- Mexico, Guatemala get ready for the end of the world
- Where to escape doomsday: village's 'positive energy' offers shelter
- Mayans: a date with the time lords
French authorities have pleaded with New Age fanatics, sightseers and media crews not to converge on the tiny village some believe will be one of the few places spared when the world supposedly ends on Friday.
"I am making an appeal to the world -- do not come to Bugarach," said mayor Jean-Pierre Delord, echoing calls from regional officials who noted that police will from Wednesday block access to the southwestern village of 200 residents.
Routes will also be blocked to the nearby Pic de Bugarach, a mountain where rumour has it the hilltop will open on the last day -- December 21 -- and aliens will emerge with spaceships to save nearby humans.
Around 150 police officers will be on duty -- with more on standby -- to turn away visitors from Bugarach, which in recent weeks has seen an influx of journalists from around the world.
Believers say the world will end on December 21, 2012, the end date of the ancient Mayan calendar, and they see Bugarach as one of a few sacred mountains sheltered from the cataclysm.
December 21 marks the end of an era that lasted over 5,000 years, according to the Mayan "Long Count" calendar. Some believe the date, which coincides with the December solstice, marks the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs.
But scholars have ridiculed the idea, and say the date simply marks the end of the old Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new one.
The central American region where the Mayans lived is experiencing a tourism bonanza ahead of the fateful December 21 date.
Tourists are being offered all-inclusive excursions and religious ceremonies in Mayan holy sites across Central America and Mexico.
It is also a chance to celebrate the contributions of the Mayan civilisation to mankind, but indigenous groups have accused governments and businesses of profiting from Hollywood-inspired fiction about their culture.
Meanwhile, a mountaintop in Argentina is closing for a few days to avert a mass suicide by folks girding for the world's end.
In Argentina's central Cordova province, fallout will be felt at a mountain called Uritorco, which was sacred for indigenous peoples when their numbers were still large in Argentina.
Authorities will shut down access to it from December 20 to 22 because an appeal has gone out on Facebook for people to climb the hill December 21 and commit "massive spiritual suicide," said Gustavo Sez, mayor of the nearby town of Capilla del Monte. That name means chapel on a hill.
"It was a decision taken by consensus, to pre-empt any distortion of the Mayan prophecy," he said.
The peak is about 2000 meters high and located in a touristy area 750 kilometres north of Buenos Aires.
Young and not so young people climb up there to meditate and do esoteric stuff. In decades past, UFO sightings from its touchy-feely heights have been reported.
The tourism industry is fuming with the temporary shut down. Hotels and hostels nearby had been expected to house around 15,000 people just before Christmas. Tourism is the main source of revenue in the region.
Forget about all that money now, says Gabriel Schiaffino, head of the Capilla del Monte tourism association, who said he was puzzled by word of the mass suicide.
The hotel occupancy rate is now about 1,000 people "but we don't think anyone else will come, which is awful news," he said.
Is there is a silver lining anywhere? Yes.
Associations of people who like to meditate have appealed for a gathering on December 21 in Capilla del Monte itself to mark the beginning of the new era, as per the mainstream, upbeat reading of the Mayan calendar.
"A lot of people mistake the day for the apocalypse," said Machenka Jacobella, one of the organisers.