Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The 53 Places to Go in 2008


Vietnam and Cambodia are so 2007. Now, Laos is shaping up to be Indochina's next hot spot. Ancient sites like the Wat Phou temple complex and the capital city of Vientiane are drawing culture seekers. Luxury teak houseboats are cruising down the Mekong. And global nomads are heading to Luang Prabang to sample the Laotian tasting menu at 3 Nagas (http://www.3nagas.com/) or hang out by the infinity pool at the seriously upscale Résidence Phou Vao (http://www.residencephouvao.com/).


Bargain-seeking tourists have long flocked to Lisbon, typically among the most affordable of European cities. But now the Portuguese capital is also emerging as a cultural force. The new Berardo Collection Museum (http://www.berardocollection.com/), in the historic Belem district, boasts a major trove of modern and contemporary art. Designer hotels like Fontana Park (http://www.fontanaparkhotel.com/) and Jerónimos 8 (http://www.almeidahotels.com/) are attracting style-savvy travelers. And the Design and Fashion Museum, scheduled to open in late 2008, will go a long way toward cementing the city's avant-garde status.


Tunisia is undergoing a Morocco-like luxury makeover. A new wave of stylish boutique hotels, often in historic town houses, has cropped up alongside this North African country's white-sand beaches and age-old medinas, drawing increasing numbers of well-heeled travelers. The Villa Didon (http://www.villadidon.com/) in Carthage, for one, has a restaurant originally run by Alain Ducasse. Indeed, TripAdvisor ranks Jerba, a resort island off Tunisia's southern coast, as the No. 1 emerging spot in 2008.


Flying to the sugar-white shores of Mauritius is about to get easier. Virgin Atlantic just began nonstop flights from London to this tiny coral-ringed island off the coast of Madagascar, and it also recently became a hub port for Indian Ocean excursions by the Italy-based Costa Cruises. Meanwhile, new hotels are opening up, including a Four Seasons resort, Anahita Mauritius (http://www.anahitamauritius.com/), that features four restaurants, three beaches and an ayurveda spa.


Move over South Beach. The iconic Eden Roc Resort (http://www.edenrocresort.com/) and Fontainebleau Miami Beach (http://www.fontainebleau.com/) — faded glitterati hangouts designed by Morris Lapidus — will reopen in 2008 after multimillion-dollar renovations, returning Mid-Beach to its former glory. Future neighbors include Gansevoort South, a W Hotel and a Mid-Beach outpost of the members-only Soho House.


Not to be outdone, South Beach will also welcome a red carpet of designer hotels: the Angler's Boutique Resort (http://www.theanglersresort.com/) by Gianni Versace's former decorator Wallace Tutt; the Tides South Beach (http://www.tidessouthbeach.com/), revamped by the design star Kelly Wearstler; and the Mondrian South Beach (http://www.mondriansouthbeach.com/) by the Dutch design superstar Marcel Wanders. Meanwhile, Nicky Hilton's much-hyped dreams of running a hotel has ended up in bankruptcy court — and the auction block.


The 2004 tsunami, a fragile ecology and a recent bombing have done little to dampen a hotel boom in this island-nation of about 1,192 coral islets in the Indian Ocean. Among the high-end hotels expected to open next year is a Regent Hotels & Resorts (http://www.regenthotels.com/) with 50 villas, many set over the water, allowing guests to observe the rich marine life while still lying in bed.


It's too early to predict, but recent heavy rains have some flower bloggers already speculating about a dazzling spring bloom in Death Valley next year. Death Valley is home to more than 1,000 species of wildflower, and in that special spring after a wet fall and winter, the brown desert landscape is carpeted with Technicolor fields of blossoms.


The ultra-exclusive French skiing village of Courchevel may be overrun by Russian billionaires these days, but that has only fueled the resort's consumption of Cristal jeroboams and high-ticket hotels. The sumptuous Hotel de Charme Les Airelles (http://www.airelles.fr/) reopens this month following a $31 million renovation, and, late next year, Le Padisha ups the ante with rustic-chic apartments starting at 1.3 million euros, or $1.95 million at $1.50 to the euro.
10 - 53.

Compiled by DENNY LEE for the New York Times

NVDL: Note that Namibia, Mozambique, Iran, and Libya are mentioned but not our murderously beautiful enclave.

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