After spending March 17th lolling about at the resort (a good way to spend time, by the way), we rented a car and headed to Valladolid for the day. Valladolid is a thriving market town located about 150 km west of Cancun.  Getting there is easy, via the modern 4 lane toll highway that connects Cancun to Merida.

Valladolid is located on the site of the precolumbian Mayan town of Zaci. The town has three cenotes – Dzitnup, Samna, and Zaci. Cenotes are fresh water "sink holes" created when the ceiling of an underground river collapses, and exposes the water to the outside world. The water in a cenote is fresh, and pure (divers report visibility of up to 400′!).  The Yucatan peninsula is dotted with them, and they are the primary source of fresh water since there is no surface water on the Yucatan.

 

After eating lunch in the central square of Valladolid, we visited Cenote Dzitnup, which was spectacular. A short climb down stone steps leads into the main cavern with huge stalactites and stalagmites, and a spectacular central pool. Concrete bleacher style seats have been constructed on one side, and several sets of concrete steps have been created to make it easy to get into the water for a swim. In addition, electric lighting has been added throughout in order to make it easy to see in and around the cavern. We swam and snorkelled in the water. Local children also climbed one of the large stalactites and jumped into the water from it.

If you go to Cenote Dzitnup, avoid the hideous little zoo they’ve set up behind the bathrooms. Aside from the inhumane conditions which the animals have to live in, one of my children was bitten by a tick which presumably came from one of the animals.

We also checked out the Museo San Rocque, which is a converted church that provides a history of the area. Although it’s all signed in spanish, we were able to learn about the pre-columbian history of Valladolid, the various wars between the Maya and the Spanish, industry, and the history of pirates on Cozumel.

We finished our trip to Valladolid with visits to the main Catedral de San Gervasio in the square, and the Templo de San Bernardino and Convento de Sisal a little out of town. Both are excellent examples of colonial spanish churches – big, imposing buildings that doubled as fortresses. San Bernardino was constructed in the 1500′s as both a convent and a fortress, with huge stone walls, and completely self sufficient with water and food inside the walls.