Saturday 10 December 2016

Iceland: Hot springs and cool bars now just a direct flight away

The Getaway: WOW Factor

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Iceland's Northern Lights
Iceland's Northern Lights
Aoife Kelly in Iceland. WOW Air flies three times weekly to Reykjavik.
Kaffibarinn, Reykjavik. Photo: Kaffibarinn/Facebook
Aoife Kelly in Iceland, now just a 2.5 hour flight from Dublin
Mother and Daughter apply a Silica mud mask

Aoife Kelly took the first direct scheduled flight from Dublin to Reykjavik for a city break with a difference.

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Set the mood

I'm standing on a wooden bridge above a cavernous crevasse that plunges to a depth of 100 metres inside Iceland's second largest glacier. It's an experience only a handful of people have enjoyed.

It's one you can now have within hours of Dublin, too - thanks to Icelandic low cost carrier WOW air, which has just launched a non-stop, two-hour 20 minute flight to the capital, Reykjavic.

Five years in the making, the caverns constructed in the glacier near Husafell, about two and a half hours from the city, are a wonder to behold. Like tree rings, the walls consist of icy layers of summers and winters - a black line near the roof indicating the ash layer that coated the glacier in the wake of the Eyjafjallajökull eruptions of 2010.

So spectacular and ethereal is the setting, that fantasy series Game of Thrones has filmed scenes deep within its heart. JJ Abrams has even been on site filming secret scenes for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. 

Take the 'Into the Glacier' tour with Reykjavik Excursions (re.is/day-tours).

Guilty Pleasure

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Al fresco bathing in the Blue Lagoon

Fancy bathing outside in the warm hot spring waters of the Blue Lagoon (bluelagoon.com)? A bus trip with Reykjavik Excursions (from €70) could see you kicking back in the soothing, warm water with a face lathered in mineral-rich mud within 40 minutes of the city.

You can sip a Prosecco (or a healthy green juice if you prefer), too.

 It’s worth dining afterwards in the adjacent Lava restaurant, where food is sublime and the dining area resembles the sleek lair of a Bond baddie carved into the rock face. In Reykjavic itself, Kol restaurant (kolrestaurant.is) also boasts top notch eats and the best cocktails in the city.

Cheap Kick

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Iceland's epic scenery; Aoife Kelly (inset)

Icelanders believe their country is populated by trolls and elves. 

The scenery - sweeping glaciers flanked by snow topped mountains tumbling into great plains of brown/grey volcanic rock terrain, and rivers and waterfalls of turquoise mineral-dense water - certainly evokes a sense of the supernatural, and it costs nothing to take it all in. Fresh air is free!

Hotel Intel

The Alda Hotel (aldahotel.is) is set on the main shopping street Laugavegur, and is to my mind, the epitome of sleek, Scandinavian design.

Earthy greys, browns and black dominate throughout, and the Barber Bar (complete with adjacent retro barber shop inside) is the ultimate in hipster cool. Guests are even given their own smartphones to use throughout their stay so you won’t spend a fortune browsing Google maps on roaming. Nice touch.

Glitches

Taxis cost an arm and a leg. A taxi for five people from the airport to Reykjavic (about 20 mins) costs about €160. However, Fly Bus (re.is/flybus) departs from the airport every half hour and costs just €13.

Top tip

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Kaffibarinn in summer

With a population of 120,000, Reykjavic is a compact city - so it’s easy to negotiate on foot. A stroll is all the more enjoyable given the eclectic mix of independent fashion boutiques, galleries and cool, intimate bars. Make sure to hang with the locals at Kaldi and Kaffibarinn (kaffibarinn.is) - it's part owned by Blur's Damon Albarn, and played a bit part in cult movie 101 Reykjavik. 

Get me there

WOW air (wowair.ie) flies direct from Dublin to Reykjavic on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, with flights starting from €79 one-way including taxes.

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