The misinterpretation of a Mayan inscription caused the entire world to speculate whether doomsday is upon us, whether the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012. The Mayans were phenomenal mathematicians, engineers and astronomers, so if they actually had predicted the end of the world as we know it, they probably would have been correct. However, they didn't predict doomsday, they simply stated that December 21, 2012 would be the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. It's more like checking the days off on a calendar, the Mayan long count calendar. Instead of the end of the year, it's the end of many years, 5,125 to be exact, and the beginning of another long count calendar.
Chichen Itza's pyramid is an engineering marvel — Photo courtesy of Sergio Kasusky Flickr
So now that we've gotten that straight, we know it's not time to prep, it's time to celebrate. Cancun, often only recognized for it's lively nightlife, is located in the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization's stomping grounds, so there are many places to celebrate the world's survival and the rich Mayan culture.
A cenote is a must-see in the Cancun area — Photo courtesy of vokeran7 Flickr
Xcaret, Cancun's eco-archaeological park, is holding a new era extravaganza. For the entire month of December Xcaret will hold special events in honor of what they're calling "the new beginning." Write messages of hope to Mayan gods on ribbons that will be hung from a Cieba tree, which the Mayans considered sacred. They have also created a special tour, Journey to a New Beginning, through their Paradise River and Tropical Jungle Trail. Xcaret's spectacular night show will feature a special act in commemoration of the Mayans. The Flight of Dreams is a ceremony that will commence with the release of over 100 colorful macaws. Sister park Xel-ha will also hold special events.
If you want to get a feel for what the Yucatan Peninsula was like when the Mayans were the only inhabitants, visit UNESCO World Heritage Site Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. This untouched, protected, 1.3 million acre area is home to Xlapak, a small archaeological site, rivers, lagoons, cenotes and 336 species of birds.
Climb the pyramid at Coba — Photo courtesy of Hugo Cadavez Flickr
Visiting an archaeological site is a great way to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar. At Chichen Itza, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, you will see the famous Kukulcan pyramid, a cenote that was used for human sacrifices, and a large ball court. If you're itching to climb a giant Mayan pyramid, head to Coba where you are still permitted to do so. Other options include Tulum, Uxmal, Ek Balam or El Rey, which is located right in Cancun's Hotel Zone. If you want to visit many sites, bus company ADO is offering a Mundo Maya-themed package, allowing guests to purchase a 3-, 7-, 14-, or 21-day “Maya Pass.” The Maya Pass is a flexible bus ticket that permits you to see as many Mayan ruins sites as you'd like during the validation period of your ticket.
It's not necessary to visit a ruins site or spend a lot of money to celebrate the new era. There is a brand new Mayan museum in the Hotel Zone, the Museo Maya de Cancun. This is a great place to learn about Mayan culture. The cover charge is around 5 USD. In Tulum, the Pyramid of Positive Thinking 2012 is a tribute to Mayan culture. Write a positive thought on a slip of paper, put it into a plastic bottle (thereby recycling it) and add the bottle to the metal frame shaped like a pyramid. The pyramid will be layered with soil and seeds and eventually all of the man-made materials will decompose leaving behind only positive thoughts and a 40 foot pyramid of foliage.
If you're staying in the Hotel Zone you don't need to travel far to learn about the Maya — Photo courtesy of Museo Maya de Cancun
In Puerto Morelos, just 20 minutes south of Cancun, you can find La Ruta de Cenotes (Cenote Row). You can explore these natural sinkholes, some on land owned by local families, that the Mayans considered sacred portals to the underworld. They are really refreshing on a hot day. Bring your snorkel or scuba gear, because the view below the surface is breathtaking.
Rosewood Mayakoba is featuring a 79,000 USD Mayan-themed vacation package — Photo courtesy of Rosewood Mayakoba Facebook Page
If you're looking for a first class way to commemorate the new era, the Rosewood Mayakoba Resort in the Riviera Maya is offering the 79,000 USD Ultimate New Beginning package which includes accommodations in the Presidential Oceanfront Suite, a private helicopter transport to Chichen Itza, visits to the ruins of Tulum and Coba and a private purification ceremony with a Mayan Shaman priest. They are also offering a more economical package for around 6,000 USD. The Viceroy Riviera has been holding Observatory Dinner Nights on the 21st of every month, which include a Mayan themed menu and observation of the night sky. Some resorts offer Temazcal sessions (Hacienda Tres Rios, Blue Diamond Resort) an ancient ritual which takes place in a room similar to a sauna but incorporates blessings and natural herbs.
If you want to party into the new era, the Day Zero festival with its 24 hours of music, performing arts, installations, spiritual teachings and artists will take place on December 20.
Celebrate the end of this astounding civilization's long count calendar in their ancient stomping grounds, aka Cancun.