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The hottest new flight from Philadelphia? A nonstop to Iceland

Do you like scenic landscapes, geysers, ice caves, volcanoes, the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa, and Northern lights?

If so, you're in luck.

Next spring, Philadelphia will be getting its first flight to Iceland.  Icelandair announced Wednesday  that it will begin nonstop service from Philadelphia International Airport to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, on May 30.

The flights will operate four days a week in the spring, summer, and fall, to start.

Icelandair officials were in Philadelphia on Wednesday for the announcement, joined by Mayor Kenney and airport CEO Chellie Cameron.

"Philadelphians will now have a refreshing alternative when traveling to Iceland and beyond," said Birkir Holm Gudnason, CEO of Icelandair.

Icelandair said it has "helped boost tourism to its home country in record numbers" and in bolstering Iceland "as one of Europe's hottest destinations."

The Icelandair flight will depart Philadelphia International on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 8:35 p.m., arriving the next morning at 6:10.  The return flight will depart Keflavik International Airport at 5 p.m., arriving in Philadelphia at 7:15 p.m. on the same day,

Philadelphia will be Icelandair's 17th city in North America. Flight time will be 5½ hours, the airline said.

Iceland's oldest airline, founded in 1937, has been adding U.S. cities to its route map,  with flights to New York; Newark, N.J.; Washington; and, recently, Seattle. It has connections to more than 25 destinations in Europe.

"Icelandair used to be, in the 1960s and '70s, considered the hippie airline," said Jeffrey Erlbaum, president of Eta Travel in Conshohocken.   "That was the airline everybody doing backpacking tours of Europe used. It was the cheapest way to get to Europe.

"They are still cheaper than a lot of airlines to Europe, but they are not the cheapest," he said.  Fares average between $700 and  $1,000 round-trip from the East Coast, or as low as $597 round-trip, based on availability and seasonality, Erlbaum said.

Iceland's newest local airline, WOW Air, founded in 2011, offers cheap base fares, but charges extra for everything -- bags, seats -- similar to Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant Air. WOW  operates flights at Liberty International  Airport in Newark and Baltimore.

Icelandair passengers can stop over in Iceland for up to seven days at no additional cost on flights between North America and Europe.

"You can fly today, get to Iceland tomorrow, spend three days in Iceland, and fly off to Paris or wherever you are going," Erlbaum said.  "They have a pretty good European route network."

Icelandair offers three classes of service: coach, premium economy, and "saga," which is business class.  Flights are timed to get to Reykjavik about 5 or 6 a.m. with connections throughout Europe.

With a good tailwind, the plane can be in Iceland in 4½ hours from the U.S. East Coast.

Icelandair may snag some passengers who formerly traveled on American Airlines, which has a transatlantic hub in Philadelphia. American recently dropped its PHL flight to Brussels in August and a seasonal flight to Zurich on Sept. 30.

Thorsteinn Egilsson, Icelandair general manager for the Americas, said fares will be "competitive" with American flights to Europe. "I can't promise that every time our pricing is going to be lower, but our strategy is to be competitive on the pricing point. Absolutely."

While flights are now scheduled to end in late September, they could become year-around if there is passenger demand, he said.  "We strongly believe that our network is a strong, good fit for this market."

The number of American tourists traveling to Iceland increased 59 percent year-over-year from 2014 to 2015,  according to Iceland's tourism and travel news website.  Overall, the number of foreign travelers to Iceland was up 30 percent last year.

"It is a  very hot destination -- no pun intended," Erlbaum said.  "There are a lot of cool things to see.  It's viewed as a safe destination. You don't think of terrorism problems when you think of Iceland. It's very remote."

Icelandair flies to 54  destinations from Reykjavik.  "It's a great thing for Philadelphia," said Erlbaum, who flew Icelandair in March.  "Look at their route map, and you can see all the cities they fly to in Europe.  The Reykjavik airport is pretty small and easier to connect in than a London or a Frankfurt.  It's really a cool destination. A stopover, if you can do it, is worthwhile."