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The date – which marks the end of the Maya long-term calendar and, so say doomsday theorists, the end of the world – is expected to bring a surge of visitors to Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador, the countries of the Mundo Maya. But even if you’re not headed there, you’ll surely be hearing about the hype of 12/21/12: the good, the bad, and the completely unfounded.
Enter Shannon Kring Buset, a world traveler, director, and tour guide to Maya lands who spent 18 months researching her award-winning documentary, 2012: The Beginning. In the film, Kring Buset dispels various doomsday myths through interviews with the world’s leading Maya archeologists, scholars, astronomers, shamans, and living Maya. “The people, places, stories, rituals, and even animals of the Maya world, both past and present, have enriched my life and the world in ways those of us in Western cultures are just beginning to understand,” she says. “I believe we owe it to them to enter their lands with respect and reverence, and to bring home the truth about this still great culture.”
Here are five of the most persistent myths, debunked. Fascinating stuff, no matter where you’ll be on the big day. Read more
March 20, the spring equinox, marks the first major date of 2012 for the Maya Long Count calendar. The hype has already caused a bump in tourism at many already-popular sites throughout the Mundo Maya, but with a little advance planning, you can carve out some solitude (and preserve your sanity) while contemplating the enduring mysteries of the Maya civilization at their remarkable ruins.
While visiting the sites of Chichén Itza, Cobá and Tulum in the Riviera Maya, I was fortunate enough to have access to Dr. Julia Miller, an archeologist specializing in Maya culture and architecture and tour guide for the Mérida-based operator Catherwood Travels. Below, a rundown of some of Miller’s input from my incessant questions, as well as some practical tips on how to maximize your visit to the Mundo Maya. Read more
If your hometown is suffused by a wintry chill, the idea of a family vacation to Antigua may pack appeal. But before your thoughts turn to beachside resorts, let’s clarify that I don’t mean the English-speaking Caribbean island of Antigua, but the relatively warm colonial town of La Antigua Guatemala, where speaking English will be secondary to learning Spanish at one of several schools.
“The great bonder for families is all to plunge into a new activity from scratch, and for many kids seeing pop stumble over a new language can be fun, memorable, and educational,” suggests Robert Reid, U.S. travel editor at Lonely Planet. A few Spanish-language schools in La Antigua provide not just traditional instruction but also an immersive home stay, where Reid says “four hours of study, room and board with a local family runs from $125 per person.” That’s per week.
You gotta love a woman who tells her boss that she refuses to make coffee for him – in the 1970s, no less. No surprise, then, that Carole Latimer, an adventurous entrepreneur from California, was subsequently fired from her job – and went on to found Call of the Wild (www.callwild.com), a women-only outfitter that blended her passions for adventure travel and empowering women.
Latimer, who now serves on the advisory board, was clearly on to something when she started the company in 1978. Women’s-only travel has since exploded, especially in the adventure sector, and Call of the Wild was a pioneer in that growth. It’s the longest-running company of its kind, with an impressive repeat client booking rate of 55 percent.
The next trip on the calendar for the MEC, a non-profit research center based in Austin, is an eight-day excursion to Mexico and Guatemala to visit two of the major capitals of the Ancient Maya world: Palenque and Tikal. The trip provides a firsthand look into the mysteries of the fascinating Mayan culture, from the unique perspective of an archaeologist.
You’ll fly into the Villahermosa airport in southern Mexico, but your real immersion into the Mayan world starts at Palenque, an enigmatic city that, for reasons still unknown, was abandoned about a thousand years ago.
Celebrate the arrival of spring by hopping a flight to Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, or other sun-filled destinations from just $163 round-trip (without taxes), courtesy of TACA Airlines‘ new fare sale. This deal is available for travel through May 31, but tickets must be purchased by March 10. In addition to this sale, there are a number of other unadvertised price reductions to Central and South America from TACA’s top competitors. Our editors put these fares to the test and found prices as low as $240 round-trip – taxes included!
Sample fares (round-trip, taxes included):
• Orlando – Managua, Nicaragua: $240
• Orlando – Honduras: $402
• Los Angeles – Costa Rica: $445
• Houston – Belize: $492
• Dallas – Guatemala: $524
• San Francisco – El Salvador: $554
• Orlando – El Salvador: $554
• Chicago – Ecuador: $607
• And more!
While many flock to Caribbean islands for their annual vacations, savvy travelers are heading to Central America to experience pristine beaches and tropical rainforests for a fraction of the cost. Our editors have spotted some impressive deals on flights to Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, and more from as little as $194 round-trip – with taxes included! Use our Quicksearch! tool to find these unadvertised low fares. Travel is valid from March through May, however fares can disappear at any time.
Round-Trip Sample Fares (with Taxes) Include:
• Miami–San Pedro Sula, Honduras: $194
• Fort Lauderdale–Guatemala City: $234
• Chicago–San Jose, Costa Rica: $245
• New York–Guatemala City: $254
• Orlando–San Jose, Costa Rica: $263
• New York–San Pedro Sula, Honduras: $264
• Washington D.C. –Panama City: $289
• Boston–San Pedro Sula, Honduras: $268
• Detroit–San Jose, Costa Rica: $292
• Orlando–Panama City: $296
• Baltimore–San Jose, Costa Rica: $334
• Chicago–Managua, Nicaragua: $327
• Los Angeles–Panama City: $454
• And more!
There’s never been a better time to go to the Caribbean. If palm trees and sun-kissed beaches weren’t enough to lure you away from the dead of winter and the pressure of Valentine’s Day (Did I say pressure? I meant delight!), then check this out: Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a 7-night sailing on February 21, aboard the Norwegian Spirit, starting from just $509 (originally $1,399).
Ultra-budget airline, Spirit, is offering rates on direct flights to Guatemala City from Fort Lauderdale for just $29 each way. So what’s the catch? Well, actually there are a few. The first is that taxes and fees will cost you over $100, however the flight total comes out to $159 – still an incredible rate for a nonstop flight. The second is that there are only a handful of dates in early February that you can find this rate (your best bet is a February 5 departure, with a return date of the 10). Third, this rate can disappear at anytime and fares on this same route jump to $98 each way in March and April. Lastly, expect to pay extra for seat assignments, snacks, baggage, and legroom – all of which you can avoid if you plan carefully.
To book a ticket, visit www.spiritair.com.
For cruisers looking for a more upscale experience at an affordable price, try Holland America. Although well known for its Alaskan voyages, the cruise line gets rave reviews for its itineraries throughout the Caribbean and Central America. By sailing out of Tampa, Holland America’s ships visit unique ports of call in Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. Our editors have tracked down a 7-night sailing in an oceanview cabin with two embarkation dates to choose from starting from as little as $474.
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