Folk art in Valladolid

January 17th 2017

Our final stop in Mexico was a couple of days in the lovely central-Yucatán town of Valladolid. We didn’t intend to stop off here at all before we left the UK, but we realised it was a long trip back from Mérida to Cancun airport so decided to break up the journey. Ado bus and accommodation swiftly booked and we were ready to stop over.

I’m glad we did, because Valladolid is a really charming town. It’s much smaller than Mérida and hence much easier to negotiate by foot without getting overwhelmed by crowds or heat. Although it’s not overtly touristy we saw many more foreign visitors there, mainly because it’s used as a convenient stop-off point for visiting three of the most important Mayan ruin sites in the Yucatán: Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Ek Balam. We didn’t have time for any of those (and had already visited the ruins in Tulum plus on our previous trip to Oaxaca) so spent our time in the town itself.

Another bonus for Valladolid is it has a cenote right in the middle of town, Cenote Zaci, which we popped to as soon as we dropped our bags at our guesthouse. It was larger than the Sotuta de Peon cenote and semi-enclosed as opposed to a full-on cave. The water wasn’t quite as enticingly clear and was filled with slightly creepy sightless black fish. But it was nice to experience two quite different types of cenote, and we had some nice face-sized empanadas in the adjoining cafe.

After that we pottered around town. Shopping was much better than in Mérida or Tulum, with lots of sweet souvenir and food shops. Mayan ladies manned market stalls in the zocalo, selling textiles, painted ceramics and other handcrafts. There’s a particularly beautiful diagonal street leading from the centre to the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena; worth a walk although we didn’t go inside the convent.

The main municipal market was lovely to wander around too. It’s where Hartwood chefs travel to source their restaurant’s ingredients, and you can see why – all the bounty looked incredibly fresh and inviting. We stocked up on herbs, spices and hot sauce from the laid-back ladies on the stalls.

On the final morning, we were fortunate to walk by Casa do los Venados just as a tour was starting. It’s the amazing personal home and Mexican folk art collection of American John Venator. He’s built his collection from all over Mexico over the last fifty years, and then painstakingly restored this Valladolid townhouse over twenty to live in and house his treasures. After pressure from his friends he decided to open his casa to the public for morning tours, in exchange for a charitable donation from guests.

It was quite dazzling to walk around and see all this detailed, colourful, decorative art work in a truly living residence.

My favourite was the Frida suite, though it was harder than usual to pick my ‘what would I choose to take home’ game: the intricate Frida shrine, the mescal-swilling devils, the skully feast tableau in a shell-encrusted box?

Since I got back and gassed on about the trip, and shared a bunch of in-progress photos on Instagram, it’s really interesting to hear people say they have this preconception of Mexico as either a dusty backwater or a dangerous gangland. For me, I’ve now had two amazing holidays there and I absolutely adore it. It’s a huge country and there’s so much to see, buckets of ancient history and regional diversity, superb food and drink, endless nature and culture… frankly, now I’ve seen Casa de los Venados, I’m all but plotting premature retirement plans.

Comments (7)

  • Christine

    January 18th 2017 at 3:52 pm

    I was ready to book my trip but then I read the news about the recent shooting in Playa del Carmen and I am a bit freaked out about it. I know that it doesn’t reflect the Yucatan peninsula as a whole because I have been there before and it was fine but this time, I am uncomfortable going there since we were also thinking about renting a car and not staying at a resort :(

    1. katie

      January 19th 2017 at 9:07 pm

      Yeah that was tragic but I really think you’d be fine. Seemed to be gang/drug related so they wouldn’t want to tangle with tourists. I get that sort of thing on my doorstep in London. I hope you still go!

  • Mandy

    February 3rd 2017 at 10:55 am

    Fantastic photos Katie, they really brought back some magical memories for me.

  • marivel

    October 7th 2017 at 1:28 am

    sorprendida, en el mundo hay tantas cosas bellas, Que me gustaría ver con mis propios ojos , gracias por la portada..

  • gnula

    July 28th 2018 at 11:36 pm

    Muy buena esta página me gusta por su buen contenido gracias

  • juan

    August 1st 2018 at 3:44 pm

    I would love to visit…

  • pelispedia

    September 28th 2018 at 6:11 pm

    recomendado este post muy bueno

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