Have your­self a half-way hol­i­day

Long-haul flights can be soul-de­stroy­ing, but a city stopover along the way can trans­form the ex­pe­ri­ence, says Chris Lead­beater

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

Never does Robert Louis Steven­son’s much ref­er­enced (and of­ten mis-re­cited) snip­pet of wis­dom about how “to travel hope­fully is a bet­ter thing than to ar­rive” (from his 1878 es­say El Do­rado) seem more non­sen­si­cal than when you are half­way through a long flight. There is noth­ing hope­ful about hav­ing spent six hours squashed into a small seat, know­ing that you have seven fur­ther hours to go – as the gen­tle­man who has wedged him­self next to you con­tin­ues to snore fer­vently. Ar­rival, at this point, would be a de­light.

Still, while it is im­pos­si­ble to sec­ond-guess the views of a man who died in the 19th cen­tury, you could in­fer from his oft-quoted line about tak­ing the slow route and en­joy­ing the process that the au­thor of Trea­sure Is­land would ap­prove of the 21stcen­tury con­cept of the flight stopover. For what is more the an­tithe­sis of ar­rival than halt­ing on your way?

A 21st-cen­tury con­cept? Maybe not. Peo­ple have been em­bark­ing on odysseys by air that touch down here and there be­fore sight­ing the fi­nal run­way al­most ever since the Wright Broth­ers cracked the avi­a­tion code. But the idea of paus­ing in an in­di­rect some­where on the path from A to B has come into clar­ity in the last three years – thanks mainly to Wow Air (01642 450450; wowair.co.uk) and Ice­landair (020 7874 1000; ice­landair. com). Since 2015, these Ice­landic ri­vals have ex­tended ten­ta­cles into North Amer­ica, tar­get­ing mid-sized, some­times hard-to-reach cities in the USA and Canada (Tampa, Cincin­nati, Pitts­burgh, Hal­i­fax and Mon­treal as a few ex­am­ples) – to ex­ploit un­tapped mar­kets, but also in a fiercely com­pet­i­tive bid to cre­ate a “low-cost long haul” transat­lantic air-bridge.

The big is­sue is that you have to fly via the car­ri­ers’ base air­port – Ke­flavik in Reyk­javik. In­con­ve­nient or in­trigu­ing? Both air­lines have been mar­ket­ing it as the lat­ter, sell­ing of­fi­cial stopover deals which let pas­sen­gers spend time in the planet’s most northerly cap­i­tal at the mid­point in their progress, with­out in­cur­ring added costs. They have done this so ef­fec­tively that, sud­denly, the thought of not tak­ing a break dur­ing an epic dash across the planet seems in­de­cent haste. It is a per­sua­sive ar­gu­ment – if you are land­ing in a des­ti­na­tion that, though not the main fo­cus of your trav­els, is an al­lur­ing op­tion for a day or two of ex­plo­ration, why wouldn’t you step off the plane and see more?

Nor are the Ice­landers alone. With three or four no­table ex­cep­tions, the 15 places in our se­lec­tion, right, are sec­ondary travel des­ti­na­tions – ur­ban op­tions that you might not nec­es­sar­ily con­sider pri­mary ports of call for hol­i­days. But if you are plan­ning a globe-span­ning trip to Aus­tralia, the Amer­i­cas, Africa or the Far East in the near fu­ture, the same cities could all pro­vide wel­come respite from the dull re­stric­tions of the jour­ney. Where am I go­ing? Prac­ti­cally any­where in North Amer­ica.

Air­lines: Wow Air (from Ed­in­burgh, Gatwick and Stansted) and Ice­landair (from Glas­gow, Gatwick, Heathrow, and Manch­ester). Wow pro­vides a “stopover” book­ing func­tion on its web­site, with, for ex­am­ple, re­turn flights to De­troit – leav­ing Gatwick on Oct 20, paus­ing for two nights in Reyk­javik, and re­turn­ing from the US on Oct 29 – cost­ing from £390. Ice­landair also of­fers this reser­va­tions process – an iden­ti­cal pack­age on the same dates, fly­ing from Glas­gow to Or­lando via Ke­flavik, starts at £1,002. Rea­sons to linger: Wow sells a one-day “Golden Cir­cle Tour” of Ice­land’s most fa­bled ge­o­log­i­cal won­ders – the Strokkur geyser; the Gull­foss wa­ter­fall; Thingvel­lir Na­tional Park – from £84 per per­son. The Blue La­goon geo­ther­mal spa (blue­la­goon.com; from €55), while some­thing of a tourism cliché, is re­mark­ably beau­ti­ful.

Stay: The Sand­ho­tel (tele­graph.co.uk/ tt-sand­hotel­reyk­javik), a bou­tique re­treat on Reyk­javik’s main shop­ping av­enue Lau­gave­gur, of­fers dou­bles from £207, with break­fast.

Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion: vis­itreyk­javik. is; in­spired­by­ice­land.com

Why wouldn’t you want to step off your plane and see more of a des­ti­na­tion for a day or two?

DUBAI

Where am I go­ing? In the last 15 years, Dubai has be­come the ob­vi­ous break-point for trips from Europe to Aus­trala­sia, eclips­ing the route via the Far East that dom­i­nated travel plans in the last cen­tury. But you might equally be go­ing to the Sey­chelles, or Mau­ri­tius.

Air­line: Emi­rates (0344 800 2777; emi­rates.com) serves the Sey­chelles from Ed­in­burgh, Glas­gow, Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birm­ing­ham, Manch­ester and New­cas­tle (while BA only flies di­rect to Mahé from Heathrow). Its “multi-city” book­ing op­tion lets tourists build a gap into their itin­er­ary. Re­turn flights from Birm­ing­ham to the Sey­chelles, de­part­ing on Nov 24, with space for three nights in Dubai en route, cost from £835.

Rea­son to linger: Dubai rarely gains cul­tural plau­dits, but there is a thrill in ris­ing to the 148th floor of the Burj Khal­ifa (bur­jkhal­ifa.ae; AED370/£78), the world’s tallest build­ing.

Stay: The five-star Four Sea­sons Re­sort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach (tele­graph.co.uk/tt-foursea­sons­dubai) dis­penses seafront views, and dou­bles from £163 per night, room only. Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion: vis­it­dubai.com

BREAK FREEA tourist en­joys the view of Bangkok from the wa­ter

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