Santa Elena is one of the towns that form the most populated region of the Yucatan Peninsula, south of Merida. The pre-Hispanic vestiges and the colonizing footprint weave the canvas of this area of ​​Yucatan.

For me Santa Elena It is the perfect base camp to get to know this magnificent area of ​​Yucatan where you can savor the quiet daily life, visit churches, haciendas, archaeological sites, museums, cenotes, learn stories, wander through everyday flavors.

You are at the core of the Yucatan Peninsula, next to the Puuc Route and in the Route of the Convents.

In this small and quiet Mayan village of Santa Elena You find several lodgings, some run by foreigners who settled down to live here. This allows you to enjoy with comfort one of the most authentic villages of Yucatan, in the heart of the Mayan land.


Name of Saint Helena

The first thing that catches the attention of Santa Elena It is his name. The villages in the Yucatan Peninsula they usually keep their Mayan name except for cases such as Mérida or Valladolid, the populations most developed by the settler. So find a Santa Elena between towns like Telchanillo, Sabacché, Oxkutzcab, Tecoh, Ticul, Acanceh, Kantunil, surprises.

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Paeando for Santa Elena

His prehispanic name was Noh Cacab (great villa in Spanish), to be changed by the Villa Carlota in 1865 by Maximiliano. Why the change? It was due to the foundation of an agricultural colony with 228 German emigrants, that despite having a lot of hype was not very successful, but that's how the name stayed. Carlota, Maximiliano's wife, apparently stayed in the months that the Germans arrived at the Hacienda de Mucuyché, close to Santa Elena. During the War of Castes, the town, of strong Mayan resistance, was burned and the Mayans called it Elena (burned houses in Spanish).

This revolutionary name lasted only a short time, until the imposition of the St. in front, and thus remained, Spanishized and blurred his rebel force.


Nohcacab, to add more charm to the population, was where 1841 was installed John Lloyd Stephens, of the most notorious explorers of the Mayan civilization, to explore and document the settlements of la Puuc Route. Next to the sheets of Frederick Catherwood, The work of these adventurers are of cult in the Mayan world. On these stories the villagers know little, some reference can be seen by the village of the German settlers in the times of Villa Carlota.

The mummies of Santa Elena

What they do know and love to explain about it is the 12 coffins who were buried in the floor of the church of San Mateo in 1980. All of infants, some partially mummified. Santa Elena proudly shows the museum that from 2001 preserves some of these coffins and many legends and stories to listen to.

Mummies found in Santa Elena
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Museum about Mayan culture

Church of San Mateo, Santa Elena

La church of San Mateo Santa Elena crown the square from what was the base of a prehispanic settlement. The Franciscan church dates from 1779, very late compared to the first founded on the 1550. Although Noh Cacab an encomienda was established towards 1627 with a mixed population of Spaniards, creoles, mestizos and mulatos.

They usually close 13 to 16 hours the temple

From the ringing of the bells the rhythm of life in Santa Elena. Before picking up you can walk through the town, go to the square and play a pool or eat where Mirna. If you are a quiet traveler, here is your town in Yucatan. You will like this little gem, I find it hard to choose another nice place when I travel to Yucatan.

In La Central, by Mrs. Mirna
In La Central, by Mrs. Mirna
Manufacturer of guayaberas, Santa Elena

Where to sleep in Santa Elena

Santa Elena is one of my favorite places in Yucatan, a classic base camp to know this area, with little tourism, very nice accommodations, good food and the calm of being in a small town. Most of the accommodations are foreigners installed in Santa Elena, a mythical place from the early explorers of the Mayan civilization.

Santa Elena is a small town, you can move around without problems. The hotels are concentrated in the same area close to the road that passes through the village on the way to the Puuc Route. For a small town the offer is very good, in fact the 4 accommodations are very good that I recommend. I did not think twice about staying here.

THE FLYCATCHER INN BOUTIQUE HOTEL: of the classics in Santa Elena, the owners are foreigners, they have been here for many years. I loved the place, we spent a Holy Week staying here, you feel the desire and love, highly recommended LOCATION: to 10 minutes from downtown walking, well located on the road. HOTEL DESCRIPTION: hcomfortable and clean rooms with private bathroom, air conditioning, fan. Local decorationSERVICES: WIFI, patio with pool and large gardens. There is a path where you can go for a walk and see Mayan ruins, they have a plot of 1 hectare. THE BEST: Great value for the price PERSONAL OPINION: great value for money, I really liked this hotel, highly recommended

BOOK here and see the photos and opinions of other travelers at the Flycatcher Inn Boutique hotel

THE PICKLED ONION ECO-BOUTIQUE: a great classic in Santa Elena, the owner takes more than 10 years here. LOCATION: to 10 minutes from downtown walking, well located. HOSTAL DESCRIPTION: Mayan style cabins decorated locally. Rooms with private bathroom and fan SERVICES: WIFI in common areas, patio with pool. Breakfast included, great breakfast THE BEST: excellent value for money and the care of the owner, likes to host PERSONAL OPINION: good value for money and its excellent restaurant. Although I stayed in another, I dine here.

BOOK here and see the photos and opinions of other travelers at the Pickled Onion

SACBE INN: It was owned by foreigners until a few years ago it was administered by a Mexican couple. I have stayed here several times, I really like the place LOCATION: to 15 minutes from the center walking, located at the exit of Santa Elena. HOSTAL DESCRIPTION: Mayan-style cabins, rooms with private bathrooms SERVICES: WIFI, patio with pool and breakfast included The best: excellent value for money, friendliness of the owners. PERSONAL OPINION: it is somewhat less in quality than the others, but just cheaper. More than enough accommodation, it has a lot of charm.

BOOK here and see the photos and opinions of other travelers at the Sacbe Inn

ECO-HOTEL NUEVA ALTIA: the newest of all, the only one I have not stayed, I have recommended friends LOCATION: to 10 minutes from downtown walking, well located. HOSTAL DESCRIPTION: spacious rooms with private bathroom and fan SERVICES: WIFI in common areas, patio with pool and common kitchen. The best: Great value for the price. PERSONAL OPINION: good staff and good beds.

BOOK here and see the photos and opinions of other travelers at the Eco-Hotel Nueva Altia

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Santa Elena, towns

LOCATION: Santa Elena is located at 159 km south of Mérida on the federal highway 261 Mérida-Campeche (via Uxmal)
HOW TO GET IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? Collective transport departs from Mérida, 69 street between 68 and 70 (1'30 »).
WHAT MORE TO DO IN THE AREA? st. Helen is in the Route of the Convents, that you can combine it with the Puuc Route, Mayapan, Loltún, Haciendas, Oxkintok and cenotes of the area like those of Cuzamá, X-Batún, Kankirische, those of Telchanillo, Tecoh, Sabacché... There is infinity in the area. The Hacienda Yaxcopoil it's close to you.
READING: The mummies of the church of Santa Elena, Yucatan. From Lourdes Marquez Mortín, Norberto González Crespo.

Good way,

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Sandra Salvadó Training photographer, traveler by vocation and certified tourism guide by the Government of Mexico. We promote natural wonders and contemporary Mayan culture. Great fan of pre-Hispanic history. Author of the blog and co-founder of The Shortest Path Travel, agency that guides you through alternative paths in Mayan lands. Social and sustainable tourism in the Yucatan Peninsula and Chiapas.
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