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Alaskans: Blue Lagoon hot springs beckon European-bound travelers

Scott McMurren
Gudmunder "Gummi" Eyjolfsson is one of many knowledgable locals who offer guided tours of Iceland. Eyjolfsson is pictured here with his "Super Jeep."
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I headed north from Reyjkavik about 60 miles to a small guesthouse in farm country. Hulda Hrönn Sigurðardóttir and her family have the Geirshlid Guesthouse, which is essentially rooms in their farmhouse.
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The Hvítá -- translated into "white river" in English -- flows 25 miles from Langjökull glacier in Iceland's highlands before dropping down into a narrow gorge at the Gullfoss waterfall, pictured.
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Flights from Anchorage to Iceland are surprisingly affordable and offer easy access to many European destinations, including London, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo.
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Situated at the confluence of the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, Iceland is a nation of mariners. Fishing has helped propel Iceland from poverty into one of the world's wealthiest developed nations. The Jupiter is one of many vessels docked in Reykjavík.
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I made a point of getting out to see an amazing Icelandic waterfall called Dynjandi. So that meant driving south from Isafjordur on Highway 60 to the ferry dock at Brjánslækur for the cruise to Stykkishomur.
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Renting a car in Iceland is not cheap. My car, from Sixt, worked out to about $80 per day. Gas is about $7.60 per gallon. But driving in Iceland is relatively simple--not the daunting task it can be in Rome or Paris, for example.
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The Blue Lagoon, located between downtown Reykjavik and the international airport, is nearly an acre in size and offers travelers mineral-rich heated waters, a great place to destress after a long flight.
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Designed in 1937, The Hallgrímskirkja is a Lutheran parish church in Reykjavík named after the 17th century Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson.
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The drive north from Geirshlid to Isafjordur is 245 miles and took me more than six hours. That's because I kept stopping to take photos.
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The time is ripe for a trip "over the top" from Alaska to Iceland, giving Alaskans a lesser-known passport stamp to Europe. But there's more: the Icelandair flight from Anchorage to Keflavik International Airport connects Alaskans to more than 20 destinations from Scandinavia to the U.K. and continental Europe. And Icelandair offers a free stop in either direction when traveling from Anchorage to Europe.

Alaska has long enjoyed strong ties to the tiny Arctic island nation, a "Land of Fire and Ice" that is best known for its volcanoes, hot springs and glaciers. Iceland like Alaska offers some of the same natural wonders that attract travelers to Alaska, including the wintertime lure of dancing northern lights. But it's the subtle differences, coupled with its fabulous hot springs, spas and geysers, which make Iceland a worthwhile travel indulgence for Alaskans who take advantage of their new connection to Europe.

If you're looking for a quick, early summer escape from Alaska, grab the "Anchorage to Iceland Inaugural Offer" with Icelandair. The package price includes roundtrip air fare between May 16 and June 20, two nights hotel accommodations, roundtrip air fare Anchorage-Reykjavik, roundtrip transfers from the airport to your hotel and breakfast. The prices start at $899 per person, double.

FEATURE: 'LAND OF FIRE & ICE' BECKONS ALASKANS 

Of crouse, my bet is you'll want to spend more than two nights. On the Icelandair.com site, you can add extra nights, upgrade your hotel to a three- or four-star hotel and shop for other add-ons. Don't miss a trip to Blue Lagoon. This giant, two-acre natural hot spring is conveniently located between Reykjavik and the airport -- and the bus schedule makes it easy to include a stop there either coming or going. Or both. Let me be clear: everybody takes a dip in the Blue Lagoon. You're crazy not to do it.

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com or follow him on Twitter for breaking travel news.