FRANCE has dashed the hopes of those who had planned to take refuge in one of the few places on Earth some believe will be spared when the world ends on December 21.
Local officials banned access to the Pic de Bugarach, a mountain in the southwest where rumour has it the hilltop will open on the last day and aliens will emerge with spaceships to save nearby humans.
Eric Freysselinard, the state's top representative in the area, said he was blocking access to the mountain for public safety reasons to avoid a rush of New Age fanatics, sightseers and media crews.
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.
Freysselinard said the 100 police and firefighters he plans to deploy will also control approaches to the tiny village of the same name at the foot of the mountain, and if too many people turn up, they will block access there too.
"We are expecting a few visionaries, a few people who believe in this end of the world, but in extremely limited numbers," he said in the nearby city of Carcassonne.
"We are expecting greater numbers of people who are just curious, but in numbers we cannot determine. Above all, we are expecting lots of journalists," he said.
Films, documentaries and websites have promoted the idea that the ancient Mayan calendar predicts that doomsday is on December 21.
The culture ministry in Guatemala - where half the population are of Mayan descent - is hosting a massive event in the capital just in case the world actually does end, while tour groups are promoting doomsday-themed getaways.
But the country's Maya alliance Oxlaljuj Ajpop accuses the government and tour groups of perpetuating the myth that their calendar foresees the imminent end of the world for monetary gain.
It issued a statement last month saying that the new Maya time cycle simply "means there will be big changes on the personal, family and community level, so that there is harmony and balance between mankind and nature".