Iceland is having quite the moment.
The small, mostly treeless volcanic island nation in the north Atlantic has always been breathtakingly beautiful—powerful falls of pure water, otherworldly vistas of onyx volcanic stone, geysers, crisp light and air—but this week it's suddenly the center of attention again, and that means tourists may begin to flow there in increasing numbers.
• The biggest development is the announcement by three-year-old Iceland-based WOW airlines that beginning next March, it will go from Boston, five hours' flight away, and starting in June, it will add flights from Baltimore-Washington BWI to Iceland's capital, Reykjavik. This may not seem like a major announcement—after all, Icelandair has already served those cities—until you hear that WOW will be charging fares as low as $250 round-trip. From DC, that's $99 each way plus tax.
Mind you, this is one of those fares that looks a little cheaper than it will turn out to be in practice because from there, it will charge for things such as checked baggage, food, and seat assignments (those fees are listed here, and they're not out of line), but that base tariff is unlike anything else to Europe right now.
WOW, which may be one of the weirdest names for an airline ever, has already been flying from Iceland to European cities such as London and Copenhagen, which means that like Icelandair, it will now be a viable and affordable option for flying to Europe proper.
You'll find Wow Air at wowair.us.
• Icelandair itself is making changes that will make its flights more accessible. After a long absence, it is returning to service in Orlando's MCO in 2015. For a decade, it had been operating at the somewhat remote and rather inconvenient Sanford International airport, miles from O-town. This switch puts Icelandair back in the main and back on the radar for many Southeastern Americans. Iceland already goes either seasonally or year-round from Anchorage, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis-St. Paul, JFK, Newark, Portland, OR, Seattle-Tacoma and Washington's Dulles airport.
• Icelandair has also being doing a great job educating consumers about one of its coolest perks: If you book it to Europe, it allows you to stop off in Iceland for free for a vacation. A cute video it produced promoting the benefit became a viral hit a few weeks ago (you can watch it right here), and the interest seems to be rejuvenating interest in the country.
Its latest stunt is to come unannounced to cities and secretly plant Iceland swag in a bunch of Uber SUVs. One of the vehicles gives out free Icelandair tickets to the people who happen be lucky enough to book it—check out the video the airline produced showing how it gave away 22 round-trip tickets in Boston that way. (And while you're at it, check out the nearly uniform post-college age of the winners—if there's any doubt about Uber's primary demographic or the fun-loving demo Iceland is going after—here's your proof.)
Even Iceland's politics are making news. A memoir by Reykjavik's former mayor, John Gnarr, recently went on sale. Called Gnarr: How I Became the Mayor of a Large City in Iceland and Changed the World, it's about how Gnarr, a radio host, founded a political party to satirize the government but wound up winning the election. Gnarr's funny accounts of the loopy local culture and politics of Iceland, which can feel more like a small town than an entire nation (the entire country has a population of 323,000, roughly equivalent to Santa Ana, California), have inspired a new set of people to visit the island.
Iceland is now more accessible than ever. Will it be one of your next vacation destinations?
You can explore Frommer's' full coverage of Iceland at this link.
Photo credit: Paul Deards