Sun, sand and cerveza may be Cancun's most popular attributes, but a new $15-million museum in this resort town in Mexico's Yucatan will give tourists some variety -- and also an education.
The Maya Museum of Cancun, in the hotel zone, celebrates the Maya Empire, which reached its peak in the sixth century. Maya culture has been the focus of increased interest in the past year because the official end of the Maya calendar is Dec. 21, marking a time when global consciousness changes and a rebirth begins.
The museum's website is only in Spanish, but information in English can be found on the Cancun tourism board website.
The new museum is made up of three 4,400-square-foot exhibition halls and includes 350 ancient artifacts that were collected over 30 years. Among its features are 14,000-year-old Maya remains discovered in the underwater caves of Tulum, the 10,000-year-old remains of La Mujer de las Palmas (The Woman of the Palms) and tools and other artifacts the Maya once used in daily life.
More than 12 million tourists visit Cancun annually, making it one of Mexico's most popular destinations. The museum expects to draw about a million guests annually.
“The Cancun Maya Museum is a wonderful addition to the already robust offering that the destination has," said Jesus Almaguer, chief executive of the Cancun visitors bureau, adding that "it will provide a cultural perspective to the visit to Cancun.”
Five buildings are open to the public, including the Great Pyramid, a 26-foot structure where the main building is located; the South, made up of residential units, a palace-style building and small altars; and Dragons, named in the 1970s after an area where snake heads were found.
Next to the Maya Museum, the San Miguelito archaeological site recently opened as well. This location was inhabited more than 800 years ago until the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.
End-of-the-world tourism, based on the end of the Mayan calendar, has been promoted by the Mexico Tourism Board for the past year. Information on events and celebrations can be found on the website Maya Mundo 2012.