he Catskills comprise six wonderfully varied counties: Delaware, Greene, Otsego, Schoharie, Sullivan, and Ulster. Ulster County, for one, ranges from the western bank of the Hudson River all the way to the 3,375-foot peak of Belleayre Mountain. The towns, hamlets, and blink-and-you'll-miss-'em villages of the Catskills also provide a range of experiences: Be it in the college town of New Paltz (with the requisite Starbucks) or the tranquil town of Halcott (which, with less than 200 residents, has a smaller population today than it did in its dairy-farming heyday in the 1950s), you can find anything from absolute peace and solitude to cultural stimulation.

Stimulating and satisfying one's sense of luxury is the recently opened Emerson Inn & Spa in Mount Tremper. From the beds replete with Frette linens to the 5,000-bottle wine cellar to the indulgent spa treatments, this bellwether of the new Catskills offers a level of comfort and service that rivals that of the world's finest hotels. A number of brand-new eateries are also ready to serve. Among them is Fleur de Lys, a trendy spot in a very old but meticulously restored mansion that is owned and operated by graduates of the Culinary Institute of Quebec.

The current flavor of the Catskills is also very much in evidence at That Certain Something, a recently opened cafe and antiques boutique selling everything from vintage Hoosier cabinets to 1940s luau records that would be right at home in New York's funky West Village or San Francisco's popular Marina District. The shop's owner, Toni Perretta, is optimistic about the sustainability of the area's upswing: "The Catskills are just going to keep getting better and better."