A sleepy weekend off the beaten path in Valladolid
A place where bicycles are the predominant mode of transport says a lot about the pace of things there. In Valladolid, deep inland on Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula, locals pedal around sleepy streets on two wheels, past colonial houses and pastel-coloured shops that shutter up each day for siesta. Away from the region’s busy beachside resorts, lazy afternoons are sacred. Here, the Mayan tradition of hammock-making lives on, with craftsmen in old-school ateliers producing hand-woven works of art. The contemporary-design scene is on the rise too, as a younger crop of creatives flocks in from the glitzy enclave of Tulúm to open showrooms in Valladolid’s historic hacienda-style buildings. For all those in search of authenticity, a welcome alternative awaits in the heart of Yucatán – two-wheeled adventures and afternoon siestas guaranteed.
9am — Start the day in style at Méson de Malleville, an intimate four-room guesthouse set in a 16th-century home with Moorish tile floors and wooden beams throughout. Rooms blend crystal chandeliers and other opulent touches with vintage trinkets, such as antique maps and botanical paintings.
10am — Méson de Malleville’s outdoor café serves house-brewed coffee and homemade pastries with views of the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. The guesthouse is also home to a boutique, selling their signature Coqui Coqui perfumes (in scents such as neroli and agave) and leather goods by their sister brand Oficios Artesanos.
12pm — Head across the square to the Convent of San Bernardino of Siena, one of the oldest colonial complexes in Yucatán. Don’t miss the bright pink cloisters, the baroque murals and the palm-tree-shaded garden where Franciscan monks once researched the first botanical textbook in Mexico.
1.30pm — Small-town life means the next nice place to eat is never far away. Located on the same square, vegetarian restaurant Yerbabuena del Sisal puts a healthy spin on Mexican lunch fare with dishes such as vegetable-stuffed poblano peppers, avocado-topped flatbreads and fresh juices, in flavours including pineapple-ginger and chaya-cucumber.
3pm — A post-lunch stroll could end at Calzada de los Frailes, a colourful shopping street lined with chic boutiques where up-and-coming designers -- Francesca Bonato; Jacopo Janniello Ravagnan -- showcase their latest collections. Pop into Hacienda Montaecristo for hand-stitched leather accessories, La Troupe for bohemian womenswear, and Dutzi for sustainable bags.
4.30pm — Things in Valladolid slow down again mid-afternoon, when most locals retire to a hammock. A dream hammock can be found at nr. 216 Calzada de los Frailes, where a small team of skilled artisans hand-weave pieces of Yucatecan culture. The space also doubles as a sombrerería and a barbershop with an interior reminiscent of old Mexicana.
5pm — Next door is Tresvanbien, a cosy café-deli serving Argentine empanadas and dulce de leche-drizzled pies. The quiet courtyard, amid leafy trees embellished with macramé ornaments, is the perfect spot for a cake break or an ice-cold matcha latte.
6.30pm — Every evening, the central square opposite Iglesia de San Servacio morphs into an outdoor dance floor with local groups performing traditional dances. Take a seat in one of the park’s famous two-seater chairs and marvel at the dancers spinning around in their hipil dresses.
8pm — For a typical Yucatecan dinner, stroll up a few blocks to La Selva, a family-run restaurant specialising in delectable sopa de lima, pulled-chicken-topped tortillas and cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) – the type of food that will make you sleep like a baby.
9.30am — At the Coffee Bike Station, barista-owner Enrique (a keen cyclist) offers daily bike tours or rents out beach-style cruisers for the day. To kick-start his customers’ energy levels, Enrique also prepares frothy cappuccinos made from Oaxacan beans, alongside goats’ cheese, avocado and roasted pepper breakfast sandwiches.
11am — All around Valladolid lie dozens of so-called cenotes -- secluded natural swimming holes that were of spiritual importance to the Mayans. Cenotes San Lorenzo Oxman and the lesser-known Xlakaj are easily accessible by bicycle and make for a refreshing dip on hot Yucatecan days.
3pm — Back in town, it’s time for a treat. The Swiss-Mexican husband-and-wife team behind Wabi Gelato turns the peninsula’s myriad tropical fruits into a daily-changing range of inventive ice-cream flavours, such as cardamom-infused mango or lime with habanero chilli.
4pm — A few doors up is the small but well-curated textile museum MUREM (Museo de Ropa Étnica de México), which offers insight into traditional Mexican dress across decades and regions. It’s open until 6pm and visits are guided by the owner herself.
5pm — Even though the sea is only an hour and a half away, there are surprisingly few fish restaurants in Valladolid. On Sunday afternoons, Los Arrecifes – the best address in town for fresh seafood – pumps with Mexican families, who wash down their ceviches and fried fish tacos with chilled michelada beers.
7pm — Round out your weekend with a margarita or two at Cafeina, a popular people-watching spot with street-facing seating on Calzada de los Frailes, before taking a last stroll around town at sunset. With any luck, you will stumble upon an impromptu outdoor dance session – Valladolid’s sleepy streets waking up once more to wave you goodbye.
About the writer
Annick Weber is a Luxembourg-born travel, design and lifestyle writer, currently based in Mexico after a decade in London. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Monocle, Western Living and The Plant, and she has edited a number of travel-related publications. Annick’s favourite part about writing her way around the world? Rediscovering her passion for art, architecture, dance and food through new cultures.