach holiday and want a slice of real Mexico.

Where to stay: Hotel Colonial la Aurora is a lovely refurbished colonial building right in the centre with nice rooms, a pool and a roof terrace.

Where to eat

Chilaquiles for breakfast

Tacos for lunch

Yucatan dishes at Las Campanas

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities, built around AD 600. There's undoubtedly a fascinating history to this ancient city, but with everything roped off and lots of large tour groups, this was probably my least favourite of the Mexican ruins we've visited. If you're planning to go, it's best to come first thing (the site opens at 8am) before it gets too busy.

Tickets to Chichen Itza

Me outside the main pyramid

The main pyramid Columns

How to get there: There are buses to Chichen Itza every 30 minutes from the ADO bus station in Valladolid. The first one leaves at 7:15. Return buses from Chichen Itza leave at 35 minutes past the hour. Cost: 26 pesos each way.

If you're headed to Mexico, check out my posts on Mexico City, Oaxaca and Guanajuato.