Why in 2012: The arrival in Taiwan of the first mainland Chinese tourists last June (not counting supervised tours) marked a turning point for this onetime Chinese territory—a sign that a longtime political stalemate might finally be thawing. It also brought an influx of tourism revenue and a renewed interest in this Pacific island's assets. The cosmopolitan capital city has an emerging culinary scene (world-famous chef Joël Robuchon opened a Taipei restaurant in November 2009) and plenty of snazzy new construction, while the surrounding countryside offers lush hot springs, majestic mountains, and golden-sand beaches. To cater to the new visitors, Taiwan's government launched the new TaiwanTourist Bus Travel Service, which runs cheap day trips to several island attractions, such as an excursion to Taiwan's alpine Sun Moon Lake that includes a cable-car ride, a boat tour, and electric-scooter rental (, day trips from $11). And while a recent bump in U.S. visitors to Asia has caused hotel prices elsewhere on the continent to jump 4 percent—rates in South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore have all spiked—Taipei's rooms are 11 percent cheaper than they were in 2010, with an average rate of $144 per night. 

Best Time to Visit: May through August are Taipei's wettest months, with rainfall averaging eight inches; summer is sweltering and humid. October and November are much more pleasant, with less than four inches of rainfall and average high temperatures in the mid-70s. 

Where to Stay: Every room in the Tango Taipei XinYi—which sits near the world's second-tallest building, the nearly 1,700-foot Taipei 101 Tower—has two 42-inch plasma TVs (one for the bedroom, one for the bathroom) and a Jacuzzi tub (, from $137). 

Price Check: At press time, tickets to Taipei weren't available beyond October 2012 (when direct flights from San Francisco start at $1,145 on Taiwan's EVA Airways). But if 2011 prices are any indication, fall trips will come relatively cheap. This November, Malaysia Airlines offered nonstop fares from Los Angeles for $1,057 and one-stops from Chicago were going for $1,087 on Cathay Pacific. 

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