Quick Q&A: Should I travel around Iceland clockwise or counterclockwise

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Lately I’ve seen a lot of people wonder whether they should travel the Icelandic ring road clockwise or counterclockwise and whether there is a one right way to travel around Iceland. I have to admit that as a local I’ve never really thought about this. Usually I’m going to a specific place or I’m simply following the weather so whether I’m going south or north is not really an issue.

But is there a right way to travel around Iceland?

Question: Should I do the Icelandic ring road clockwise or counterclockwise?

I’ve been planning my own little holiday lately around the West Coast of the US and people seem to have a lot of opinions about how exactly to do things there. You should drive from north to south for the views and take the Coast Starlight traveling by train from Seattle to Portland southbound and the Amtrak Cascades if you are headed north (because apparently the Starlight is always late) for example. Or so I read at least.

There’s not really a right or a wrong way to drive the ring road. The landscape is beautiful either way and it’s not more beautiful driving one way over another. So you can’t really do this wrong.

Having said that, there is one thing you might want to consider. The south coast of Iceland is really packed with natural highlights in a fairly condensed area  and there is a lot to see there. Some feel that it makes more sense to do the south at the start of their trip when the energy level is still high instead of ending there after a long trip around the country. But it also depends on where you plan on going and how much time you have.

Bottom line: You can do it either way but if you are worried about long days at the end of your trip then maybe heading south first is a good idea.

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12 thoughts on “Quick Q&A: Should I travel around Iceland clockwise or counterclockwise”

  1. Ariana says:

    Phew! We have booked our trip and we’re doing it counterclockwise because I figured it was best to have our “full” days first so we’d have more energy. I’m relieved to hear you arrived at the same reasoning! 🙂 I was so afraid to open this entry and have a different suggestion!

  2. Jenn says:

    I did my 10 day trip clockwise and would suggest counterclockwise. By the time we reached the southwest, we had seen so many awesome natural sights with very few other tourists that we were a little underwhelmed by the Golden Circle and overwhelmed by the number of people around! Had we gone the other direction, I doubt we would have even thought twice about the number of other people everywhere. Plus, if you go counterclockwise, the Snæfellsnes peninsula would be a fantastic way to end the trip!

    1. Donna Kemper says:

      WOuld you mind telling me how you would have planned your 10 day trip had you known then what you know now?
      . THanks.

  3. Sassenach (Belgium) says:

    TO all posters here: maybe it is interesting to say where your trip started. Not everyone starts at Keflavik, people arrive from Seydisfjordur too. It’s just easier to understand your comments. 😉
    I had a lot of energy during the whole trip (7 weeks) around the ring road and smaller roads, I think because of the light and the hikings in the mountains, giving me endorfines 😉 So i decided to leave the ferry and to check the weather and especially the wind. There would be nice weather in the south for the following week, so I went on my way to Skaftafell etc.
    Small decision, quickly made. 😉 Same for the Westfjords: should I go or not? Good weather, so I did. (I learned quite quickly that the weather in Iceland could change every 10 minutes 😉 but most of the time it was was sunny).
    And yes the south has a lot of places of interest, but in the north there is also Akureyri, Myvatn (wow!!!), Asbyrgi (wow!!!),whale watching, and all the other beautiful hiking trails and coastal roads. In the south there were many tourists too, with big busses… I was happy to pass this first, the 2 part of my trip (north)was more “solo” 😉
    If you must take a ferry or a plane, visit the south first, is my opinion. Then you are sure to have seen a lot of highlights in Iceland.
    Greetz.

  4. Lydia Smith says:

    Greetings,

    Thank you for all the information on your homeland! We are planning a 2016 trip and I am finding so many tidbits of interesting information from your blog.

    I ran across your comment above about planning a west coast trip in the US. It is true (as I just got back from an Oregon coast road trip) that the views are better heading south :). I would love to give you more first hand information. I have lived in the Seattle area my entire life. Also, when you are in Seattle I would enjoy meeting you if only for a coffee but would love to spend more time if you can spare it. Just email me :).

    I have only begun to explore your blog and all the info here. I’m sure I will have some questions.

    Lydia

  5. mindy says:

    we are leaving for iceland soon and I checked the weather it rains a lot there in next 10 days…so will it be very cold /icy there now? should i bring my UGGs?

    thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I don’t think you will need your uggs – just waterproof jacket and shoes.

  6. Kate says:

    From the Blue Lagoon I would go counterclockwise on the Ring Road and end up in Reykjavik. I have done it in both directions and like getting away from the “crowds” early on during the trip.
    Tidbits: Give yourself at least 5 days for the westfjords
    Take the ferry to Vestmannaeyjar islands and stay
    overnight

  7. William says:

    Hello, great to read such wonderful feedback on the Ring.
    Considering traveling to Reykjavik Oct 27th to Nov 4th 2015 by myself.
    Your thoughts on traveling the Ring by myself?
    Would I be able to find lodging on a whim or need / recommend making arrangements ahead of time??
    Have never been to Iceland or any foreign country, from U.S.
    looking for feedback.
    Thanks

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you are content in your own company I see nothing wrong with traveling the ring road on your own. In certain areas it’s difficult to find accommodation on a whim – for example in the south and around Mývatn.

  8. Tom says:

    I just got back from my Icelandic journey and I would definitely recommend going counter-clockwise. There was just SO much to see on the southern side. By the time I got to Akureyri on day 8 I was very tired from seeing just about every single natural beauty there was and just wanted to be back around people again (Traveled alone). Being on a one lane road for hours and hours can get a little tiresome, but thankfully there is cell phone reception in the entire country so you can stream your tunes from anywhere!

    Once you get past Vik, the amount of tourists drops off quite dramatically, it was very peaceful having the road almost entirely to myself for hours on end being able to just pull off to the side of the road and take it all in.

    I’m getting nostalgia and I’ve only been gone for one day. I can’t wait to come back.

  9. Iceland says:

    Thank you for all the information on your homeland!

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