Lots of great new short-haul routes are opening up in the second half of 2015. Here’s a quick look at just a few that will have you wanting to get out there and explore.
Read, book, fly!
Iceland is the closest place to the UK that has earthquakes all the time. Don’t worry though, they’re all underground and part of what makes the geothermal island so spectacular.
Iceland is fiercely independent – it was the only country to kick out the banks after the 2008 financial crisis and you won’t find any chain stores here. The country’s boutique shops and otherworldly cuisine (puffin, anybody?) are in a league of their own.
The landscape is the clincher though – black lava formations, huge geothermal spas, the Northern Lights. It even has the geyser that all other geysers are named after: Geysir. An unmissable destination.Search for flights to Reykjavik
Cafe culture pretty much originated in Vienna, so if you love the black stuff visiting the city is a no-brainer. The Naschmarkt, or “Nibble Market”, is where it’s at for street food, vintage clothing and antiques, all combined with a bustling farmer’s market, and a flea market. Elsewhere, Freihausviertel, the Austrian hipster favourite, is a hub of cafes, bars and restaurants that are always lively. Meanwhile along Vienna’s waterways, the River Danube and its various canals provide plenty of spots for so-called beach bars. There are even nude sections if you go as far as Donauinsel.
The Museumsquartier part of town is one of the greatest centres for art in Europe. It contains leading arts institutions such as MUMOK, the Leopold Museum, Kunsthalle Wien, Architekturzentrum Wien, and is also full of street art, such as the aptly-named Street Art Passage. Vienna’s icon though is the Riesenrad, the 19th-century Ferris wheel in Prater Park – yes, that’s a theme park smack-bang in the middle of the city.
This archipelago of nine islands is home to the world’s only volcanic thermal pool on the edge of an ocean – it’s in Sao Miguel, conveniently near where your flight is bound to land. Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel is the largest town and a snapshot of 16th century life with its cobbled streets. Local food is excellent, and obviously sea food is a must, but don’t forget to sample the meat stews cooked in the Furnas hot springs.
Activity-wise, water sports are all the rage in the Azores with lots of diving spots, such as Terceira where there’s an anchor graveyard. Whale-watching is very popular too, and a third of marine mammals have been seen in the waters around the Azores – you can even swim with dolphins in Sao Miguel. Man-o-wars, the largest jellyfishes on earth also like to hang around the archipelago, but they’re best seen from a safe distance!
Denmark’s capital reputedly has some of the best restaurants on Earth, including Noma, regularly voted the world’s best. Copenhagen is also home to Stroget, the world’s longest pedestrianised shopping street. The city is latticed by canals that you can explore by kayak, but you may prefer to make use of the city’s all-conquering free cycle hire system that covers just about the whole place – no wonder Copenhagen is known as the world’s first Bike City.
If the Denmark’s capital city just isn’t enough for you, you can take the train over the Oresund Bridge and check out Sweden. Offshore, there’s also the island of Elsinore, the setting of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Nestled in the east of the city, let’s not forget Freetown Christiania, the large arts commune where anything goes – its governed by its own separate laws and is a haven for freethinkers. If you want to just chill out at one of Denmark’s many wine bars, maybe try lounging around in Nyhavn, the city’s iconic pastel harbour – the scenery evokes the spirit of the Brothers Grimm, all while local street musicians serenade you and your friends.Search for flights to Copenhagen
For such a tiny place, Gibraltar is a condensed ball of wondrous sites not to be missed. It’s the only place in Europe where you’ll find wild monkeys known as Barbary macaques running around, especially all over the huge limestone massif known affectionately as The Rock. Inside The Rock, you’ll find St Michael’s Cave with its thousands of stalactites and stalagmites formed over millions of years, an underground lake and, cor blimey, a luxury seated auditorium for concerts. Further along there are 50km-worth of passages to explore, dug out by soldiers protecting Gibraltar during wartime.
The town itself is an intriguing mix of Spanish and British culture, with UK brands and red postboxes littered about, all against amongst a backdrop of botanical gardens, sandy bays and yachting marinas. The airport’s runway dramatically crosses the main road leading into the territory, making it one of the most unique airports to fly into, let alone of the most unique short-haul destinations you can fly to.
Fun fact: Gibraltar is where John Lennon and Yoko Ono got married.
Last but never least: Venice. This magnificent city is all canals, and there’s nowhere else like it on Earth. The waterways are best traversed by the more affordable traghetto, rather than the famous gondolas, but you simply have to take at a ride on one of these icons at least once.
All the most famous Venetian sites are best reached on foot, though you can take a boat to explore some of the city’s surrounding islands. But it’s Venice, the world’s most enchanting city, and there’s no need to stick to a plan or the heaving San Marco and Rialto – just wander around in any direction and you’re sure to be intoxicated by the crumbling edifices and lapping of waves, and stumble across some old church or piazza where history seeps out of every crack.Search for flights to Venice