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Will It Be End Times in 2012? Ask the Mayans in Guatemala

  • Cynthia Ord
  • 21 November 2011

According to the cosmic vision of the Mayans, the year 2012 marks a special point in time. Rather than recording the passage of the seasons in years and centuries, the Mayans use baktun as a long-count calendar cycle, where one baktun is equal to 394.52 years. And now, coming soon is December 21, 2012, the last day of the 13th baktun, a day on which many believe that something big is going to happen.

Will the world end? Probably not. This date is simply the end of a 5,125-year-long cycle on the Mayan calendar. While many people believe that its finish portends major astronomical phenomena, which have been largely misinterpreted and misunderstood as ‘end times’ prophesies, other new-age interpretations of the date herald it as the end of one spiritual era and the beginning of another – we will undergo a transformation, they say.

Gunyah Pyramids and Prophesies Guatemala - Tikal

The highest points of Tikal's pyramids rise above the surrounding rainforest canopy. Tikal is a Mayan must-see ruin in Guatemala. Photo courtesy of Journey Adventure

Rather than preparing for the apocalypse, though, why not plan a 2012 tour of the Mayan pyramids and prophesies in Guatemala? Explore the grand ruins of ancient Mayan civilisations. Meet a traditional living Mayan community of today and find out firsthand what they are thinking and doing as you take part in sacred rituals and ceremonies.

Visit Ancient Mayan Ruins of Tikal and Cancuen

On one such itinerary – an eight-day short break offered by Gunyah – the final visit is to Tikal, one of the most famous and visited ruins sites in the western hemisphere. Nothing short of resplendent, it is the archaeological site with the most restored pyramids in Guatemala. Its towering monuments and sprawling acropolis are some of the highest structures in the Americas from the Classic Period of 200 to 900 AD, when the Mayan civilisation was at its prime. Tikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Before reaching Tikal, there’s a chance to take in one of the lesser-known Mayan heritage sites like Cancuén. Cancuén has no pyramids to compete with Tikal; rather, its ancient inhabitants are believed to have lived in the woods and caves nearby, while the royalty lived in the palaces whose ruins are a highlight for visitors today. Cancuén is unique as an archaeological site because its local indigenous community remains intact. Through sustainable tourism initiatives like the Gunyah experience, local guides are working together with archaeologists to stay connected with their heritage and share it with visitors.

Gunyah Pyramids and Prophesies Guatemala - Mayan ceremony

At the heart of the Gunyah pyramids and prophesies tour is interaction with local Mayan people - a Q'eqchi community - to share their culture, traditions and even a ceremony or ritual. Photo courtesy of Journey Adventure

Experience Mayan Ceremonies and Legends Firsthand

Any pyramids-and-prophecies tour should take you directly into a local Mayan community, where you can interact with the people and participate in a traditional ritual. One day of the Gunyah experience is dedicated to sharing in a ceremony with the community. What ritual it will be depends on the time of the year; for example, it could be a ceremony in the dry season asking for rain.

The Maya people have ceremonies for almost all aspects of daily life. Carried down through the generations from ancient teachings, these ceremonies are sacred and it is rare that outsiders are allowed to participate. However, the community shares its unique ceremonies with travellers in order to explain their importance. This way, visitors can learn about Mayan beliefs. It’s a chance to ask questions!

Beyond the End Times Prophecies

If you plan a pyramids and prophecies tour to coincide exactly with December 21, 2012, in hopes of seeing the world implode from its Mayan epicentre, you may be disappointed. More than apocalyptic rumours and hype, the Gunyah short break is about experiences with real local Mayan people in Guatemala, the Q’eqchi. It’s a chance to coexist with them and take part in their living culture – their traditions, their ceremonies and their daily life. By sharing meals and stories, you can see directly how they apply their sacred calendar and cosmic vision of the world to their everyday lives.

Gunyah Pyramids and Prophesies Guatemala - Pasion River

Beyond the ancient Mayan ruins and local culture, the Gunyah pyramids and prophesies tour itinerary is full of magic moments in Guatemala's wild green outdoors. Photo courtesy of Journey Adventure

The Gunyah Pyramids and Prophecies experience is also a great way to make the most of eight days in Guatemala. In addition to the visits to two ancient ruins and interactions with a local community, the itinerary packs in highlights and surprises like special lodging in the colonial city of Antigua, a tubing trip through the Candelaria Caves and a boat tour down the Pasión River.

Looking for more local and authentic trips in Guatemala and all over the world? Gunyah short breaks combine the mind-blowing spontaneity of independent travel with the convenience of a package holiday vacation for people who want real experiences when they travel.

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Cynthia Ord

Cynthia Ord discovered the WHL Group while interning with the local partner Outdoor Albania for a summer. She is currently based in her hometown of Denver, Colorado, helping out with The Travel Word newsletter, and planning her next trip. On the side, she writes about the impacts of tourism for her blog, tourism, people and the earth.
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adventure travel, architecture & landmarks, Central America, ecotours, festivals & events, Guatemala, holy sites, indigenous culture, local knowledge, North America, world heritage,

5 Responses to “Will It Be End Times in 2012? Ask the Mayans in Guatemala”

  1. It’s always interesting to read about how man can sometimes read the Mayan predictions and interpret it in so many different ways, particularly at a time when spirituality may be taking new turns; with people seeking a greater meaning to their lives, and when the World is experiencing similar, momunmental changes in climate, rising sea levels etc.

    Linking in to the date of 21st December 2011, Friday’s in Boracay is holding a Dance Collective evening; indigenous folk dances from varying Philippine cultures, some of which have developed through time, reflecting changes in culture and celebrations linked to the seasons.

  2. awesome article Cynthia! you are officially invited to my end of the world party taking place in Antigua! it’s gonna be a-maya-zing!

  3. Kamran says:

    The Mayans were extraordinary at understanding the sun and moon cycles so many centuries ago… They could predict eclipses beforehand. If they could do that so long back without today’s technology…. Makes you wonder… They might be right about some sort of change. I just hope it’s the spiritual change rather than the apocalypse! Great article 🙂

  4. Unnerving title, but the Gunyah twist is creative.

  5. Luke Ford says:

    Great article Cynthia. I know where I will be spending my end of times…. Guatemala.

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