Day one of a two day trip to visit Chichén Itzá. Today we’re calling in at the old Spanish colonial city of Valladolid, before continuing on to an overnight stay at Chichén Itzá, allowing us to visit the Sound &  Light show there in the evening.

We’ve never been great fans of organised tours, as so much of the day is wasted driving round hotels to do pickups, or stopping at shops or restaurants which must be paying some kind of commission, leaving only an hour or two to visit the main attraction, in the heat of the day along with all of the other tour buses.

Instead, we’ve put together our own trip spread over the course of two days. Another early breakfast before heading into town for the ADO bus to Valladolid. It’s roughly a two hour journey west of Cancún, on the same route as Chichén Itzá, which lies a further 30 minutes or so beyond. ADO tickets Cancún to Valladolid 150 pesos (£6) each.

TIME ZONES! I hadn’t realised this beforehand, but all of the states in Mexico share the same common time zone. EXCEPT for Quintana Roo, the state containing Cancún and all of the Mayan Riviera, which is one hour ahead of the rest. So, part way through our bus journey, I noticed that my mobile had picked up network time and adjusted itself accordingly. It meant that we would have an unexpected extra hour more than planned to explore Valladolid. Conversely, our return tomorrow night to Cancún would arrive one hour later in local time than we expected.

Candy floss vendors in the ADO bus station, Valladolid
Candy floss vendors in the ADO bus station, Valladolid

On arriving in Valladolid’s small bus station, we set out to explore a few local landmarks. Firstly, down a quiet side street off one of the main crossroads, there’s the San Bernadino Sisal de Sienna monastery. It’s a lovely area to stroll through, and the locals have discouraged motor traffic by spreading planted flowerpots into the road to slow things down a touch. Brilliant idea!

Quiet side street in Valladolid
Quiet side street in Valladolid

The monastery, begun in 1552, is the oldest permanent church in the Yucatán. Inside are some rare 18th century baroque altars and altarpieces. It’s free to take a look around.

Inside the San Bernadino monastery
Inside the San Bernadino monastery

Next stop, the main plaza in the town, and the cathedral of San Gervasio along its southern edge. We stopped for a drink in a market arcade on the northern edge of the plaza, before enjoying some leafy shade in the heart of the square.

San Gervasio cathedral in Valladolid's main square
San Gervasio cathedral in Valladolid’s main square

Apparently, Valladolid’s main square is the best place to buy traditional Huípil embroidery, with colourful designs perhaps including butterflies, birds or flowers, woven onto white cotton garments. We also had time to visit a small local history museum, El Museo San Roque, a couple of blocks away to the east. Housed in a convent hospital building dating back to 1575, this small free to enter museum holds exhibits of local significance, from pre-hispanic times through to the armed rebellion against corrupt politicians in the early 1900s. Almost all of the signage is in Spanish, making it rather hard work to gain any great value from the visit.

After our short exploration of the town centre, we had plenty of time for lunch at La Calzada Restaurante, along the quiet backstreet to the monastery. A lovely relaxing setting on such a hot day.

La Calzada Restaurante, on the approach road to San Bernadino
La Calzada Restaurante, on the approach road to San Bernadino

Suitably refreshed, we picked up our 14.30 afternoon ADO service to Chichén Itzá. ADO tickets Valladolid to Chichén Itzá around 100 pesos (£4) each. The ADO bus stops almost immediately outside the main entrance to Chichén Itzá, from where we picked up a local taxi (80 pesos, £3.20) to take us around the perimeter of the site to our overnight hotel, the Mayaland Hotel & Bungalows.

Entrance hall of the hacienda, Mayaland Hotel
Entrance hall of the hacienda, Mayaland Hotel

Our room was in the original hotel building which dates back to 1923. There are also several bungalows dotted around the beautifully laid out gardens. The room was impressively large and well laid out, with an equally large bathroom with a huge corner bath as well as the usual shower, toilet etc.

After relaxing for a while on our balcony looking out into jungle, we got ready to head back round to the main entrance by taxi to take in the evening sound and light show, ‘Noches de Kukulcán’. I can’t remember exactly how much we paid for admission tickets, think it was around £20 each. Another unique experience (I can see I’ll be using that description a lot in Mexico!), as we were able to walk around a small part of the site using our apple audio guides for background commentary, with some of the key ruins floodlit, before settling down into numbered seating in front of the Kukulcán pyramid. The main event runs for around 20 to 30 minutes, and talks about Mayan history while projecting some stunning light effects onto the pyramid. The commentary broadcast over the PA system is in Spanish, but our audio guides provided us with a real-time English translated version. My one photo below can’t possibly do any justice to this brilliant experience!

Temple of Kukulcan, sound & light show
Temple of Kukulcán, sound & light show

Tomorrow, a full day to properly explore the Chichén Itzá site in daylight.

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