MEXICO. VALLADOLID IS THE PEARL OF YUCATAN. HERE BECAUSE’ Written by Cesare Zucca on 17 February 2020 Edit image_pdfimage_print TEXT AND PHOTO BY CESARE ZUCCA Destination Mexico? A must in Valladolid, the pearl of the Yucatán, to discover a rich cultural heritage and a charming colonial city, a hub of traditions and of great historical importance. Great hospitality, friendly people, ready to welcome you with a big smile. The Spanish colonial architecture is unmistakable: colorful houses, pastel-colored buildings and ancient historic churches, starting with the Cathedral and the splendid Convent of San Bernardino which is just a few minutes’ walk from the center. Getting to know the history of Valladolid is fun and very simple. In addition to the numerous tours, even at night, on foot or by bike, here and there you will find many plaques describing the events and important people who have played an important role in the life of the city. Valladolid is also the starting point for the famous Mayan sites of Ekʼ Balam and Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world and one of the most well-preserved Mayan fortresses. A tip: I foresee an avalanche of tourists and I went there very early in the morning. What a show! Discover the cenotes of Valladolid and its surroundings the cenotes are an extraordinary natural phenomenon, large caves with natural pools with crystal clear blue water, perfect for a swim. The cenote Zaci is right in the center of the city, but there are many others. Among my favorites, the one in Oxman and the underground one in Samula a few kilometers from Valladolid, easily reachable with a rented bike. Excursions For an unforgettable excursion outside the city I recommend Rio Lagartos, a coastal town near the lagoon and Las Coloradas. Get ready for breathtaking views, pink lakes, crocodiles and many wonderful flamingos. Your Instagram will be happy! Just 8 km from the center of Valladolid, in the municipality of Uayma, is the suggestive Convent of Santo Domingo, whose red frescoed walls stand out in the blue sky like a mirage. To reach it, bargain with one of the many taxis in the city. Where to eat One of my favorite restaurants is the Restaurante Hosteria, in the comfortable hotel Meson del Marques (mesondelmarques.com), where the waitresses wear the typical hipiles attire, embellished with embroidered flowers. Mayan menu, including the exquisite octopus with black sauce. El Atrio del Mayab, the “queso relleno” (stuffed cheese), is sensational! Excellent Yucatec cuisine in the Taberna de los Frailes, with typical dishes of chaya, a local herb that grows only in the Yucatan and is considered a miraculous herb used already in Mayan times. Why miraculous? As confirmed by the Mexican National Institute of Nutrition, chaya fights diabetes, stones and arthritis. improves blood circulation and memory function, aids digestion, increases bone calcium, helps lose weight, controls cholesterol and prevents cough. It is rich in antioxidants, has calcium, potassium, vitamin C and carotenoids. Well, you can’t do more … and it’s good too, in fact it recalls the flavor of spinach, which exceeds it for its richness in iron and raw fibers. It should always be cooked and served in soups, drinks or as a side dish. Street food? The answer is mercado. the Mercado Municipal in Valladolid is one of the best in the Yucatan. It is located in Calle Santa Ana and is open until 4 pm. You will find all the local specialties, strictly homemade. From local air-dried sausages, to spices, bread, cured meats, honey as well as full meals made by locals and cooked in front of you. Lots of craftsmanship: belts, purses, boxes and if you want to bring home a touch of Yucatec fashion, focus on the wonderful women’s dresses with bright flowers and the white guayabera, traditional men’s shirts, finely pleated and embroidered. Where to sleep Casa Quetzal, colonial-style boutique hotel, energy and therapeutic center, located in the immediate vicinity of the Convent of San Bernardino da Siena, in the heart of the historic city. Coqui Coqui (coquicoquiperfumes.com) is a very chic B&B spa with a single home superchic. Massages signed by Coqui essences. The Venators and their fantastic house museum With great pleasure (and luck) I was invited to visit Casa de los Venados private residence and national touristic-cultural heritage with over 3000 pieces. To welcome me is Mr. John Venator who, with his wife Dorianne, collects Mexican folk art exhibited in his wonderful hacienda consisting of a large outdoor patio in the center, five large suites for guests, (beautiful those dedicated to Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo), a stunning master suite and a large rear patio with pool and entertainment area. John organizes tours of about one hour.