Valladolid, Chitzen Itza and Cenote Ik-Il

 

Us in front of el Castilo at Chichen Itza
Us in front of el Castilo at Chichen Itza

After the hustle and bustle of Cancun, the dusty sleepiness of Valladoild was a welcome relief. We chose it as a centre as it is close to the Chichen Itza archeological site and about half way to our next stop of Merida.

The apartments we booked were a significant shift down from the splendour of El Rey Del Caribe, but were perfectly decent, airy and clean. We were never going to cook much using the microwave and coffee machine that was provided, but the latter was useful to heat the water for my morning shave.

One of the things we are going to be looking for while we travel is accommodation that gives us somewhere comfortable to sit together, chat, plan and keep each other company. It’s not been too bumpy a landing in Mexico and the start of our travels has been easy enough, but we are each of us needing to find some equilibrium in our new lives and with each other. Having a pleasant shared space will be essential for us to keep going and support each other.

One day we took the open top bus around Valladolid – and thus confirmed that Valladolid is sweet, but not exactly overburdened with tourist attractions. As I said, our main reason for stopping here was to go to Chichen Itza.

So, early one morning we took a bus from the ADO bus station in Valladolid to Chichen Itza. The site was relatively quiet, with few guides about and, although it was warm, we avoided the full heat of the day by going early.

We’d decided not to take a guide, mainly in an attempt to be frugal, but also so we could wander around and take it all in at our own pace. The central pyramid – el Castillo – is hugely impressive, and visible from most places across the site. The great ball court is enormous, and enlivened by guides and visitors clapping their hands and whistling away, as the acoustics are such that sound travels a lot.

el Castilo, the main pyramid at Chichen Itza
el Castilo, the main pyramid at Chichen Itza

The part that I enjoyed the most was the more shaded area behind the western colonnade. Here there are yet more columns, but also a chance to walk through a wooded area that was very peaceful while we were there.

By the time we left it was a little before midday, and there was now a hefty queue forming to get in as larger groups of visitors were arriving, including the day trips from Cancun.

As we came out of the site there were a few guys offering to sell tickets for admission to Cenote Ik-kil. Cenotes are sinkholes, and in the Yucatan they are plenty of these sites where the ground has given way, often to reveal a pool below. We bought a couple of tickets, grabbed a cab and within twenty minutes of leaving Chichen Itza we were at the cenote.

After getting changed, we walked down an increasingly wet and slippery staircase until we reached the entrance to the bathing area. Here, the staircase opens out into a great vault, 80-odd feet in height, with a hole in the roof acting as a skylight. Youths were diving from a high shoulder of rock to our right into the pool.

Where we entered the cenote was in shadow, as was two-thirds of the bathing area. I’d like to say that we dived in, but we slowly lowered ourselves, rather tentatively into the water from the side steps. Even at its shallowest the cenote is 40 metres deep.

Then we swam across to where the light streamed in and where tendrils of vegetation hung down from the lip of the hole above us. In places there were waterfalls, and we were able to swim through them, feeling the heavy drops of water on our backs.

We were also cool and refreshed and away from the 35 degree heat of the day. It was lovely.

When we were finished bathing we walked from the cenote, back to the main road, and caught the next bus into Valladolid. Hardly hectic, but this was our busiest day in Valladolid.

Apart from this, we spent most of our time in Valladolid in or around the main square. There is a gallery above the ayuntamiento (city hall) with murals depicting scenes from the history of the city. The cathedral looks particularly pretty when lit up at night.

Further out of the centre, in the Sisal barrio is the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena. It is a pleasant walk from the centre along a bright, upmarket street, leading to the quite enormous church and a peaceful park outside it.

Our favourite restaurant while we were there was El Atrio del Mayab, a place on the main square that serves traditional Mayan Yucatecan dishes and has a garden with tables out the back, overlooked by the cathedral. It has a statue of a cheeky looking monk sitting in a water feature.

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