By Angela Dollar, Travel with a Purpose
The allure and mystery of the Maya, an ancient civilization whose descendants continue to inhabit southeast Mexico, will be a special draw for tourists this year. The ancient Mayan Long Count Calendar is said to mark December 21, 2012 as the end of an era, which many interpret as an “end of the world” prediction.
The creators of that calendar are long gone, but ruins of their once-mighty empire still remain. Travelers will explore fascinating ruins from the ancient Mayan civilization throughout the Mexican regions of Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Tabasco and Campeche.
Several of the Dreams properties are situated in the heart of the Mayan world. Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa is located only 5 short minutes from the inspirational beachfront archaeological site.-the only beachfront ruins. Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa, Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa, and Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa all provide excellent launching pads for travelers planning their own exploration of this fascinating culture and region. Dreams Cancun even has a Mayan ruin site on property!
Visitors to the infamous Chichen Itza archaeological site, a perennial favorite hosting an average of 4,000 people a day, will enhance their experience with the new Palace of Maya Civilization, opening just a few miles away from the site. Chichen Itza is thought to be one of the largest Mayan cities, and it contains an excellent array of architectural elements indicative of the ancient Mayans, including ball courts, temples and cenotes (naturally occurring freshwater sinkholes).
Among the most beautiful of Mayan sites, the ruins of the walled city of Tulum stand sentinel on a breathtaking ocean cliff along the Riviera Maya. This site served as an important trading port for the Maya, and is filled with frescos and stucco figures portraying the deities thought to have protected this seaside fortress. The magnificent coastal setting allows visitors to take a cooling dip in the surf after their archeological explorations.
Though their original empire crumbled, the Maya people themselves did not disappear. 2012 will be a year to highlight Mayan culture and travelers in the region will have the opportunity to witness ceremonies, visit indigenous villages and immerse themselves in the cultural traditions that live on today.
The thriving Yucatan capital city of Merida was built by Spanish conquistadors atop the ancient site of the Mayan city of T’ho. Original carved Mayan stones were used as their building blocks, and can still be seen today in places such as the walls of the city’s main cathedral. Merida is honoring its Mayan heritage with the opening of the Museo del Mundo Maya in June, which aims to showcase not just the ancient world but also celebrate the active, thriving Mayan culture of today.
Community-based tourism will also bring travelers into the homes and villages of today’s Mayan people for a firsthand taste of their culture. Activities range from hands-on cooking classes, learning local crafts such as hammock making, and lending a hand on community education and building projects, providing great opportunities for travelers to make a personal connection with the Maya of today.
Angela Dollar is in love with the world and all its cultures and landscapes, and is passionate about sustainable travel’s ability to preserve and protect them. Read more of her writing on the Travel with a Purpose blog at Wanderlust and Lipstick.