Ten Top Things to See in the Valladolid, Yucatan, Area.
Note: As opposed to some lists, I make no pretense of being able to prioritize these ten attractions. All are worth seeing. Some will have greater interest to various individuals than will others.
10. The Museo San Roque. Located one block from the Palacio Municipal in a de-consecrated church. Contains a wide variety of Proto-Mayan, Mayan and Colonial artifacts and exhibits. A bit dusty and in need of some up-grades, it is, nevertheless, worth seeing when you are al centro.
9. The Cenote Zaci. Located just a few short blocks from the main square (parque principal or zocalo) of Valladolid.
A Palapa-style restaurant (with the only wheelchair access to a restaurant in Valladolid of which I am aware. Unfortunately, the bathrooms in the restaurant as not easily accessible by wheelchair. Casa Hamaca is the only hotel or lodging in the area with wheelchair access). The restaurant serves good Yucatec-style food... but the real reason to go there is to eat or drink, in the shade, while overlooking the beautiful cenote. Plus, if you have a beverage or food at the restaurant, you will be invited to enter the centore from their private entrance at no cost. If you enter the public entrance, you must pay somewhere in the neighborhood of USD$2. The cenote is partially covered and partially open to the sky with a walk-way with both ramps and steps going all the way around. Th walkway decends to water level at one point to allow access to the water. A "No Swimming" sign is sometimes posted, but there seem to be people in the water at all times of day.
8. Murals in the Palacio Municipal. Located at the southeast corner of the zocalo on the second floor. Enter the building next door to the tourist office and go up one floor to the murals that depict the history of the Mayans and colonials of the Valladolid area beginning with pre-hispanic images through the revolution of the early 1900's. Powerful images!
7. The entire town of Izamal. Located less than one hour distance form Valladolid, Izamal is caught in a time warp. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride around town to get a feel for for the historic district and then go off on foot to explore the pyramids, the convent and the shops.
6. The Mayan Ruins of Cobá. Located less than one hour drive from Valladolid on a usually good road, the ruins of Cobá are different than most of the ruins of the Yucatan. The form of the main pyramid is more like that of Tikal in Guatemala than it is of of others in the north. As of this writing, you can still climb most of the structures, including the main pyramid. The site is very large and includes some lakes (lagunas) with crocs drozing in the sun. You have the options of walking the ruins, renting a bicycle or hiring a tricycle powered by a guide. The last option is worth considering since you can cover a lot of ground and have some idea of what you are seeing. Make any agreements before your leave the rental area including time of your tour as well as what parts of the ruins are included. If you want more time or extensive viewing, make your deal before you start. These ruins are almost Indiana Jones-like as you walk/ride through the jungle, turn a corner and suddenly are confronted with a pyramid that had been hidden from view until you turned the corner. Lots of fun for all ages.
5. The cenotes of Dzitnup... there are two of more or less the same form... an underground dome with a hole in the ceiling to the world outside with swim-able water. One is the most photographed cenote in the Yucatan (the one on the left as you approach the town of Dzitnup from the Merida-Valladolid free road); the other (on the right) is much less visited, but equally beautiful. Both are worth visiting. If you are really into cenotes, there are lots of options in any direction from Valladolid. All are swim-able, some have more amenities than others
4. Casa de los Venados, a private home just off the main square of Valladolid. The owners, John and Dorianne Venator, have completed a ten year renovation and expansion of one of the early historic building of Valladolid. More importantly, they have over 3,500 pieces of Mexican folk art on display. The house is a living museum. However, since it is a private home, you need specific permission of John or Dorianne to view the house and contents.
3. The Mayan ruins of Ek Balam are located an easy 25 minute drive north of Valladolid. The site is compact and easily visited in two hours. The main pyramid is higher than the main pyramid at Chichen Itza and, by volume, is one of the largest in the Yucatan. At this writing, you can still climb almost all of the structures. Be sure to check out the tomb entrance slightly over halfway up the main pyramid. If you have the time, walk all the way around the main pyramid to get a feeling of just how big the structure is. The front and one side is more or less completely restored, but the rest is as the archaeologists found it. Currently, there is active restoration work going on. Lots of fun to watch if possible.
2. The cave of Balankanche about five kilometers from the ruins of Chichen Itza. In the late 1960's a guide from Chichen, who was a spelunker, was exploring a local cave when he found a hidden passageway that lead to a secret Mayan ceremonial site that had been know and used by the local people for hundreds of years. After much negotiation, the cave and ceremonial site opened as a national park. The cave is well lighted and easy walking. You are not allowed into the cave without a guide. Tours, in various, languages leave frequently from the visitor center.
1. Chichen Itza... one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Show up at the site early in the morning (gates open as early as 8:00 AM) so you can park in the shade... arrival before 9:30 usually will still get your car a good spot. Early arrival also means it will be less hot with fewer tourists. At about 11:00 AM, the big tour busses start arriving from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. On a busy day there will be over 100 of the big busses, dozens of big tour van and uncounted private cars. Most of them will arrive after 10:30 or so. Since you are no longer allowed to climb or enter any of the structures at Chichen, get there early before the crowds, take your photos and go to El Balam to climb something. Or linger at Chichen Itza if shopping is your thing. There are hundreds of vendors both in and outside the grounds.
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Valladolid... Renewed, Restored and Refurbished
The makeover of Valladolid is just about completed.
A major effort by the local government has transformed Valladolid with
new streets, new parks, new lighting and new colors.
All of the old colonial buildings in the town center have been repainted with colonial colors and all of the tacky signs are gone. New, period street lighting has been installed along side the newly paved streets. In short, all of the center of Valladolid has been transformed. The government is completing similar restoration in Izamal. Parts of the historic districts of both Valladolid and Izamal will have the look and feel of the colonial city of Antigua in Guatemala... with a Yucatan twist.
One small drawback with the signs being taken down is that is difficult to find anything. Businesses have not only lost their signs, but have often had the color of their building changed as well. It sometime a bit of a challenge to find a particular shop or store, but at the same time it makes the search more interesting and more of an exploration. This will change as the new signage rules are worked out.
Ready for tourists and travelers alike.
Every afternoon the tour busses on their way back to Cancun and Playa, drop off Chichen Itza-tourists for an hour or two to shop, see some local sights and take a few photos and then get back on the bus thinking that they have experienced some local culture.
But the renovated downtown area is just perfect for a stroll around town especially for a traveler. Someone who is not afraid to meet local people, taste local food or walk a block or two away from the tourist center. There's a lot to encounter and experience in Valladolid.
There's a new high-end restaurant, Taverna de los Frailes, near the convento de Sisal...about a five block stroll through old Valladolid from Casa Hamaca.
Just up Calle 40, one of the main North-South streets in Valladolid, from Casa Hamaca is Casa de los Venados
. Here John and Dorianne Venator have created a home for their collection of over 3,500 pieces of Mexican folk art. The renovated colonial house has recently won first prize in an national architectural contest and has also been featured on Yucatan Living
A new movie theater has just opened one block away from Casa Hamaca. It's currently the only one in town. In fact, the only one for miles around.
In short, Valladolid is waking up from the sleepy town it was and is poised to become, once again, the Sultaness of the East. No longer is Valladolid just a place to pass through on your way to or from Chichen Itza, it is a destination in its own right.
And a wonderful, central location from which to see and experience all that the Yucatan has to offer. A great base to visit Maya ruins, historic colonial cities, dozens of magnificent colonial churches and hundreds of cenotes. Bird watching and other natural history locations such as bio-preserves are to be found in almost any direction from Valladolid. The Caribbean coast is just over one hour away to the east and the Gulf fishing villages just over one hour to the north. Both Cancun and Merida, with their international airports, are less than two hours from Valladolid.Casa Hamaca Guesthouse
remains, as reviewed by guests at Trip Advisor
, the most interesting, authentic and friendly accommodations of any kind in the Valladolid/Chichen Itza area. However, we are not for "tourists", we are for travelers who wish to experience something out of the ordinary.
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This was originally written as an email to a friend on Saturday, December 08, 2001 7:28 AM Subject: Lunch in Isla Mujeres Good morning from Isla Mujeres, Yesterday morning I went to church. I went to see the confirmation of the young son (Freddy) of a friend of mine. The church was standing room only...over 100 children (and some adults) were confirmed. Then, along with the boy's Godfather, I as invited to lunch at the parents home. The house was made of cardboard, nailed over wooden poles. I could see daylight through the roof and walls in many places. The furnishings were rejects from the Salvation Army shops. Nothing ever got thrown out, I think, because they had so little...so there was clutter everywhere. There was an old refrigerator and an old gas stove...but no sink or running water in the combination kitchen, living room and store room. Our meal was a simple soup (caldo de pollo) made from a chicken and two onions...I think that was all that was in the soup. A side dish of cold elbow macaroni, mayo, corn and tiny pieces of ham was served along with a small bowl of sliced and pickled Jalapeño chilies and tortillas to complete our meal. Coke or beer for beverage. A simple and humble meal and probably they best that they could afford for this festive meal. I have been in houses like this before, but never before as a guest. And the experience was a humbling one. The thing that really got to me was this. When the woman of the house brought out the small can of pickled chilies, the husband opened the can with a scissors. He used scissors similar to shop scissors to cut off the entire rim of the can, all the way around...and all I could think of was they did not own a can opener! Likewise, when the husband opened a beer, he used a spoon handle and his other hand as a fulcrum to pry off the cap. How can people not own a can opener or a bottle opener? Today, I'm going to give the wife my can opener. Caio, Denis
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A new way to think about "Time-Shares" in the Yucatan
As some of your know I spend a lot of time looking for property in the Valladolid area. I've looked a property that should be just left untouched and other properties that are already planted with acres of fruit trees. Ranchos that have cattle and all that come with cattle like corrals and wire fences. Properties with cenotes (fresh water "sinkholes" that are the only source of open water in most of the Yucatan) that are big and beautiful.
The problem I face is the same problem that faces everyone who looks at property or houses anywhere in the world; the property I can afford, I don't like and the property that I like, I can't afford. So here's a possible solution to my problem and a possible opportunity for you (or a friend of yours) to have a home in Mexico.
As an example, today I am going to look at a property, a rancho with a cenote and old-growth forest/jungle, of over 160 hectareas or almost 400 acres. It is close to Valladolid and the asking price seems very reasonable. However, it is out of the range of what I can afford. But if I had 9 more partners with USD$10,000 each, we could purchase the property together and each own a share in the entire property.
Lots of details to iron out, but I think that the concept makes a lot more sense than a two week time-share at a hotel. You would have year-around access. A big playground (400 acres is a lot of property). Easy access to all of the Yucatan (Valladolid is exactly halfway between Cancun and Merida). Easy access to both the Caribbean beaches and the Gulf fishing villages. Easy access to dozens of Mayan ruins.
Plus a much slower pace of living. A warmer climate. And a different approach to life. A opportunity to live pretty high on the hog on a chicken feed budget.
Plus an investment that has a very good prospect of returning interest in the form of sale of produce and/or rental or lease of living space/playing space.
Just so that you know where I am coming from, I am not interested in cattle. They take too much work for the return on investment. And they take a lot of time as well. Plus they cost the environment. I am much more interested in short term crops such as papaya (10 months from planting to first harvest); medium term crops like neem (fast growing tree that produces a natural pesticide) and structural bamboo; and long term crops like cedar and mahogany. I'm interested in making the property as energy self sufficient as reasonable and using solar and wind power as much as possible and as organic as reasonable. I have no interest in horses but this might be a great place to think about keeping a horse or two. I have no interest in racing ATV's through the jungle or in cutting old-growth forest for a quick profit. I'm not a fanatic on being green or organic but I certainly lean in that direction.
I am very interested in preserving traditional Mayan culture and values and in treating the Mayan people with respect. That means paying staff and ranch hands a decent wage, giving them a secure, dry place to live and interacting with them with love. Just so that you don't get scared off by this, a normal wage for a farm worker is between 100 and 150 pesos per day or USD$7.70 to USD$11.50 per day.
We will set up a Mexican corporation that will protect all of our investments and give us equal voice in the direction of the rancho. Foreigners can legally own property in Mexico through various means, including through a corporation. And for gringos, now may be a time to consider a secure toe-hold in someplace other than the USA. Taxes are less, health care is very good and affordable, government control of details of life is much freer.
I'm not sure that the rancho that I will see today is the right one to purchase, but this is great time to consider purchase in the Yucatan. The economy is down and it is affecting the local landowners. Property prices are down. Valladolid is spending a lot of money on infrastructure in anticipation of a surge in tourism and in commerce.
If you want to come down and see some of the opportunities that's probably a good idea.
The investment is low and the possible return is great.
If this idea rings any kind of bell with you, pass it along to your friends who might be interested. And then get back to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am going to be traveling on a Mano Amiga planning trip over the next week, but I should have email access most of the time.
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A visit to a Mexican Emergency Room
Contrasted with a visit to an ER in the USA
Yesterday as I was visiting Merida (the capital of the Yucatan), I started getting an violent allergic reaction (possibly to something I ate). First my hands and feet started itching, then my eyes watered, my face glowed red... I felt as if I were on fire... and my companions said that we should get to the hospital ASAP. Allergic reactions are potentially fatal since airways can shut down. So off we went.
There are three very good hospitals in Merida that I know of and we were closest to Clinica Merida. All three of these hospitals are private hospitals.
When I walked into the emergency room, the receptionist asked what the problem was, took my name and asked if I had insurance. That was it. My friend motioned for me to sit down but before I could sit the receptionist directed me to an exam room since she recognized a potentially serious problem. Before I could sit down there, the doctor entered, did a fast assessment and told me the options. Some slow acting pills or fast acting IV. By this time I was in agony and said "IV, Please!" (By the way, most if not all of the MD's that I have met in the Yucatan read English quite well and speak some English; this is because many medical textbooks are written in English).
I was ushered to a bed in ER, undressed and put on my johnny coat. Almost before I could get into bed, a nurse was there to check my vitals, followed very rapidly by a saline IV hook-up. Within minutes, the prescribed meds (a cortizone and an antihistime) were tied into the saline solution and the itching and redness rapidly disappeared. The needle work for both the IV and the blood samples was extremely professional and completely painless. Various nurses kept checking on me and I was visited by the admitting MD as well as a allergic specialist. I was held for observation for about 7 or 8 hours and then given prescriptions for some meds for the week.
The total cost for the visit including in-hospital meds, bed, blood work, MD visits, etc. came to less than 2,500 Mexican pesos or about USD$187. The prescribed meds for home-care totaled less than USD$45.
I contrasted the level of care, the speed of admission and the total cost with that of my last visit to an emergency room in the US. I was admitted much, much faster in Mexico than I was in the US (in the US, I was experiencing chest pains and had been referred to the hospital ER by a cardiologist... my total admission time was at least 45 minutes before I was in a bed in ER... and another 1/2 hour before I was seen by an MD). My level of personal care was much greater in Mexico in that all of the various medical personnel seemed much less stressed and much more available to attend to me and my needs. And the cost difference was HUGE! An 8 hour bed in any ER that I know in the USA would be at least USD$1,000 to $1,500. And then add on the MD costs, the lab work and the med costs! Very easy to project a total cost of over 10 times as much.
I don't know how to fix the health care system in the US, but it sure can be approved. There might be something to be learned from Mexico.
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