Maya mask
The Mayan calendar ends on 21 December leaving many believing the world will end (Wiki Commons)

Although speculations continue to grow if the world would end based on a Mayan calendar prediction as Dec 21, 2012 fast approaches, the feared apocalypse appears dimmer as scientists, the church and even Mayan descendants debunked the belief.

Rather than hoard candles and other basic commodities or hie off to Bugarach in France or other mystic locations believed to be Armageddon-safe and pay overpriced room rates, El Camino VolunTours founder Chris Buckshaw recommended to Associated Press several Mayan civilisation ruins to gain a better understanding of the Malayan culture.

Here are at least five sites for people who do not believe in Apocalypse scenarios and wish to join Mayan descendants in their first New Year's Eve celebration in 5,000 years as part of the cultures's Long Count Calendar system.

1.     Ixmche, former capital of the K'acchikel empire in the Guatemalan highlands.

The place served as the capital of the Late Postclassic Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 until it was abandoned in 1524. Among the architectural relics still in existence are pyramid-temples, palaces and two Mesoamerican ballcourts.

Among the items discovered by excavators are poorly preserved remains of painted murals on some of the buildings and enough evidence of human sacrifice. The site was declared in the 1960s a Guatemalan National Monument. The place served in 1980 as the meeting place between Mayan leader and guerillas and led to the Declaration of Iximche which vowed to defend indigenous rights.

Iximche is 3 kilometres south of Tecpan and 90 kilometres west of Guatemala City. Then U.S. President George Bush visited the site in March 2007.

Mr Buckshaw disclosed that voluntourists would help construct on the third week of December a community for orphaned and abandoned children with Project Somos, based in Vancouver, Canada.


        

2.     Chichen Itza - is a large pre-Columbian City located in the municipality of Tinum, Yucatan, Mexico. It was a major focal point in the northern Maya lowlands from the Late Classic through the Terminal Classsic and into the early portion of the Early Postclassic period.

It features various architectural styles seen in Central Mexico and the Puuc and Chenes styles of the northern Maya lowlands. These ruins are federal property, hence it is maintained by the country's Instituto Nacional de Antropologica e Historia by virtue of its purchase by Yucatan from private owners in March 2010.

Around 1.2 million tourists visit Chichen Itza every year. Among the places not to miss here are El Castillo or the Temple of Kulkulkan which has 365 steps to represent each day of the year, which is an indicator of the importance that Mayans give to the calendar.


3.     Caracol - is a large ancient Maya archeological site in Belize, about 40 kilometres south of Xunantunich. It is in Belize's Cayo District.

It was the site of one of the most important regional political centres of the Maya Lowlands during the Classic Period. The place has 53 carved stone monuments, over 250 burials and 200 caches.


4.     Copan - was the capital city of a major Classic period located in western Honduras, near its border with Guatemala.

Copan is best known for its serried of portrait stelae, placed along processional ways in the city's central plaza and the adjoining acropolis, a large complex known for its overlapping step-pyramids, plazas and palaces.

The site core is the Main Group where the Acropolis is located. It has extensive tunnels excavated by archeologists. The early buildings were made from stone and adobe.


5.     Tikal - served as the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. It is part of Guatemala's Tikal National P)ark and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Its architecture is made from limestone and features several smaller pyramids, palaces, residences, administrative buildings platforms and inscribed stone monuments.


For people who may not have the opportunity to be in a Maya country, Mr Buckshaw suggested that those in non-winter nations go out and feel the sun directly on 12-21-12.

"This is the last sunlight of the fifth age. Welcome to the sixth age, and pray (in your own way) that the new age will bring better times to our planet, and that mankind will evolve. That we will learn to take better care of the Earth and nature. That we will learn to change our destructive ways and become a peaceful and sustainable species," National Post quoted Mr Buckshaw.