(NEW YORK- MAY 17, 2012) –The Guatemala Tourism Board, INGUAT, and the Guatemalan Ministry of Culture have announced the launch of the B'aktunes Route, a special cultural route that features archeological sites with strong evidence of the Maya Calendar's Long Count that ends on December 21, 2012.
Pedro Pablo Duchez, Guatemala's Minister of Tourism, who spoke at the United Nations' Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues today, said that Guatemala is ready to welcome visitors interested in taking part in welcoming the new era of the Maya.
"We invite travelers to immerse themselves and connect with the Maya culture and travel along the B'aktunes Route to visit stunning archeological locations of great significance," said Duchez inviting the world to visit Guatemala during its celebration of "the Dawn of the Maya." "Communities around the country are hosting celebrations on the 21stÂ day of each month; offering visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience one of the most unique celebrations of our history."
All the locations that are part of the B'aktunes Route contain a monument, estela or structure related to the end of a Long Count of 2012; including sites where the living Maya still hold spiritual ceremonies today. They are also easily accessible and can be divided into two separate smaller circuits, the first focusing on the Great Pre-Hispanic Cities of the Maya, and the second highlighting the Living Maya cultures of the highlands.
The Great Maya CitiesÂ
The PetÃ©n department, located in the North of Guatemala and bordering Mexico's Quintana Roo and Campeche states, is of incomparable historical and archeological value. It is the birthplace of Mayan Civilization and home to some of the most well maintained and accessible Maya structures still around.
As part of the B'aktunes Route, visitors to PetÃ©n, will encounter lush jungles, full of innumerable flora and fauna and find fascinating archeological sites likeÂ TikalÂ National Park, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Other important archeological sites included in the Route areÂ YaxhaÂ andÂ CeibalÂ which are considered of great value because they are the vestiges of the Mayan Civilization, which flourished and developed enormously and contributed a great deal to our modern society in topics like social organization, architecture, mathematics, arts, sciences and astronomy. Such is the case ofÂ Uaxactun; an Astronomy Observatory located only 26 miles from Tikal National Park.
To complete this portion of the route one must leave the greens of PetÃ©n for the blues of the Caribbean to visitÂ Quirigua in the Izabal Department. This once key port city was central to trade routes and has structures from varied periods of the Maya history, reflecting its importance in the region's economic history. It is also the place where the Mayan calendar was studied.
Living Mayan Culture
Guatemala's highlands are an area that encompasses the integration of Pre-Columbian Mayan costumes and its traditional cosmogony and beliefs, with the richness of Western civilization brought by the Spanish conquistadors hundreds of years ago. Following this part of the B'aktunes Route allows visitors to not only witness history but to meet with the Maya who live throughout the area.
This part of the B'aktunes Route starts in Guatemala City at the site ofÂ Kaminal Juyu, which dates back to the early Preclassic period. The Miraflores Museum, located close the archeological site houses a number of items found at Kaminal Juyu, including the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the ancient Quiche Maya.
Located in the Cotzumalguapa Archeological Zone in the department of Escuintla,Â El BaÃºl, considered an integral part of the formative stage of the Americas, showcases monumental architecture in its acropolis and obsidian workshops.
Tak’alik Ab’aj is one of the Mesoamerican sites with both Olmec and Maya features and was an important center of commerce. Investigations have revealed that it is one of the largest sites with sculptured monuments on the Pacific coastal plain.
Q’umarkaj in El QuichÃ© department was the capital of the K’iche’ Maya in the Late Post classic Period and one of the most powerful Maya cities when the Spanish arrived in the region in the early 16th century. The city was founded during the reign of King Q’uq’umatz (“Feathered Serpent” in K’iche’).
Iximche, in the department of Chimaltenango, is made up of four large plazas and several small platforms intended for ceremonial rites. The first Spanish settlement on Guatemalan soil was established by Alvarado on July 25, 1524 in this city.
For more information visit www.visitguatemala.com.