If you want to stand on the corner with a megaphone and say the world is coming to an end, 2012 might be the time to do it without looking quite so crazy.
A long time ago, the Maya astronomers devised a very accurate calendar that was superior to any other on the planet at that time. Chiseled into rock was a calendar that began in what we know as August 11, 3114 B.C. At the end of it was the date we know as December 21, 2012.
So many have interpreted that to mean the end of the world, as foreseen by this advanced civilization, is coming next year. “Hogwash” is the collective response from the Maya descendants and scholars who have studied the culture. It’s just simply the end of the long count calendar, the equivalent of December 31 on the one hanging on your wall. You toss out the old one and start over. It’s just that the Maya people sort of faded into the pueblos (and got killed off by smallpox from Europe) when their cities went into decline. No more astronomers keeping records, so no follow-up calendar.
Tourism bureaus know a good marketing hook when they see it though and this one is a gift from the gods. Some hotels around famous ruins are already sold out for the fateful time next December and all kinds of tourism companies are selling Maya Apocalypse tours. Where will you be when the world ends?
Hey, if it gets more people to visit some of these archaeological sites—especially the lesser-known ones—and prods people to learn more about what the Americas were like before Columbus landed, then I’m all for it. Besides, Honduras and Guatemala are both in The World’s Cheapest Destinations and Mexico is a bargain too, so visiting these places won’t set you back like going to Roman ruins or Stonehenge.
A great guide for the whole shebang is this new Maya 2012 book from Moon. It’s written by great guidebook author Joshua Berman and has lots of guest sidebars from other experts for specific places. A shade over 100 pages, it’s a nice little guide you can carry in a daypack without adding much weight and it’s short enough to read cover-to-cover as a trip planner to see what sounds the most interesting. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of background info on the calendar and the Maya people.
Broken down into sections on Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize, it maps out where all the sites are and give some info on what you will find there. Sure, it’s got Tikal, Chichen Itza, and Copan, but also those with few visitors like Bonampak, Ek Balaam, and Xunantunich (say that one fast five times).
Here’s the best part: in the U.S. this book is $7.99 paperback, $2.99 as an e-book. A steal!
Get more info at this Moon Maya 2012 page.