Remember last December when the world was supposed to end? Ground Zero for Armageddon – which many feared would come on Dec. 21, the end of the Maya calendar – was expected to be out on eastern Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula at the famous Maya ruins at Chichen Itza. A whopping 53,000 visitors packed the ruins that day, up from around 5,000 on a normal day.
Sights at Chichen Itza on Dec. 21 ran from reverent (hundreds of priests gathered on one side of the largest pyramid to recite ancient prayers and wave smoke pots) to bizarre (crowds of aging hippies gathered on the opposite side of the pyramid singing Kum-bah-yah and smoking pot).
On the far side of the Yucatan on the Caribbean coast, hotels in Cancun and the Riviera Maya hyped all kinds of Maya-themed activities accenting everything from “purification, interconnectedness and sustainability” to “self-reflection, renewal and ascending to the highest truth.”
The hotels also put on extra vans for day-tours to Chichen Itza as well as to Tulum, Coba, Ek’ Balam and other big archaeological sites in the area
One hotel had a “Doomsday Promotion” offering guests staying several nights including Dec. 21 the last night free “if the world doesn’t end (that night).”
Those who stayed over indeed got a freebie for the 21st. That date simply marked the end of the last 5,125-year cycle of the Maya calendar and the start of a new one.
The Mexican tourism industry got another kind of freebie: All the hoop-la from what turned out to be a non-catastrophe generated millions of dollars worth of publicity for the Maya areas of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Chiapas, Campeche and Tabasco – states described as “our greatest archaeological wealth” by Mexico Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu.
A new train, she noted, is planned to run across the Yucatan Peninsula from Cancun to Merida on the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, stops will be made at Chichen Itza, the colonial city of Valladolid and possibly at other major tourism draws.
Among a number of upcoming archaeological tours, Maya Master Teacher Miguel Angel Vergara will lead a “spiritual tour” of Maya sites in Yucatan and Campeche. Called “Sacred Path: Promise of the Maya Prophecies,” the tour will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, 2013, during which Angel Vergara will “share the wisdom of the Maya, lead ceremonies and help group members connect with the powerful energies at the ancient sites.”
The tour will explore ruins at Oxkintok about 30 miles south of Merida, Balamku, Chicanna, Kalakmul, the caves of Xtacumbilxunaan, Uxmal and Labna. Also on the itinerary will be a two-day workshop on the beach at Campeche.
The tour is one of many global tour products scheduled by Sacred Earth Journeys.