The real trick is catching the unspoiled destination at just the right moment, when rumblings of interest have given rise to a comfortable infrastructure for knowing travelers, but the crowds are at least a few years off," T+L special correspondent Christopher Petkanas writes in his report on Puglia, a region in the heel of Italy's boot whose considerable attractions have not yet gained it the tourist-magnet status of the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. Even people "drawn to an empty landscape," like novelist Roxana Robinson ("New Zealand's Natural Wonders"), may experience changes wrought by crowds. On the South Island of New Zealand, the invaders were mammals of the grazing and predatory sort; introduced by 19th-century settlers, they forever altered an avian paradise where a flightless bird like the now extinct nine-foot, 500-pound moa could roam.

What seems spoiled to one person, however, may be a haven to another. As journalist Rebecca Mead points out in "Shanghai Surprises", local men and women in the latest European fashions, as well as international travelers with an eye for the newest and buzziest of everything, are flocking to this city's French Concession district. Near Xingye Road, narrow alleyways and elegant gray-brick buildings from the 1920's (later converted into communal housing when the Communist Party came to power) have given way to a 560,000-square-foot retail and dining complex. The crowds here are testimony to the appeal of reinvention—and to the speed at which contemporary interpretations of classic Chinese style are edging out the authentically exotic.

And what of that golfer's and spa-goer's paradise, Scottsdale, Arizona, in the wake of the new James Hotel ("Hot Property," by Mitchell Owens), the first hip and truly affordable resort in the area?Designed to attract a younger urban set, the James, with its Barragánesque architecture and chic dining and bar scene, is sure to change the demographics of visitors to this Sunbelt desert oasis.

If the natural evolution of a destination runs from isolation to accessibility to overcrowding, the challenge is knowing when to hit it just right. Depending on what you're after, getting away from it all—whether for a long summer weekend or a more leisurely vacation—may be a matter of good timing.

—Nancy Novogrod