Somewhere along the line, “out of season” came to be seen as a negative notion. It is a phrase loaded with imagery – of empty hotels; chairs stacked on restaurant tables; a sleepiness that has gone beyond snoozing in the sun, to a state bordering on the comatose.
The trouble is, this is not really a description that applies to Iceland in August. True, summer is sometimes viewed as a quiet time in which to glimpse Europe’s most northerly island nation. But this is only because this hardy outcrop in the North Atlantic has done such a good job of marketing its winter – when the aurora borealis haunts the heavens and the feeling of cosying up by a crackling log fire at the end of the world is hard to resist, whatever your age.
Summer, though, can be just as vivid; a period for road trips under skies of flawless light – even this year when, despite it all, Iceland is both open to tourists and on the official list of countries that British holidaymakers can visit without having to quarantine on their return.
Yes, you have to take a Covid-19 test on arrival (see covid.is), and a second one if you intend to stay for 10 days or longer. However, the inconvenience is well worth it. Iceland in summer is a gift from Valhalla.
Distant shores: The Vestfjardaleidin
The idea of Iceland as a place for chasing the horizon is at its most alluring on the Westfjords Way (westfjords.is) – a driving route including sights such as Breidafjordur Bay. Discover The World (01737 886272; discover-the-world.com) offers a seven-night road trip from £1,184, including flights.
Ring cycle: Route 1
For those who want to travel along all the Tarmac, the 821-mile Route 1, which encircles Iceland in full, issues a siren call. Here is an odyssey that touches the city of Akureyri in the north and pretty Egilsstadir in the east. Trailfinders (020 7938 0210; trailfinders.com) is offering a 13-day trip from £1,565 per person; flights cost extra.
In good company: The complete loop
If you want to attempt a full circuit of the country, but don’t fancy changing gears all the way round by yourself, the Best of Iceland Plus itinerary offered by G Adventures (020 7313 6953; gadventures.co.uk) may work. This group tour (maximum 12 travellers) does the journey in a week. One departure is planned for Sept 26, from £1,529 per person, not including flights.
Easy geysers: Golden Circle
Intrepid (0808 274 5111; intrepidtravel.com) has launched a series of “retreats” – potted tours that explore a destination in a shorter time. These include a four-day romp around Iceland’s Golden Circle, an area of geological greatest hits. The next departure on Aug 28 costs from £915, flights extra.
Tall orders: Kerlingarfjoll
A similar brevity applies to the Ultimate Iceland Adventure offered by Abercrombie & Kent (01242 386466; abercrombiekent.co.uk). It pins itself to the Kerlingarfjoll mountains in the west of the country, for jeep rides and thermal pool dips, but also checks in at the chic Torfhus Retreat. From £5,250 per person, excluding flights.
Off-grid grandeur: Deplar Farm
A week in Iceland does not have to be all about the geography. It can also cool its boots in style. Perhaps on the northerly Troll peninsula, where Deplar Farm – a 13-room oasis run by luxury specialists Eleven Experience – keeps the focus on wellness. A stay here features in the eight-day Iceland in Ultimate Luxury break offered by Scott Dunn (020 3553 2002; scottdunn.com). From £10,000 per person, including flights.
Capital reserves: Reykjavik
While its reputation as a hipster hub is a little overplayed, Reykjavik is a fine setting for a city break. Few churches resemble the Hallgrimskirkja; Tryggvagata’s restaurants revel in seafood; Laugavegur’s boutiques are all Nordic cool. Three nights at the four-star Sandhotel, flying from Heathrow on Aug 27, start at £341 a head with British Airways Holidays (0344 493 0787; ba.com/holidays).
Seasonal serenade: Vatnajokull
Iceland’s high latitude means the seasons shift quickly. Naturetrek (01962 733051; naturetrek.co.uk) knows this. It has two Iceland in Autumn group tours planned for next month (Sept 6 and 12; from £2,495 per person, including flights). The trips will focus on wildlife, such as minke whales, and scenery, with two nights in glacier-iced Vatnajokull National Park.
Celestial creature: Northern Lights
The Aurora Zone (01670 785012; theaurorazone.com) offers a four-night Natural Wonders and Northern Lights group tour that keeps eyes pointed upwards in the south west. Prices for the next departure (Dec 8) start at £2,495 per person; flights cost extra.
Yurt alert: Iceland for families
Explore (01252 883507; explore.co.uk) is offering five editions of its Family Iceland Yurt Adventure – an extravaganza of rafting jaunts and black sand beaches – scheduled between May and August 2021. It costs from £1,655 per adult and £1,526 per child, including flights. Minimum age 11.