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This has really been Iceland's year.
A slew of movies have used the country's famous landscapes for their setting, the erupting volcano of Bardabunga has opened up new tourism experiences (so long as there's no ash cloud), and it just so happens that we went to Iceland ourselves for the first time this year.
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This may sound weird, but our New Years resolution for 2014 was to fly WOW Air, a low-cost airline based in Iceland. Its awesome name aside, WOW intrigued us for its fleet of pink A320s, humor on Twitter, and promise of cheap flights to the notoriously expensive Reykjavik.
To complete that resolution, we booked Flight WW 201, departing Reykjavik-Keflavik at 6.45am and arriving London-Gatwick at 10.50am. That early flight and mid-morning arrival into Gatwick was ideal to then catch the train into town in time for lunch with a friend, followed by an afternoon napthe best way to ease back into London.
So here’s how it went...
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While commercial air traffic has been giving Iceland a wide berth over the past week or two, a few Icelandic airlines are eager to capitalize on the action.
For a start, an Icelandair pilot opted for a scenic routing and extra circle over the volcano, which provided passengers with a good view of the most active zone. A resulting smartphone photo quickly went viral.
Now the Iceland-based low-cost carrier WOW Air (yes, that's really their name) is promoting travel on their cheap fares from European airports to not only visit Iceland, but the eruption in particular. Fly to Reykjavik on Wow from one of their many destinations from 39 EUR each way (we paid $150 for a flight from London earlier this year on Wow), and then make your own way to the north of the country to connect to a sightseeing flight on Mýflug Air.
We opened this week by warning you that Iceland's Bardarbunga volcano - backgrounder from the Icelandic Met Office here, pronunciation tutorial embedded at bottom - had very pointedly begun to rumble. Let this be your official update that as of last night the volcano did indeed erupt, that an aviation red alert has been issued by Iceland's authorities, and that an air traffic ban is now in place around the entire Bardarbunga system. Happy Friday.
Technically there are no big ash problems yet, because the eruption doesn't seem to have kicked up any actual ash. Nonetheless Agence France-Presse is already throwing around phrases like "global travel chaos" in articles about what the next few days might bring. You guys did take our advice on Monday and purchase travel insurance, right?
Ever since the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland led to air travel becoming extremely volcano-vigilant, passengers have purchased transatlantic tickets with the silent prayer of "please don't let a volcano ruin this." That prayer may soon prove fruitless, however, as big ash problems may once again be on the way.
Seismologists aren't the only ones keeping an eye on the recent rumblings over in Iceland, with travelers tuned to the news for the first signs of any ash cloud. There was a pair of earthquakes—greater than 5.0—and both struck near the area in and around the country’s Bardarbunga volcano. As a result, the country bumped its aviation alert up to red, but after a period of calm we’re back to an orange level.
A new movie hitting theaters this summer is just one of many recent projects to show Iceland some love.
The independent film Land Ho! follows two old fiends, Colin and Mitch, as they travel through Iceland after Colin's split with his second wife.
We have long been fans of the airline safety video, and from the funny to the serious we’ve got a spot in our travel hearts for each and every one of them. The latest one on our must-watch list is the new update from the folks over at Icelandair.
No jokes or Icelandic humor here, but what things do reveal are some of the awesome sights, sounds, and scenery all available over in Iceland. Safety videos usually don’t double as a tourism advertisement, but in this case it kind of does.
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Know what sounds nice? A long weekend in Iceland. While most Americans would chose to fly Icelandair or seasonal non stops from the US on other major carriers, we managed to fit an Iceland trip into a visit to London, all because of the availability of cheap one-ways on Easyjet. What proved to be most notable about the entire EasyJet travel experience is the time spent at the airport, and not actually on the flight.
For the 7.35am departure from London's Luton Airport (LTN), we reserved a £12 4.15am National Express coach bus from Victoria Station, which arrived to LTN at 5.25am. From there, we clutched our print-at-home boarding pass and, with no luggage to check, we headed straight through to airport security. Luton seems better equipped than Heathrow to handle crowds of passengers at security as, despite the morning rush, we were through security and handled (not manhandled!) in under 10 minutes. So far, so good.
Airside, Luton is a massive food court, with the boarding gates located down hallways. Passengers find seats only in the main central area, and then stand to rush and line up at the gate the minute info screens announce their flight. This early in the morning, when budget airlines love to sell their seats cheapest, the terminal resembled a safe house during an evacuation drill. Every available seat was taken, and passengers clutched their luggage on their laps as there simply wasn't room to spread out.
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In the midst of the bustle of travel, it's all too easy to overlook the details. We're talking about special touches others have stressed over just so you can enjoy a unique experience, whether you know it or not. Every so often we'll highlight The Little Things like this, so now you will know.
The Little Thing: Icelandair's dedication to Iceland culture, both in the airport and their aircraft.
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It's been four years (already!) since the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted and wreaked havoc on international travel. Although volcanologists ranked the eruption low in severity, it was the hulking ash cloud that made headlines. Now, thanks to its having cancelled hundreds of thousands of flights, impacted millions of travelers, and necessitated the development of ash-detection aviation technology, a small parking area with a scenic lookout sees a steady stream of tourist traffic.
Finding the volcano on a map, or viewing some of the seriously humbling photos of the eruption make it seem as though it's in a remote location, far from civilization.
After spending time there last year, Ben Stiller can't stop sharing his admiration for Iceland.
Ben's latest movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, was the first major motion picture to film scenes in Iceland that were actually set in Iceland.
Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of the first U.S. movies to be primarily set in Iceland, which also doubles as Greenland, Afghanistan, and the Himalayas throughout the film.
Now that the movie is hitting theaters, several tour groups in Iceland are looking to cash in on the country's new starring role by offering trips to some of Walter Mitty's filming locations.