London is incredibly well served as a transit hub. Collectively, London airports see more traffic than any other cluster of city airports in Europe. An impressively broad network of routes connects the city’s airports to destinations across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Africa. For anyone predisposed to travel, this range of destinations is inspiring.
Many of the world’s most visited destinations are served from London, some along multiple routes. Many others are less well known. Among these are the following five truly unusual destinations.
1. Ascension Island. This Atlantic Ocean island, hundreds of miles south of the Equator and well over one thousand miles from the African and South American coasts, hosts a joint US/UK air force military base and a European Space Agency tracking station. It is also home to one of the world’s very few GPS ground antennas. To fly to Ascension Island, hop aboard a military plane bound for the Falkland Islands at Brize Norton Royal Air Force base in Oxfordshire, west of London. Upon arrival, laze about on the knockout beach above.
2. Hassi Messaoud, Algeria. Monarch flies to the inland oil town of Hassi Messaoud in Ouargla Province from London-Gatwick, though you have to book your ticket through Jet Air. This route is designed to ferry oil company workers to and fro, and you can expect to shell out just over £1050 for a round trip ticket. While this is most definitely not standard tourist territory, it might just be the ticket for oil industry hobbyists, of which there are no doubt a handful. Somewhere.
3. Tórshavn, Faroe Islands. Atlantic Airways, the Faroese national carrier, flies between London Stansted and the Faroe Islands from early June through early September. The Faroes, which lie north of Scotland, are a truly glorious (if extremely expensive) summer destination for whale watching, hiking, fishing, and birdwatching.
4. Sylhet, Bangladesh. Most of the UK’s Bangladeshi population has ancestral ties to Bangladesh’s Sylhet region. It’s not surprising then that there are links between London and the region’s biggest city, also named Sylhet. Connections are provided by United Airways (BD) (not to be confused with US carrier United) and Biman Bangladesh. United’s route stops in Dubai and Dhaka along the way; the Biman Bangladesh link is flown via Dubai. The region, known as Sylhet Division, is verdant and lush and full of tea plantations.
5. Sion, Switzerland. This tiny airport in the canton of Valais is served by just two airlines. From mid-December through April, an airline called Snowjet operated by Titan Airways connects Sion and London Stansted. Sion is 45 minutes by road from Verbier, the most stylish of Switzerland’s Four Valleys ski towns.
[Image of Ascension Island: Drew Avery | Flickr]