Well rested from my previous three days at the amazing Hacienda Xcanatun Resort, I set off with renewed vigor to discover more of the northern Yucatan. As with so many of the other locales I had visited in Mexico, there is so much to do in the Yucatan that it is difficult to choose which sites to see. No matter how hard I tried, there would not be time enough to visit all the ruins, cenotes, colonial towns, biosphere reserves, and cultural sites, but staying in centrally located Valladolid would at least allow me to see as much as possible.
Though this third largest city in the Yucatan is a mere two hours east of the cultural center of Merida and three hours west of Cancun’s tourist mecca, in character it might as well have been light years away from either. Located in the sultry interior, where not even a whisper of a breeze penetrated most days, the pace of life was simple and slow. Ancient men on three-wheeled bikes languidly pedaled down cobblestone streets past pastel houses, each hawking his product with a trademark signal. A bottled water delivery man rasped “agua” every dozen feet. A knife sharpener rang a jangly bell. On a third bike, an enormous silver wok-shaped vessel had been welded in front of the handlebars. “Que tienes?” I inquired – What do you have? He braked, smiled shyly and lifted the lid, allowing the yeasty aroma of fresh baked bread to engulf me.
My days were crammed with sightseeing. Not only was Valladolid a delight to walk, with lovely churches and neighborhood markets worth exploring, it was a convenient hub from which I could easily visit the major Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. Additionally, many minor ruins, cenotes, and Rio Largartos, a biosphere reserve that is home to the largest concentration of pink Flamingos in Mexico, were easily visited on day trips.
Following an age-old tradition, many shops and churches closed for siesta during the hottest hours, reopened in the late afternoon, and stayed open late into the night. At twilight, locals gathered in the main plaza to exchange the day’s news, battling to be heard over thousands of black birds that returned to roost each night in trees surrounding the square, their shrill songs rising to a crescendo before fading away in dwinding light. Under inky black skies, multi-colored spotlights bathed the plaza’s trees and turned slick-bricked sidewalks into gold and lavender pathways leading to the exquisitely illuminated San Servacio Cathedral.
Inevitably, I ended my days at La Casa del Cafe, sipping strong espresso as I chatted with the cafe’s owner, Ani, and other locals who whiled away the time until the midnight closing hour. I departed several days later, wishing I’d had more time to spend in this lovely village, where the easy rhythm of Mexican life still flows uninterrupted.