The Apocalypse: it’s coming on 21 December, according to some largely discredited interpretations of Mayan prophecies. Even if it means we won't have to pay those overdue parking tickets, we're hoping the prophets of doom are wrong and we'll all live another day, take another trip, hug another puppy, get another parking ticket. But on the off chance that the world is indeed about to blink into nothingness, it might be worth heading somewhere special if it's your last day on the planet. Usher in the big day at these bunkers, resorts and auspicious sites (save this list for future Apocalypses).
The Greenbrier’s four golf courses, spring-fed spa and luxury suites have pampered 26 American presidents – reason enough to book a room. Factor in the nuclear bunker and you’ve hit upon the perfect place for an end-of-world splurge. The US government built the underground facility in 1958 to house Congress in case of a Cold War attack. Agents worked undercover as hotel staff to ensure the 25-ton blast door, power plant, hospital and 1100 beds were ever-ready for action. While the covert project ceased operation in 1992, it’s nice to know that a decontamination shower is there if you need it.
Public tours (US$30) of the bunker take place daily; rooms start at US$300.
The Mayans are the ones who conceived the infamous 2012 date, so why not take a front-row seat at Chichén Itzá, their most spectacular ruins? The centrepiece of the 1500-year-old temple-city is El Castillo, aka the Pyramid of Kukulcán (the plumed serpent). The Mayans built it with 365 steps to represent the days of the year, and aligned it so during the spring and autumn equinox, the sun creates a light-and-shadow illusion of a snake descending the stairs. Debate the 2012 timetable all you want, but one thing’s for sure: these folks sure knew their calendar.
Chichén Itzá is open from 8am to 5pm daily.
3. Mount Ararat, eastern Turkey
For a track record of staying dry in world-ending floods, look no further than Turkey’s highest mountain. The 5200m peak is where Noah landed after God wiped out the planet with 40 days of rain, according to the famous Old Testament story that relates how Noah built an ark and set sail with two of every creature on earth. Evangelical explorers continue to ‘find’ the ark at various locations around the mountainside, though no claims have proved substantive so far. No matter – Mt Ararat is really all about sublime trekking...and the knowledge if the deluge comes, you’re in a providential spot.
Outfitters such as Anatolian Adventures (www.anatolianadventures.com) arrange five-day treks starting at €375 (US$540).
Does doomsday have you feeling stressed and unconnected? The vortexes of Sedona can remedy the problem. Native Americans have long deemed the landscape’s red-rock buttes a hot spot where the earth’s energy concentrates and radiates well-being. New Age advocates agree, having flocked here after the ‘harmonic convergence’ in 1987 to tap Sedona’s mystical powers. Hike around the hills to feel the mojo, or get your aura read in the groovy town. Even if you don’t believe the lore, it’s a metaphysical moment come sunset, when the crimson rocks create an ethereal glow.
Earth Wisdom Jeep Tours take off into the scenic backcountry to explore the vortexes.
5. Global Seed Vault, Svalbard Islands, Norway
Sunk deep into the permafrost 1300km from the North Pole, the Svalbard vault stores the planet’s most precious kernels. It may sound like science fiction, but the underground chamber – designed to hold 4.5 million different seeds – is real, opening in 2008 with a mission to preserve the genetic diversity of the world’s food crops. Builders chose the remote location because it’s safe from rising seas, seismic activity and other natural disasters, making it a fine place to hole up in uncertain times (though it gets a bit chilly, given the –18°C temperature inside).
See what plant species have been preserved so far at www.nordgen.org/sgsv.
Uluru, aka Ayers Rock, rises up in Australia’s red centre, a sandstone monolith of deep spiritual significance to the Anangu Aboriginal peoples. It’s hard to explain everything it stands for, but think of it as the past, present and future wrapped into one, or as a blueprint for the world. Like Sedona, Uluru is considered one of the earth’s power points, where many visitors experience a feeling of peace. The Anangu say the mighty stone has always existed – it just is – so there’s no reason to think the end of days will impact it any differently.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru) is open year-round; admission is AU$25.
An urban legend has developed around the subterranean visitor centre, which opened in 2008 beneath the US Capitol. Architects say they built it three stories underground to preserve the white-domed landmark’s historic views. They maintain the restricted third level was always earmarked for Congress’ private use, and the $350 million-plus cost overruns were just politics as usual. Conspiracy theorists claim the off-limits area has been decked out as a bunker to protect Congress should catastrophe come knocking. Visitors can try to ascertain the truth during tours of the House and Senate, which start at the venue.
The centre is open 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Saturday, and admission is free.
Thanks to the film StarGate, you know the hulking Pyramid of Khufu is more than just a king’s burial chamber – it’s a portal to another planet! How else can one explain the mysterious passages leading from the tomb toward the sky (teleporters, duh) and the ancient structure’s architectural precision (built by space beings with advanced skills, of course)? If this world is indeed ending in 2012, it will be prudent to be here, right by the door to a new universe. And should the sci-fi turn out to be hooey, at least there’s one of the seven wonders of the world checked off the to-do list.
The Giza monuments, including the Sphinx, loom 25km from downtown Cairo; check www.lonelyplanet.com/egypt for the latest travel advisories.
9. Vivos shelter, Nebraska, USA
‘It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark’ is the tagline for this luxury bunker developer. Investors can buy a suite that will withstand everything from killer comets and chemical warfare to super-volcano eruptions. What’s more, each of the 228 units comes equipped with carpeting, decorative artwork and access to the community wine cellar. Add in the DNA storage bank, armoured vehicle garage and a year’s supply of freeze-dried spaghetti and pancake mix, and you have a heck of a doomsday hideaway. Vivos is located 70 miles from Omaha, though only shareholders know the exact location.
Bunkers cost US$25,000 per person; details on purchasing are at www.terravivos.com.
Whether it’s the gateway to the Fairy Kingdom, the burial ground of the Holy Grail or the site of the enchanted Isle of Avalon, there’s a whole lot of magic associated with this holy hill. It’s said that King Arthur rests here, ready to wield his magical sword and help his country when it needs him most – for which the apocalypse will surely qualify. In the meantime, the modern town of Glastonbury is a great place to buy crystals, consult with psychics or lick vegan ice cream cones while waiting for the day of reckoning.
The tor is free to visit; arrange a B&B or nearby farm-stay at www.visitsomerset.co.uk.