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.

Santa Elena Yucatan

Name of Saint Helena

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

Santa Elena Yucatan
Paeando for Santa Elena

His pre-Hispanic name was Noh Cacab (great villa in Castilian), to be changed by that of Villa Carlota in 1865 by Maximiliano. Why the change? It was due to the founding of an agricultural colony with 228 emigrant Germans, which despite having a lot of hype was not very successful, but that's how the name stayed. Carlota, Maximiliano's wife, apparently stayed during the months that the Germans arrived at the Hacienda de Mucuyché, near Santa Elena. During the Caste War, the town, of strong Mayan resistance, was burned and the Mayans called it Ele-Na (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 in 1841 John Lloyd Stephens, one of the most notorious explorers of the Mayan civilization, settled to explore and document the settlements of the Ruta Puuc. Along with the sheets of Frederick Catherwood, the work of these adventurers are cult in the Mayan world. Villagers know little about these stories, some reference can be seen by the people 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 one of the 12 coffins that were found buried on the floor of the San Mateo church in 1980. All of them were infants, some partially mummified. Santa Elena The museum proudly displays that since 2001 it preserves some of these coffins and many legends and stories to listen to.

mummies santa elena yucatan
Mummies found in Santa Elena
Santa Elena, the Yucatecan calm 1
mummies museum santa elena yucatan
Museum about Mayan culture

Church of San Mateo, Santa Elena

The church of San Mateo de Santa Elena It crowns the square from what was the base of a pre-Hispanic settlement. The Franciscan church dates from 1779, very late with respect to the first ones founded on the 1550. Although in Noh Cacab an encomienda was established around 1627 with a mixed population of Spaniards, Creoles, mestizos and mulattos.

They usually close 13 to 16 hours the temple

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

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

Where to sleep in Santa Elena

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

Santa Elena It is a small town, you can move without problems. The hotels are concentrated in the same area near the highway that passes through the town on the Ruta Puuc route. For a small town the offer is very good, in fact the 4 accommodations that I recommend are very good. I didn't think twice about staying here.

THE FLYCATCHER INN BOUTIQUE HOTEL: one of the classics in Santa Elena, the owners are foreigners, they have been here for many years. I loved the place, we spent Easter staying here, the enthusiasm and affection are noticeable, highly recommended LOCATION: 10 minutes from downtown on foot, well located on the road. HOTEL DESCRIPTION: comfortable and clean rooms with private bathroom, air conditioning, fan. Local decoration. SERVICES: WIFI, patio with pool and large gardens. There is a path where you can take a good walk and see ruined Mayans, they have a land of 1 hectare. BEST: excellent value for money 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 has been here for more than 10 years. LOCATION: 10 minutes from downtown on foot, well located. HOSTEL DESCRIPTION: Locally decorated Mayan style cabins. 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 attention of the owner, she likes to be a host PERSONAL OPINION: good value for money and its excellent restaurant. Although I stay 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 run by a Mexican couple. I have stayed here several times, I really like the place. LOCATION: 15 minutes from the center on foot, located at the exit of Santa Elena. HOSTEL DESCRIPTION: Mayan-style cabins, rooms with private bathroom SERVICES: WIFI, patio with pool and breakfast included THE BEST: excellent value for money, the kindness of the owners. PERSONAL OPINION: it is somewhat less in quality than the others, but precisely more economical. More than enough as 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 in, it has been recommended to me by friends. LOCATION: 10 minutes from downtown on foot, well located. HOSTEL DESCRIPTION: spacious rooms with private bathroom and fan SERVICES: WIFI in common areas, patio with pool and common kitchen. THE BEST: excellent value for money. 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, the Yucatecan calm 2

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, LoltúnHaciendas, 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.

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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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