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Icehotel in Jukhasjärvi  

Instead of Iceland:
NOTHERN SWEDEN
Grab front-row seats to see the northern lights.
Opportunists might be tempted by Iceland’s troubled economy, but Sweden offers a similarly isolated, sub-zero experience at a manageable price. Fly to nearby Røros, Norway, and check in at Fjällnäs (from $440; fjallnasreserve.com), military barracks turned luxurious hotel. Navigate 60-plus surrounding peaks on skis or snowmobile, then enjoy a traditional kojtjärnen, a circulation-inducing ritual for body and scalp, at the Mii Gullo Spa. If you really want to feel like you’re at the end of the earth, point your compass north to Lapland, considered Europe’s last wilderness. About 124 miles north of the Arctic Circle is the quaint village of Jukkasjärvi, home to the world’s largest ice hotel (seasonally available, of course). Spring for one of the roomier “art suites” (from $510; icehotel.com)—one was Tron-themed last winter—where you will sleep on a bed of snow and ice made cozy with reindeer hides. After starting your day with a sauna session, try your hand at dogsledding or ice sculpting. Evenings should be spent staring at the night sky: This is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights.


Matemwe Beach in Zanzibar  

Instead of South Africa:
TANZANIA
Track wildebeests in the bush, and then retire to a luxury tent.
Thanks to the World Cup, South Africa spent 2010 in the spotlight. But to the north lies a country with just as much to offer. Tanzania boasts one of the continent’s most diverse natural environments; its wonder list includes Mount Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater, and Serengeti National Park. Safari operator Lukula Selous (from $3,170 per person for three nights; selousproject.com) takes its name from British explorer F.C. Selous, and explore you will, on one of its intimate (two to eight people, max) journeys into the bush. Its private sanctuary occupies 300,000 acres in the vast Selous Game Reserve, where you can track elephants, wildebeests, and lions. At night, retire to a roomy tent outfitted with hurricane lamps and steamer trunks. After a few days in the wilderness, head to the beach; Precision Air has regular flights from Dar es Salaam to nearby Zanzibar. Once there, check into one of three oceanfront villas at Asilia’s Matemwe Retreat (from $479 per person; asiliaafrica.com), and sink your toes into the sand.

Instead of Tuscany:
PIEDMONT
Go for the finanziera (organ meat) and pasta, stay for the grappa.
Dubbed “Tuscany without the tourists,” this Italian region boasts some of the boot’s best food and wine. Let your stomach lead you to the homey La Sosta (39 0141 762538) in Montabone, where if you are not immediately won over by the charm of Luca the maître d’, you will be by his wife Iolanda’s agnolotti al plin (handmade pasta with fonduta cheese and truffles). Stop at San Marco in Canelli (39 0141 823544) for finanziera (organ meat) and tajarin (egg-yolk noodles with truffles gathered by owner Piercarlo). Or visit Piazza Duomo in Alba (39 0173 366167), where chef Enrico Crippa offers avant-garde, internationally influenced interpretations of Piedmont cuisine. Retire to a suite at the rustically elegant La Villa (from $280; lavillahotel.net), a restored seventeenth-century palazzo nestled among the verdant Monferrato countryside. Helpful owners Chris and Nicola Norton can coordinate visits to local wineries and grappa producer Berta.

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