15th Dec 2012 10:28am | By Andrew Westbrook
Imagine the party if New Year’s Eve came around once every 5000 years.
Now consider how wild it would be if the revellers also believed the event marked the end of the world.
Well, that’s exactly what’s about to happen across the Mayan region of Central America on December 21.
Whether or not we’re still here on December 22, expect parades, parties and giant clocks in the towns of south-eastern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador throughout the month.
However, it will be the pyramids, not the towns, where the action takes place.
Shamans will be seen offering up animal sacrifices to the sky with bloody jade daggers in their hands, almost like a scene out of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, as guardians of the old traditions congregate.
This is because of the Mayan’s hugely complex calendar system made up of different sized cycles in which the universe and mankind move as one.
The shortest cycle is 13 days and the longest is 5125 years – the current long cycle began in 3113 BC and soon ends.
Doomsday theorists have latched on to the date, pointing to 1300-year-old inscriptions naming this year as “the end”.
One of the best places to witness the moment of truth is Tikal. Hidden deep in the northern Guatemala jungle, the tips of its pyramids rise above the forest canopy.
It’s hard to imagine a better setting for an Indiana Jones movie, but George Lucas beat his buddy Spielberg to it and used the World Heritage-listed city as a location for the original Star Wars (when it doubled for the fourth moon of Yavin FYI).
It remains arguably the most exciting of the Mayan sites to visit.
Howler and spider monkeys abound, while in every direction lies hints of what is yet to be discovered, as only a tiny fraction of the thousands of buildings have been excavated.
Dominating the site are the six main pyramids, including the tallest of all surviving pre-Columbian structures, with the 8th century built Temple 4, standing 70m tall.
One of the last Mayan cities to be built, Tulum is the place to welcome the Apocalypse from the comfort of some of the planet’s finest beaches.
The ruins themselves might be underwhelming, but Tulum is all about the location.
Originally known as the City of Dawn, Tulum looks out over the sapphire blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, just a few hours south of the red-eyed party towns Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
The Mediterranean coast and Balearic Islands boast glistening waters, sun-bleached cliffs, ancient... Find out more
Paris - or the City of Lights as it is known - has a reputation for being one of the most romantic... Find out more
It's widely believed that a change is just as good as a rest and can, in fact, be as refreshing... Find out more
Tucked away at the bottom of India and surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the island of Sri Lanka is a... Find out more
The Mediterranean coast and Balearic Islands boast glistening waters, sun-bleached cliffs, ancient...
The marvels of the ancient world await and the beaches sizzle in this magical country that’s...
Iceland is a veritable mix of geological activity, combining an otherworldly backdrop with a strong...
Home to all-action adventures, Hollywood good looks and a vibrant Maori culture, New Zealand is a...
Cosmopolitan and historic Panama City, currently celebrating its iconic canal’s centenary year, is...
Paris - or the City of Lights as it is known - has a reputation for being one of the most romantic...
It turns out the best of this city is subterranean. We go beneath the surface to discover its...
Prague's cobbled streets, towering castle, atmospheric bridges and well-preserved Jewish...
The UK has a broad and diverse array of cities, scenery and things to do - so make the most of it.
Destination: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tucked away at the bottom of India and surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the island of Sri Lanka is a...
Spell-binding scenery, hip-shaking beats, sultry summer sun and endless partying on the beach –...
North Africa has some of the most exciting and exotic cultures and landscapes in the world.
As roads go, it's legendary.
I’m about to embark on a rollercoaster of star-studded hotels, canyon camping and melodramatic...