Holidays at the end of the world

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

A year from today the Mayan calendar runs out. But don't panic – it represents the start of a new age, and there are tons of places to celebrate

What's the attraction?

It was the end of an era, rather than the end of the world, which was forecast on a stone discovered at the Mayan site of Tortuguero in Mexico's southern state of Tabasco. Whatever lies in wait, 2012 will be a good year to visit the monuments left by the Mayan civilisation. New museums are opening, ruined cities and sites are being restored and celebrations are taking place in the five countries whose territory was home to the Mayans. Also, from 12 June, it will be easier to get to Cancún, the main gateway, as Virgin Atlantic starts competing directly against BA from Gatwick.

City by the Sea

Mexico's Caribbean coast, dubbed the Mayan Riviera, actually has few important remains, since the Mayans were predominantly an inland culture. An exception is the beautifully restored cliff-top site of Tulum. Design Hotels has just opened a pop-up hotel, Papaya Playa, nearby (papayaplayaproject.com). Open until 5 May, it has rooms from US$80 (£52). Journey Latin America (020 3432 1505; journeylatinamer|ica.co.uk) has a nine-day 'Mayan Cities and Caribbean Coast' trip, costing from £820 per person, excluding international flights.

 

The Mayan World

The Mayan civilisation, which lasted from around 2000BC to 250AD, spread through Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and five states in the south of Mexico. Exodus (020 8772 3936; exodus.co.uk) offers a 16-day group trip, 'La Ruta Maya', which provides an introduction to the great civilisation. Starting and finishing in Guatemala City, it takes in sites including Tikal in Guatemala and the Mexican trio of Palenque, Uxmal and Chichen Itza. The cost, from £2,399 per person, includes flights and accommodation with breakfast; the next departure is on 18 February.

 

Pyramid scheme

The star of the Mayan show is Chichen Itza - a Unesco World Heritage Site, and also by far the most visited and commercialised |location. There's much academic debate as to when exactly Mexico's Chichen Itza was built and whether or not it was the product of a fused culture of the Mayans and the Toltecs, who succeeded them. In any case, there's much to marvel at, including the great pyramid of El Castillo and a huge ball court, where losing a game may have led to the loss of players' heads. Open 8am-5.30pm daily; admission 166 pesos (£7.70).

 

Deep in the jungle

El Mirador is a remote site in Guatemala'’s northern Petén jungle, whose main pyramid, La Danta, is a massive 18-storey, 2,000-year-old skyscraper. Getting there requires a two-day trek on foot or by mule from the nearest settlement at Carmelita. Most guided trips to El Mirador start from the more accessible town of Flores. At the Hostal Los Amigos (00 502 7867 5075; amigoshostel.com) you can book a five-day all-inclusive trip for two, for US$420 (£271) per person. The lazy alternative is a day trip for $560 (£362) by helicopter, also from Flores (00 502 2367 2837; miradorpark.com).

 

The modern Mayan world

Six million Mayan-speaking people still inhabit the region. You can get a flavour of their way of life with a home stay in Belize's southern Toledo district. Stay in a thatched guest house, venture into the jungle to discover medicinal plants and enjoy local music and food; a Mayan dish not to miss is cochinita pibil - pork, marinated in orange juice and spices, slow-roasted in the earth or a clay oven. The package, which costs from B$85 (£28) per night, full board, is organised by the co-operative TEA (00 501 702 2119; teabelize.org).

 

New Year celebrations

Mexico is planning a number of projects for 2012, including two major new Mayan museums, one in Yaxcabá, and another in Mérida which will have 750,000 exhibits and is scheduled to open in June (020 7488 9392; visitmexico.com). On the big day itself, a year from now, the elegant and beautiful site of Copán in Honduras - the southernmost major Mayan site - promises celebrations, with traditional ceremonies and activities. Audley Travel (01993 838 638; audleytravel.com) includes Copán in a 14-day tailor-made trip to the region, starting at £2,410 per person, including flights.

 

Who said that?

"It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine." - R.E.M.

"Imagine a New Year's party that comes around only once every 52,000 years, and you'll get an idea of what this means to those of us living in the Maya heartland." - Dr Jaime Awe, director of Belize’s Institute of Archaeology

"A great civilisation is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - author and historian Will Durant

 

Insider information

"A holiday to Mexico's Yucatán peninsula will bring to life the ancient civilisation of the Mayans. Sites replete with temples and pyramids festooned with sacred carvings were swallowed up by jungle but are now gradually being revealed. The best-known sites, Chichen Itza, Uxmal and Tulum, are easily accessible from Mérida and have been fully excavated."

Laura Rendell-Dunn, marketing executive, Journey Latin America.

 

Where to stay

In Mexico, doubles at Hacienda Uxmal (00 52 998 887 2495; mayaland.com) start at US$117 (£76), room only. Casa del Balam (00 52 999 924 8844; casadelbalam.com) in Mérida has doubles from $118 (£76), B&B. Maison Tulum (00 52 984 871 2643; maisontulum.com) has doubles from $60 (£39), B&B.

In Honduras, Yat B'alam (00 504 265 14338; yatbalam.com) has doubles from $87 (£56), B&B. Doubles at the Lodge (00 501 732 4444; thelodgeatbigfalls.com) in Belize start from $202 (£130), B&B. Doubles at Coppola Resorts (coppolaresorts.com) in Guatemala and Belize start at around US$255 (£165), B&B.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea