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Top 10 Vacation Destinations
Doha, Qatar
Doha doesn't attract the hoards of beer-swilling British tourists or the sheer number of hotels that the U.A.E.'s Dubai does, but its beaches are more beautiful and its gourmet restaurants are less crowded. The Al Jazeera news network is what put Doha on the map a decade ago, although a different sort of camera -- the movie kind -- is what's drawing tourists for the Doha-Tribeca Film Festival. Next year marks its third installment. Doha is concentrating on beefing up its presence on the international stage by following up its world-class, I.M. Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art with a bid for the Olympics in 2016 and the Fifa World Cup in 2022. Plus, the city is hosting professional soccer's Asian Cup in January.

Rio's crowded Ipanema Beach.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Although hardly a secret destination, Rio de Janeiro is shedding its image as a sun, sea, and samba town and going for glamour and sophistication. Join the friendly Cariocas for an innovative 10-course Amazonian dinner at Rio's top Le Pré Catelan restaurant or some delectable "brapas" (Brazilian tapas) at hip eatery Oui Oui. Even Rio's magnificent beaches are better than ever before; from Leme to Leblon, new outdoor cafés boast fabulous seaside patios with comfortable bathroom facilities. As host of the 2014 Soccer World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, the city is abuzz with exciting developments that will be sure to attract huge crowds. Beat the rush and see how the Girl from Ipanema is all grown up.

A reflection in the helmet of a Stockholm Palace guard.
Stockholm, Sweden
Best-selling writer Stieg Larsson has rocketed Stockholm to the top of the list of most popular European cities through the exploits of computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, better known as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It's high time: Stockholm has always been a city of under-appreciated surprises and discoveries. Every visitor should see the main sights (like the Royal Palace and the winding cobbled streets of medieval Gamla Stan), but then hop on the 1900 steamboat that takes you past hidden creeks and marshland to the royal family's palace on Drottningholm. Swim in a restored 1904 Art Nouveau pool, tuck into reindeer or arctic char in a gourmet food market, or try a distinctly different guided walk over the rooftops. And of course, follow in the footsteps of Lisbeth Salander on the former working-class island of Södermalm.

Atlanta skyline from Piedmont Park.
Atlanta, Georgia
As the gateway to the New South, Atlanta has certainly come a long way since it burned to the ground during General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea in 1864. And while remains of the Civil War are still a big draw for visitors -- the Kennesaw Mountain/National Battlefield Park and Cheatham Hill specifically, there is much more to this great city than 150-year-old confrontations. Atlanta boasts the world's largest aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola museum, a world-class zoo, an impressive botanical garden, and Federal parks highlighting the life and works of native son Martin Luther King, Jr. Reinvigorated neighborhoods scattered throughout the city, such as Virginia-Highlands, Midtown and Buckhead, are easy to navigate on foot and boast great shopping, dining and nightlife. Progressive yet rich in history, Atlanta truly has something for everyone.

Broadstairs Stone Bay Beach Huts along the Kent Coast in England.
Less than two hours from London by train, the Kent Coastline offers long stretches of clean, sandy beaches, secluded coves, and bustling seaside towns. There's plenty to keep visitors going over a long weekend, from quirky independent shops to worthy eateries to stylish boutique hotels. A focus for visitors is the area from Whitstable to Ramsgate, taking in the colourful beach huts of Herne Bay and the traditional seaside resort of Broadstairs, with many beaches to be discovered along the way. Walkers can take off on a bracing cliff top ramble whilst exploring the 27-mile-long Viking Coastal Path, taking in smugglers haunts, and some of the oldest churches in England.

Spring colors in Hokkaido, Japan.
Hokkaido, Japan
The northernmost island of Hokkaido was the final frontier for the citizens of Japan, so it's only fitting that it's the final frontier for visitors as well. Hokkaido confounds expectations at every turn. While the mainland of Japan has a reputation for being tiny and crowded, Hokkaido is expansive and sparsely populated. While the mainland features typically Asian architecture, the major cities of Hokkaido have a distinct, almost European feel. And while Japan is known as a technological paradise, Hokkaido overflows with natural wonders, from fields of alpine flowers in the summer to breathtaking ice-scapes in the winter months.

Beach along the Cesme peninsula, Turkey.
Cesme Peninsula, Turkey
The picturesque villages with crumbling Greek facades and enormous stretches of sparsely populated beaches that were once the hidden playground of Izmir's working class have developed into a veritable international holiday sensation. Today, relaxation can be found at more than a dozen deluxe thermal spas and visitors can find lodging at opulent bayside resorts, romantic boutique hideaways, or even a stately Pasha's manse. Step back in time at Erytrai, the city of antiquity peeping out from under the Mediterranean brush, and pass into the medieval era in Çesme's hybrid Genoese-Ottoman fortress before returning to the 21st century in one of the many elegant streetside cafés of Alaçati or the white-glove restaurants at Dalyan cove.

Mason's Rock near Virginia Falls in Nahanni National Park.
Nahanni National Park, Canada
If there's such a thing as a quintessential Canadian wilderness experience, paddling down the Nahanni River may be it. While the remote Nahanni National Park in the Northwest Territories has always had a degree of recognition -- it was the world's first-ever UNESCO World Heritage Site -- its profile increased dramatically in 2009 when the park underwent a massive expansion to become more than 11,500 square miles of protected land (nearly the size of Switzerland). While the park's remote nature means that this is not a budget trip, you also don't have to be a grizzled outdoorsman to enjoy it -- warming in the north means that the season gets a little bit longer every year, and many people choose to float comfortably down the river in a whitewater raft, enjoying the abundant wildlife.

Boats and swimmers in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
A tiny town fronting a small protected harbor on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo offers up a laid-back environment, spicy food, palpable tropical heat, and streets filled with the rhythmic lilt of patois and reggae music. From the shore right in town you can watch surfers tackle Salsa Brava, a steep reef break reminicent of Hawaii's treacherous Bonzai Pipline. Just south of town are white sand beaches backed by thick rain forest and protected park lands. If you decide to do more than sunbathe, you can hike the trails of the nearby Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge and Cahuita National Park. You'll almost certainly hear the roar of howler monkeys, and watch parrots fly by.

The island of Ponza, off Italy's western Mediterranean coast.
Ponza & the Pontine Islands, Italy
The principal island in Italy's Pontine archipelago is one of the most naturally gorgeous and downright fun islands of Italy, and just far enough from the mainland to be an impractical destination for mass tourism. So much the better for those who do go to the trouble of making a trip here, because what you'll find is a rare Mediterranean gem that has kept its Italian identity intact and undiluted. It's not that Ponza is "undiscovered." On the contrary, it's a summertime escape that enjoys feverish devotion among the bella gente of Rome and Naples. If you want to avoid the holiday scene altogether, just come in the gorgeous shoulder months of May, June, and September -- locals will tell you this is when their island really shines.
 Jun 25 2012

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