Party Like It's 2012 - Mayan Calendar Hits Reset Button
This year marks an event some 5,000 years in the making, and it’s happening virtually next door. The ancient Mayan calendar hits the re-set button, completing the cycle known as the “Long Count.” While doomsday aficionados and films such as “2012” have conjured up apocalyptic scenarios for the Mayan calendar, the Maya themselves prophesied no such thing. Rather, they foretold 2012 as the close of an era that began in approximately 3,000 B.C.E., and the shift to another.
Think of it as a new age for the New World. The winter solstice date of December 21, 2012 holds a prime spot on the Mayan calendar countdown, but the summer solstice, spring and fall equinoxes carry special significance as well, say experts. If an indigenous era-changing harmonic convergence appeals to you, now’s the time to make travel plans. Festivals, celebrations and ceremonies are taking shape throughout the “Mundo Maya,” or Mayan world. Where’s that, you say? Mexico, for one. Our neighbor to the south boasts spectacular Mayan ruins, such as Chichén-Itzá in the Yucatan. But, lesser-known destinations in four Mexican states besides Yucatan (Campeche, Chiapas, Tabasco and Quintana Roo) are enticing visitors as well.
In addition to Mexico, four other countries boasting Mayan lineage plan special events throughout 2012: Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. The five countries came together in 1992 to form the Mundo Maya Organization, designating a 125,000 square-mile zone as the official “Mundo Maya” for purposes of 2012 observances. Infrastructure improvements and the lessening of travel restrictions between the countries makes a multi-country Mundo Maya tour more attractive than ever. Several specialty tour operators in the U.S. have created a range of Mayan-themed programs, many featuring expert lecturers and exclusive access to sites not generally open to the public. With new museums dedicated to the Mayan culture; hundreds of national parks and archaeological zones plus no less than 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, exploring the Mundo Maya might take up the whole year.