You know, I think we did a pretty good job with Mexico. We got to see a lot, and had a decent amount of time exploring. If there was one thing I’d change though, I would have made room for an extra day in Valladolid. It’s a great little city, and the colonial architecture reminded us so much of Arequipa. All those good memories of our Peru trip came flooding back, and even though we only had a little time there, we had a lot of fun.
We managed two nights in Valladolid. With the short stay, it really became simply a launch pad for Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. An evening walk down Calzada de los Frailes was a highlight of the trip, complete with sampling some traditional Mayan chocolate and dinner in an old Spanish hacienda.
The colonial vibe in Valladolid was spot on with the cities we explored in Peru. Arequipa, Lima, Cusco – they all had their own Plaza de Armas, the rest of the city spreading out from that lively focal point. Valladolid was planned in the exact same way, and brought back a lot of fond memories. A stroll down the Calzada de los Frailes looks just the same as any beautiful street from one of those cities, and I imagine matches many more throughout Latin America and even Spain proper. This road leads you from the center of the city all the way down to Parque Sisal and the Convento de San Bernardino de Siena. On a nice day, sit and relax at the park, and then explore el convento. There’s a great display with artifacts dug up from the cenote directly underneath the convent.
Just before you cross Calle 48, you’ll walk by Cacao. Stop in for some traditional Mayan chocolate and a bit of the history behind real chocolate. Hint – it’s not like a candy bar..
Still on par with Arequipa, the food in Valladolid was excellent. I had a chance to try some more of the pibil style cooking, and was equally impressed.
Mayapan Agave Distillery
Just north of the city, you’ll find a huge field of blue agave.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be happy you did. This is the home of the Mayapan Agave Distillery. Feel free to stop by for tours of the traditional process and some samplings. Now, I realize tequila isn’t for everyone, but I happen to be quite fond of it, so I was right at home. Included in the sampling is their 6 years aged tequila. I think you could probably age mud in oak barrels for 6 years and people would drink it.
The Mayapan distillery holds true to the traditional roots. They grow their agave onsite, bake the plants in a massive brick oven, and then grind the pulp down via wheel and donkey. Luckily, the aged liquor doesn’t have even the slightest hint of donkey.
Mayapan offers tours that only take about 20 minutes, and include tasting all four of their varieties: blanco, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. Each variety increases the amount of time spent aging in large white oak barrels: no aging, 3 months aged, 1 year aged, and 6 years aged, if I recall correctly. You can absolutely taste the difference. If you have any interest in spirits or in the distilling process, do stop by. It’s a small shop, and they seem to enjoy having folks come in for the tour or to buy a bottle before heading off to their next destination.
Not going to lie. Looking through the photos from Valladolid, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t take more. I definitely wouldn’t get hired by Valladolid’s tourism board, but hey, I’m glad I could share a little bit of the city with you!
We packed up early our last morning in Valladolid, and hit the road north for Ek Balam. That was our last major archaeological zone, driving straight down to Cancun afterward.
Posts still to come: Ek Balam, Isla Mujeres, and Cancun. Thanks for following along so far!