On December 21, 2012, the 5,125-year-long cycle of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, used by the ancient Mayans, will come to an end. What comes next? Some say the end of the world. Which means: Cue the party, stop paying the mortgage, and get out there and see someplace you’ve never been. But with so many places in the world to see, which one should you try to visit in the month we have left? Here are nine must-visit places perfect for waiting out the end of days.
If the world is going to end on December 21, why not have a front-row seat at the party? Mexicans and tourists alike will be living it up throughout the month of December — and there’s no better place for partying in Mexico than Cancun. Whether you want to drown out the countdown with tequila at Senor Frog’s
, commune with the dolphins at Xcarat or get to know the Mayans and their beliefs at one of the nearby Mayan ruins in the area, there’s a little something for everyone.
Looking for something more subdued? Head to southeast Ireland. The towering Rock of Cashel
dominates the skyline and tourists’ attention, but nearby Hore Abbey is equally beguiling. The crumbling 13th-century ruin sits idle on farm land, entertaining dairy cows and the occasional wanderer. If you’re looking for a peaceful pasture to absorb the world’s end, this is it.
Underwater Sculpture Garden, Grenada
It’s otherworldly, a bit spooky and quite extraordinary. Think of an underwater version of Pompeii’s ash-encrusted population frozen in time and you can understand why some people feel the sculptures, located beneath Moilinere Bay, give you a glimpse into your own mortality. From a man sitting at his desk, hands hovering over a typewriter, to the ring of seaweed-covered children staring blankly out as scuba divers float by, there is nothing else quite like it.
The end of things doesn’t have to be a solemn affair. In the small Romanian town of Sapanta villagers have learned to maintain a sense of humor in the face of death, as the brightly colored and often amusing tombstones in the central cemetery attest to. Consider this limerick found on one of the many bright blue crosses: “Ioan Toaderu loved horses. One more thing he loved very much. To sit at a table in a bar. Next to someone else’s wife.” Now there’s a town to toast the end of the world in.
Actun Tunichil Muknal, Belize
The Mayans in Belize viewed caves as spiritual sites, as they were thought to be portals to the Underworld. Visitors to the caves will find the skeletal (some human!) and pottery remnants of sacrifices offered by religious leaders to their gods. Don’t want to just sit out the dying of the light? Try the popular Actun Tunichil Muknal cave tour, during which you don a hard hat and headlight while hiking, swimming and wading your way to an interior cavern featuring full human skeletons like the Crystal Maiden
, whose calcified remains sparkle in the light.
Australia, All of It
If the world’s going to end anyway, you might as well blow a year’s pay to visit a top bucket list destination. And what better spot than Australia, which is not only one of the world’s most beautiful countries with its metropolitan cities and funky wildlife, but may also be the place where life on earth (in the form of microbes) started. In fact, stromatolites, the world’s oldest organisms, can still be found growing in Hamelin Pool on the western coast of Australia. It’s also a great place to be at 11:59 p.m. on December 21, as you’ll be one of the first to know if there’s going to be a December 22.
There’s just something weirdly amusing about being able to send your mom a postcard from Hell. The improbably named site got its moniker after a long-ago visitor commented that the landscape, comprised of hundreds of curious-looking small black and gray limestone formations, is what hell must look like. After a quick peek from a viewing platform, head on over to the gift shop where “Satan” will ask you, “How the hell are you?” and “Where the hell are you from?” It’s kitschy to be sure, but who can’t use a little kitsch when the world is about to end?
Great Wall, China
Feeling some end-of-the-world anxiety? A trip to see the monumental Great Wall of China
could just alleviate some of that fear, as any species that can create such an awe-inspiring undertaking must surely know how to survive the end of the world!
Keukenhof, Lisse, Netherlands
Let’s hope the world doesn’t end on December 21 if for no other reason than never getting to see Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe. The garden, which is closed between October and March, is the rest of the year awash in some seven million brilliantly colored flowers, as well as serene winding paths. It’s the ideal, cheerful place to relax and celebrate the survival of humankind.
P.S. all images have been sourced from google