Short cuts: important ancient sites

Aspen Built in 1889 by Jerome B Wheeler, former co-owner of Macy’s, the venerable redbrick Hotel Jerome has tended to trade on its 19th-century, not to say Wild West, origins. Though it is too early to tell whether the doormen will still wear duster coats and Stetsons, as they have in seasons past, but that’s all set to change on December 14, when the hotel will reopen, after an altogether more contemporary-styled refurbishment, as the latest addition to Auberge Resorts, a California-based group that counts Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley among its gems.

Gstaad Also new, opening in time for this year’s ski season is the Alpina, which opens on December 2. Built at a cost of more than £200m, it’s the first five-star hotel to be built in Gstaad in a century, although its multi-turreted structure and carved wooden balconies make it look as though it has been there for generations. Inside, it’s a different story: a private cinema, an immense Six Senses Spa and a Japanese restaurant that is an outpost of New York-based Megu. Doubles from £561;

Austria The Ultimate Travel Company has joined forces with London’s Royal Opera House to offer escorted opera and ballet tours with backstage visits and an opportunity to meet performers. The first, accompanied by Kasper Holten, the ROH’s director of opera, assumes eclectic tastes, beginning in London with the UK premiere of George Benjamin’s challenging Written on Skin, moving to Vienna for Aida and Fidelio, and going on to Salzburg for Parsifal. March 18 to 25, from £3,895pp;

Guatemala According to the ancient Maya, whose 1,500-year civilisation thrived until about AD1200, the end of the world, at least as we know it, is nigh. The Mayan Great Cycle – a calendar that began in 3114BC – forecast that something cataclysmic will happen around December 21 of this year, so ending the Age of Materialism. Prompted perhaps by fears that this might hurt visitor numbers, Guatemala’s tourist board is launching the Bak’tun Route, a programme of visits that takes in 11 sites that were important to the Maya, some of them barely known to visitors until now: Mirador-Rio Azul, for instance, which contains the largest Maya pyramid yet discovered; Tak’alik Ab’aj, surrounded by volcanoes close to the Pacific coast; and Kaminaljuyu, with its remarkable serpentine water system, which is in Guatemala City itself.

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