Cradled by the majestic Himalayas in a remote corner of Southern Asia, the “Land of the Thunder Dragon” has long held steadfast to its rich culture and Buddhist heritage. Though an isolated locale and high tourist entry tariffs (of up to $200 per person per night) keep crowds at bay, these factors have also permitted this last Shangri-La to keep its traditions intact. If the lush valleys and snowcapped mountains, ancient temples and monasteries, and expansive markets full of cheerful locals haven’t lured you to Bhutan yet, reconsider in 2008, when the 101st anniversary of the country’s monarchy will be commemorated by a yearlong celebration.
Though Greenland promoters prefer to avoid using the term “catastrophe tourism” to describe its surging popularity, new weekly flights from Baltimore (late June through early August in 2008) have indeed made this Danish province the most accessible place to bear firsthand witness to the inconvenient truths of climate change. The midnight sun practically guarantees encounters with reindeer, seals, and narwhals, but it's the Arctic island's Ilulissat ice fjord, which has retreated six miles in just a few years, and Warming Island, which was thought to have been part of mainland Greenland until the connecting ice thawed, that tend to leave visitors dumbstruck.
The cheapest capital in Western Europe (according to the 2007 Mercer Consulting survey) is worth a visit not only for its affordability–a huge plus when considering the anemic exchange rate of the U.S. dollar against the Euro these days–but for its dramatic hillside villages, fashionable cobblestone enclaves, and innovative cuisine. No longer just a stopover on the road to Porto, the capital of Portugal is fast becoming Europe’s next “it” city, which means crowds and inflated prices are bound to follow. Visit in 2008 before the buzz signals the hordes.
Safely removed from decades of civil war, Mozambique is poised to become Africa’s next big tourist destination. The country’s recent economic success is finally permitting its natural assets–1,500 miles of unspoiled tropical shoreline, clear blue seas, and pristine reef-fringed archipelagos–to shine. Upscale, eco-friendly properties are opening along the Bazaruto and Quirimbas archipelagos, the government is restoring the million-acre Gorongosa National Park, and tour operators now run diving excursions to see sea cows, whale sharks, and staghorn coral. It’s been a long haul for this former Portuguese colony, but there’s no question that the nation is a rising star in the travel world.
5. New Orleans
any have already returned to New Orleans since Katrina, but recent events give every indication that 2008 is poised to be the best year the city has seen since the hurricane. Combine a rebuilding boom with powerhouse couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie moving in to the French Quarter, and a revitalized Canal Street beckoning musicians and ramblers back to its pretty riverside promenade, and you've got the makings of a fully revitalized city. Plus, with some of the nation’s most-beloved festivals getting under way in the first part of the year (Mardi Gras in February and Jazz Fest in late April and early May) it’s easy to make the Big Easy a must this year to herald the rebirth of one of the country’s most storied and fascinating cities.
6. Okanagan Valley
Move over, Napa and Sonoma: Oenophiles looking for a taste of the next best thing are taking their palates north, to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. A four-hour drive northwest of Spokane, Wash., the Okanagan Valley boasts a cool and dry summer climate ideal for traditional grape harvesting, and frosty winters, which vintners use to advantage to produce Canada’s famed ice wine. With landscapes dotted with verdant fields, cascading hillsides, and ample lakes, there’s no question the area makes for a great wine-country getaway; Cedar Creek and Kettle Valley are just two of our favorite vineyards here.
Long thought of as just a pit stop en route to the Galapagos, the capital of Ecuador is finally coming into its own, thanks to a burgeoning culinary and nightlife scene, new attractions ranging from botanical gardens to cultural heritage museums, and the opening of several luxury hotels. Quito’s Old Town–a UNESCO World Heritage Site that just completed a seven-year, $200 million restoration–is at the heart of the city’s regeneration. Its colonial mansions and churches now flaunt fantastic face-lifts.
With Eastern Europe's popularity growing by leaps and bounds, Slovenia is now enjoying a newfound moment in the tourism spotlight. Slovenia is chock-full of the same kind of medieval towns and quaint villages that made the Czech Republic–namely Prague–a household name, but its charms can be enjoyed for a fraction of the price of its trail-blazing predecessor and arguably offer more value to boot. Though Slovenia was one of the first Eastern European countries to adopt the euro, the country’s hesitance to adapt to modern times has made its Venetian-era squares and tiny Alpine cities a fantastic bargain for the buck.
One of the last remaining "undiscovered" Caribbean islands, Tobago has long been overshadowed by its better-known sister island of Trinidad. A power shift may be in the making as of 2008, however, as Tobago's pink-sand beaches and serene waters became accessible for the first time by direct flights from New York and Atlanta on Delta Air Lines in December 2007. The new flights allow visitors to bypass Trinidad altogether to reach Tobago's secluded and romantic shores, where an unpretentious, slow-paced, and eco-friendly atmosphere prevails, relatively free of tourists and overdevelopment–for now.
While 40 percent of this North African nation is swathed in arid Sahara desert, the remainder is blanketed by fertile soil and hemmed in by over 600 miles of Mediterranean coastline. No wonder it garnered a lot of (often unwanted) attention over the centuries from some of the world’s greatest civilizations. See what all the fuss was about by visiting the ruins of the ancient Phoenician city of Carthage and historic sites like the coliseum at El Jem (arguably the finest example of its kind outside of Rome). When not taking in archaeological gems, you can relax and rejuvenate at one of several beach resorts; venture through the Sahara on camelback or 4x4; or camp out in the desert in luxurious linen tents. Indeed, if there's one place on our list that packs the ultimate vacation into its borders–what with culture, beaches, adventure travel, and luxury camping–this is it.