One of the major joys of international travel, for me, is to take what I call an exotic flight. For some people, that might be the short hop from Honolulu to Hilo or Madrid to Barcelona. True, those destinations can be exotic for people who aren’t from those climate or cultural zones, but my type of exotic tends to mean flights connecting unexpected city pairs or crossing thinly-traversed parts of the planet. I get excited even at the mere idea of these flights, and even more so when one is booked, boarded, and finally plotted on my Flight Memory map. Here are five of my favorite exotic flights, straight from the annals of Fly History:
Copenhagen to San Francisco
Connecting two of the world’s most expensive destinations, SAS—the collective airline of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden—flies between the Danish capital and America’s most beautiful city every day. I was mercifully upgraded to business class for the 11-hour-long flight over some of the northernmost reaches of the globe. That’s exotic for a raised-in-the-sunshine Florida boy like me.
Johannesburg to São Paulo
South Africa and Brazil are probably my two most favorite countries on the planet, and flying between the two megacities of the Southern Hemisphere had always been on my to-do list. Also, South African Airways’ 11 weekly flights linking the countries’ financial capitals ply one of the scant few routes across the South Atlantic Ocean. Arriving at sunset over the exhilarating sprawl of São Paulo while finishing up a bag of beef biltong is an underrated joy.
Miami to Berlin
For a while, I spent several months each year in Berlin, arguably the most dynamic city in Europe at the moment, and the polar opposite of a place like Miami, where I also spend several months each year. Airberlin, much like me, has an on-again-off-again relationship with Florida’s sun-slash-sin city, flying to the German capital a few times a week every winter. This time, I was shoehorned into a middle seat for a cramped 11-hour transatlantic schlep.
Mumbai to Johannesburg
Culturally, this now-defunct route isn’t as strange as it might seem: South Africa is home to the largest population of Indian-descended people outside of India. Unfortunately, South African Airways dropped the route after 20 years of service, just a few months after I had flown it in early 2015. While travelers can still connect easily through the Gulf or East Africa, I think it’s a shame that these two incredible places lack a direct air link.
Santiago to Auckland
Not only is this one of the few routes to cross the South Pacific—and approach the South Pole—but it’s also flown by one of the world’s newest jets, the Boeing 787. LAN (soon to be LATAM) jaunts from from Chile to New Zealand, then on to Australia, twice daily. LAN’s reliably good service and the newness of the planes offset the 13-hour flight time.
What are your favorite exotic routes?
Image by David Spinks via Flickr.