Around this time of year, wanderlust travelers raise a Champagne glass and spin the globe in search of the next great destination for the coming year.

But where to go?

Creating a list of the top travel destinations for 2012 involved a compressive look at global history, economy, and geopolitical happenings. Some destinations will host major global events in 2012 while others boast a front row seat to the end of the world.

Some spots on the list are must sees before they're forever changed, while others are emerging markets for intrepid travelers.

For those looking to glimpse back in time, two sites on the 2012 list offer a chance for reflection - but if you're after reflection of a different sort, there's one up-and-coming island destination that boasts untouched sand and dazzling azure sea.

Where do you want to go in 2012?

Myanmar - Top Pick for Intrepid Travelers


Shwe Indein Pagoda near Inle Lake in Myanmar (REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun)

If you believe the words of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the hermetic nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma) may genuinely be opening up to the world.

Clinton's travels with popular democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi earlier this month were broadcast across the globe, promoting a friendlier image of the mysterious land.

The Burmese people have always had a reputation for being some of the world's kindest, most welcoming individuals, but nearly 50 years of military rule virtually closed off this Southeast Asian treasure to the world.

Now, the leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the opposition party that has urged foreigners to stay away since 1996, have a new message: We want people to come to Burma.

The NLD revised its boycott to encourage independent travel late in 2010 following Suu Kyi's release from house arrest. As a result, Myanmar is set to become a hot new destination for travelers along the ever-popular route through Southeast Asia.

With timeless towns, towering pagodas, and fervently Buddhist locals, Myanmar promises the authentic Asian experience that's fading in neighboring Thailand.

Aysén Region, Chile - Top Pick for Environmentalists


Chile's Aysen Region (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

The wild and rugged countryside of the Aysén region in Chilean Patagonia is under threat by a plan to build five dams on the Baker and Pascua rivers - two of the wildest in the world.

Latin America's most stable economy is in the middle of a fierce debate over whether or not to dam the turquoise rivers to feed Chile's burgeoning industrial growth.

Chile relies heavily on hydropower for electricity and the HidroAysén project, proposed by an Italian-Spanish company, Endesa, and a Chilean company, Colbún, would build five facilities that would generate up to 2.75 gigawatts -- or nearly a third of central Chile's current capacity -- within 12 years.  The energy would travel to Santiago over a 1,200-mile transmission line that has yet to be approved.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a lawyer for the U.S.-based National Resources Defense Council, appealed to President Piñera to call off the project claiming, It's the most beautiful place, I believe, on the planet.  I don't know any place like Patagonia.  Kennedy claimed to visit the region every year to kayak.

Polls earlier this year showed most Chileans opposed the project. Demonstrations under the name Patagonia sin Represas (Patagonia without dams) arose in the spring, but were later overshadowed by the student protests.

A ruling in June temporarily put a halt to the dam complex, but with an uncertain future, this remote region -- where rivers plummet from Andean glaciers into the Pacific Ocean through green valleys and fjords -- is best explored before it's too late.

London - Top Pick for Sports Junkies


London 2012 Olympics Aquatics Center in east London (REUTERS)

Sure, the Royal Wedding made London one of the most buzzed about destinations of 2011, but things are about to get even hotter as the British capital opens its arms to the world as host of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

In addition to the myriad of sporting events, the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements and will culminated with the London 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from June 21 to Sept. 9.

Looking for more? England will celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee -- marking her 60 years on the throne -- with a pageant on the Thames and concert at Buckingham Palace in early June. There will also be a plethora of performances, tours, and festivals  in 2012 to mark the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens.

Phu Quoc, Vietnam - Top Pick for Beach Bums


Phu Quoc, Vietnam (creative commons/Claire_h)

Not long ago, Phu Quoc was a hush-hush alternative to the busier islands in the Gulf of Thailand. The secret may be out, but there's still enough deserted white sand to spare on Vietnam's largest island. 

Phu Quoc's exterior boasts untouched reefs and colorful fish while its interior offers protected forests and dirt roads that beg to be explored on motorbike. Off the southern tip, the An Thoi Islands are the perfect escape for a day of swimming, fishing, and snorkeling.

This tear-shaped island may be one of the pricier places in Vietnam, but affordable beachfront accommodation is easily found.  Tourism officials in Vietnam have pegged Phu Quoc as the next big thing and massive construction is underway to transform this quiet island paradise into a world-class destination with an international airport, golf course, and casino.

Yet, no matter how developed it gets, 70% of the island will remain within the confines of Phu Quoc National park.

Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula - Top Pick for Doomsday Prophets


Chichen Itza (REUTERS/ Argely Salazar)

If you believe in a popular interpretation of Mayan prophesies, we've got just one year left until the world ends on Dec. 21, 2012. To celebrate the ominous occasion -- and to make a few extra bucks -- Mexican tourism officials are inviting travelers to the heart of Mayan country for a year-long countdown to the end of the world.

The doomsday theories stem from a set of tablets discovered in the 1960s at the archaeological site of Tortuguero in the state of Tabasco that depict the return of a Mayan god at the end of the 13th period on the Long Count calendar.

The Long Count calendar began in 3114BC and moves forward in 394-year periods known as Baktuns. The winter solstice in 2012 marks the completion of the 13th Baktun, a date of particular significance that reflects celestial alignments recognized by modern astronomers.

In 2012, Mexican government expects 52 million tourists to visit the Mayan heartland in the southern states of Chiapas, Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Tabasco.

Fairbanks, Alaska - Top Pick for Science Geeks


The aurora borealis or Northern Lights (Reuters)

According to NASA, 2012 will feature one of the brightest Northern Lights displays in 50 years.

The reason? Solar maximum, a period when the magnetic field at the sun's equator rotates slightly faster than at the solar poles. While the best spot to see the swirling lights is up for debate, many experts point to the area around Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Northern Lights are a fixture in the Fairbanks sky in a normal year. In fact, each winter, Japanese honeymooners flock to the region believing a child conceived under the aurora borealis will have an auspicious future.

If winter in Alaska's not your cup of tea, the summer midnight sun is similarly unforgettable.

Fairbanks has a last frontier vibe and is a great base for exploring the Artic wilderness of Denali and the checkered history of the region's gold rush past.

Kathmandu, Nepal - Top Pick for Explorers


A view of the mountains from the Thrangu Tashi Yangtse monastery in the Kavre outskirts of Kathmandu (REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar)

In December, the United States lifted its year-old travel advisory against visiting Nepal, citing improved conditions in the Himalayan heartland. Incidents of political violence and the threat to U.S. citizens have significantly decreased and the political situation is stabilizing, the Department of State said.

Nepal is home to eight of the world's 14 highest peaks including Mount Everest, which reaches 29,029 feet skyward. Explorers head to Kathmandu to meditate, sip tea, and organize treks into the Himalayan highlands.

Southeast Asia's poorest nation, Nepal has struggled to recover from nearly two decades of communist insurgency that ended in 2006 only to be followed by further political instability.

2011 was the year of tourism, though a volatile atmosphere and global travel warnings scared many tourists away from the picturesque republic.

With warnings dropped, hundreds of thousands of tourists are expected to swarm the mountainous nation to trek the Himalayan peaks in 2012.

Stockholm, Sweden - Top Pick for Film Buffs and Book Nerds


Stockholm's Gamla Stan or old town district is reflected in calm waters under a cloudy sky (Reuters/Bob Strong)

Film buffs and book nerds may have a hard time finding the gritty side of Stockholm portrayed in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Stockholm is widely dubbed one of the most beautiful major cities in the world and is known for its sleek designs, edgy fashion and world-class nightclubs. It's cozy, yet cosmopolitan - alternative, yet picturesque.

Stockholm may be hard on the wallet, but it's also heavy on the heart. More of a global city than many imagine, Stockholm is so much more than meatballs, Ikea, and ABBA.

Nova Scotia, Canada - Top Pick for Budding Historians


This cemetery is the resting place of more Titanic victims than any other in the world (creative commons/U.S. Coast Guard)

The Titanic hit an iceberg and sank April 15, 1912 on its maiden voyage from England to New York.

As the tragedy unfolded, three ships were dispatched from Halifax, Nova Scotia -- the closest major port -- to bring back the bodies of the victims.

In 2012, a variety of events will commemorate the 100th anniversary of one of the most storied tragedies of the 20th century. Many of these will take place in Halifax.

The city's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic boasts one of the most extensive permanent Titanic exhibitions in the world and will host special exhibits and events throughout the year.

Visitors can also tour Halifax's Fairview Lawn Cemetery, where 121 Titanic victims are buried.

For something less morbid, be sure to check out the Bay of Fundy, one of the world's most dynamic and dramatic coastlines. Each day, the ocean bay between Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Maine fills and empties 100 billion tons of water. This enormous tidal switch makes the Bay of Fundy one of the most unique natural wonders on the planet.

Abu Dhabi, UAE - Top Pick for Art Connoisseurs


Tourists pose in front of the Abu Dhabi skyline (REUTERS/Sharon Perry)

Move over Dubai, there's a new powerhouse in the Persian Gulf.

What isn't happening in Abu Dhabi in 2012? The oil-rich city is getting bigger, brighter, and more spectacular by the day and now boasts one of the most exciting art scenes in the Middle East.

The quickly-emerging cultural district on Saadiyat Island will feature a new Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim and a new Louvre (in partnership with the French government).

Each November, the booming city hosts Abu Dhabi Art, a major new art fair that's a boutique platform for modern and contemporary art and design.

In 2011 alone, over a dozen four- and five-star hotels opened their doors in Abu Dhabi, including the second-most expensive hotel ever built, the Emirates Palace.

2012 looks to be no different as the burgeoning city rises like a glittery mirage from the desert sand.

If your favorite place didn't make the list, feel free to share in the comments below.