January 13, 2012
The New York Times has named 45 places that travelers must visit in 2012. Not many of us can visit all 45, so we’ve narrowed the list down to 10 and included a story for each destination. 

1. Panama 
The Panama Canal will be undergoing a significant expansion to be completed by 2014, the canal’s 100-year anniversary. For those that want to see the waterway as it was originally designed, now is the time. 

2. Helsinki, Finland 
Copenhagen’s culinary awakening and Stockholm’s trendsetting fashion may have ignited the world’s current infatuation with Nordic culture; now Helsinki is poised for the spotlight. The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design has designated it the World Design Capital for 2012. The Design District has expanded to over 25 streets with businesses ranging from boutique hotels to clothing stores and even restaurants. 

3. Myanmar 
Tourism in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has been limited as a way of protesting its authoritarian regime. But due to free elections and the release of its opposition leader last November, the country is set for an influx of visitors. Because the country has been so isolated, the deeply Buddhist land resonates with a strong sense of place, undiluted by mass tourism and warmed by genuine hospitality. 

4. London 
The Olympics! The Queen! Charles Dickens turns 200! Need we say more?

5. Oakland, California 
Tensions have cooled since the recent Occupy Oakland protests, but the city’s revitalized night-life scene continues to smolder. Its ever more sophisticated restaurants are not being joined by upscale cocktail bars, turning once-gritty Oakland into an increasingly appealing place to be after dark. 

6. Tokyo
Since Japan’s nuclear disaster, tourism in the capital has yet to return to normal levels. However, a decrease in tourism and business travel is making the city all the more accessible and welcoming. Visitors are now able to get previously unthinkable last-minute reservations at one of the many world-class restaurants or rooms in hotels usually booked solid. 

7. Tanzania 
Mount Kilimanjaro is no longer the only attraction to be explored in Tanzania. The opening of exclusive safari reserves like the Singita Grumeti and upscale camps are evidence that the country’s tourist infrastructure is becoming more sophisticated, perhaps even catching up to Kenya’s. 

8. Chilean Patagonia 
With its mix of snowy peaks, pristine rain forest and network of virgin national parks, Chile is emerging as one of the world’s adventure hot spots and now has a spate of rugged luxury lodges in which adventure-seekers can stay. 

9. Lhasa, Tibet
Tibet’s holy capital is in the throes of a luxury0hotel boom. In Lhasa, this is news: not only is operating an upscale hotel at nearly 12,000 feet above sea level no small feat, but real-estate developments here are, almost by default, also culturally loaded. 

10. Havana, Cuba
The only thing that lies between Americans and the sultry streets of Havana these days is the Florida Straits, since the Obama administration has widened the kind of travel allowed. The “people-to-people” rules require Americans to interact with Cubans (sun-and-sand vacations are still prohibited) so tours involve meeting with art historians, organic farmers and others. 

Source: The New York Times