A quiet, joyful Christmas in Valladolid

Akash Ghai
5 min readDec 26, 2020

Making most of the holiday in a 16th-century colonial town in eastern Mexico

My idea of Christmas, or any other holiday is never to to wake up with a bad hangover. Having to wake up with heat exhaustion is bad enough, but its best to pause in moments like these, take a good rest and flow with the day

Map showing Valladolid, a town famous for its colonial past dating to 16th century

Valladolid, pronounced “buy-ah-doh-leed”, is a small town between Cancun and Merida. It’s a quaint little town with a rich colonial past, most notably for being named after the 17th century capital of Spain and a being battleground for Mayan uprisings against Spanish rule.

Many tourists pass through the town on their way to the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, and the buildings still hold their old-world charm.

Colonial style buildings including the Catedral de San Servasio, destroyed and rebuilt in the 18th century

Settling In

Like I’d been doing for most of my trip in Mexico, I rented a bicycle to get around town. Little did I know, I would get access to a professional mountain bike to navigate paved roads in Valladolid.

Pot holes are a little more bearable with the front suspension

It was quite hot on my first day, so I explored the Colonos neighborhood, changed the light bulbs of my hut from white to yellow and bought some cucumbers from a local shop for a quick snack.

There’s not a lot to do in small towns for a tourist besides sightseeing, eating and relaxing. It is a welcome break from city life, where we build a whole agenda of tasks that make us feel busy, and productive.

However, I wanted to find something to do during breaks and I started hunting for something to paint on. I did find a plastic hubcap for a car wheel on the street but it served only as a palette to mix the acrylic paint.

While rummaging through construction debris on my Airbnb’s terrace, I found an old satellite dish that served as a great canvas, it would be a nice gift for my host Josué, I thought. Hopefully, he has no use for the old dish.

Still a work in progress, exploring ways to up-cycle the satellite dish

Afternoon Stroll

I took the afternoon to explore some sites around town, most of the famous Cenotés (underground water caves) were closed for the holiday, but there were other quirky, small town things to enjoy.

I grabbed a quick meal of fresh orange juice and a baguette with ham, cheese and pickled vegetables from the food court in the center of town. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, everything was shut on Christmas morning and it truly felt like a ghost town. Empty streets made for a great bike ride.

A nearly empty food court (left), limo owned by a local restaurant near the center of town

I felt a sense of peace in Valladolid, away from the bustling tourists hubs along the coast and felt somewhat at home in this quaint little town. Most people I interacted with weren’t trying to sell me something I didn’t need, and their smiles were welcoming, with a feeling of friendly curiosity

Enjoying the little things

There’s nothing more I love more than street food, so I went about the center of town hoping to enjoy the end of my day with some local flavors and offerings. Before coming to Mexico, I had always seen pictures of US-Mexican border towns selling Dorilocos, a street food made with a packet of Doritos flavored with sauces, corn, onions, cheese and anything else local to the region it was being sold in. I was absolutely thrilled to find an offshoot called Tostilocos, the same goodness made with a bag of Tostitos tortilla chips.

Tostilocos, trademark pending

If I mention I ate Tostilocos to my sister, who takes pride in making wholesome meals, she would disapprove in an instant. Sometimes you just gotta eat what you love.

As I got to the center of town, I smelled a sweet aroma of churros, a dough pastry dipped in caramel or sugar. I found that the vendor was selling something completely different, it was more like a thin burrito made with a sheet of ice cream cone and milk maid. It was delicious and I have no regrets.

Here’s to a Merry Christmas

A snapshot of Valladolid, Mexico