In Merida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan, a region rich with Maya sites, the biggest headlines on December 21 didn’t come as a result of the much-hyped end of the world, but with a visit from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who inaugurated the recently opened Great Maya World Museum.
The museum, whose modern structure has more than 6,000 tons of steel – an Eiffel Tower's worth, in fact – features a comprehensive look at Maya culture through the centuries, including how modern-day Maya continue to live.
So for any Maya-philes who didn’t make it to the Mundo Maya during the much-hyped buildup of 2012, which culminated with the end of the Maya Long Count calendar on the winter solstice, here’s another reason to schedule a visit in 2013. Just make sure you give yourself plenty of time, as the museum spans more than 2,200 square meters of permanent and temporary exhibits.
Nearly 800 archaeological pieces will be on display, including the prophecies carved in stone 5,125 years ago that heralded a new era for 2012. The museum brings another must-do for visitors to the Yucatan, whose magnificent Mayan city of Chichen Itza is just a few miles away.
In addition to attracting archeology and history buffs, the museum should also be a draw for art and design aficionados, as it also features the work of French visual artist Xavier de Richemont, renowned for the incredible light and sound shows he has created in Europe. Richemont has created a special show for the museum, which also includes a botanical garden, 350-seat theater, childcare center, cafeteria, and shop.
In addition to inaugurating the museum, President Peña Nieto made an additional announcement last week that should cause plenty of buzz of its own in 2013 and beyond: a high-speed train line that will run from Yucatan to Quintana Roo, connecting tourists to the region's most significant Maya sites, as reported by several Latin media outlets. Travel times will be coordinated with the arrival of cruise ships, and the project is scheduled to be auctioned off between September and October 2013.
See our Mexico destination guide for more trip-planning information.