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North America » Mexico » Yucatán » Valladolid
December 28th 2007
Published: January 10th 2008
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Arriving in Valladolid at night, we fell victim to its inhabitants’ amiability. Everyone was eager to tell us where the hotel was, even when they had no idea. Dawn revealed a modest town more or less built on a grid system, and the fact that we had unwittingly passed our accommodation by about five times the night before.

Ostensibly chosen for its proximity to the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá, Yucatán’s Valladolid was really serving as a surrogate hometown for Raúl, unable to spend the holidays in his own Valladolid thousands of miles away in Spain. The relaxed colonial town is gradually surfacing on the tourist route, as the coaches - parked two abreast in the main square - attested, but seems so far free of the overdevelopment and opportunism that is a feature of the nearby coastal resorts.

Given Valladolid’s reputation as the culinary capital of Yucatán, we couldn’t resist breakfasting on local savoury panuchos and salbutes in the crowded colonnaded market, all the while accompanied by two marimba players. Early morning Valladolid was bustling. Local women selling huipiles* strung their merchandise from park railings and squatted in the shade. Alms-seekers arranged themselves on church steps, and ice-cream vendors wheeled their rickety carts around the square. Stocky buildings puffed out their pitted walls and readied themselves for another day of blistering sunshine. In a spartan unit daubed with hand-painted images of hair styles, a teenaged boy sprawled, dozing, in a single barber’s chair whilst an older man sewed scraps in a corner on an old-fashioned sewing machine.

Besides being littered with ruins, the Yucatán Peninsula is also known for its cenotes, natural pools of water often partially or almost totally underground, sometimes used as sites of human sacrifice. Within walking distance of Valladolid’s main square is the cenote Zaci, half enclosed in a dank rock shelter covered with foliage and stalactites. A little further away, we ventured into the waters of another, underground, cenote, its shadowy depths home to a species of eyeless fish and its eerie interior dripping with gloopy stalactites, inching towards the water like so many interminable mucous drips.

Less well known than Chichén Itzá, the ruins of Ek' Balam lie partially excavated in the jungle north of Valladolid. Having got in training at the pyramids of Teotihuacan, we scaled the Ek' Balam structures and enjoyed a silence impossible to repeat later at Chichén Itzá, with its soundtrack of souvenir sellers and the constant rumble of several hundred visitors.

*A garment worn by indigenous Maya women.

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


Ek' Balam ruins IIIEk' Balam ruins III
Ek' Balam ruins III

Raúl sees how many Valladolids he can spot from his vantage point.
Tzompantli or Platform of the Skulls, Chichen ItzaTzompantli or Platform of the Skulls, Chichen Itza
Tzompantli or Platform of the Skulls, Chichen Itza

A platform used for human sacrifice
Sacred cenote, Chichen ItzaSacred cenote, Chichen Itza
Sacred cenote, Chichen Itza

Final resting place of a number of sacrificial victims.

29th May 2010
Cenote Zaci, Valladolid

es fabuloso
6th April 2011
Temple of Kukulcan, Chichen Itza

i like this structure

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