When my friend and I decided to go on a road trip in Iceland for my birthday, it was important for us to plan the journey in advance, as we were going to explore parts of the island without a car.
I must admit that the country is well disserved by public transportation. Above you can find the official Icelandic transport map from the Public Transport Iceland website. This website, as well as the Straeto website which focuses on the buses routes and schedules, was very useful.
Indeed, we were exploring the island in April, which is locally considered to be the beginning of spring. And so, consequentially, due to road closures as a result of bad weather, the bus schedule faces some disruption. This all meant that some days, the car was our only option, and we landed on hitchhiking as our solution.
We started our adventure in Reykjavik, intending to travel on the North West coast up towards Olafsvik. Our first step was to to leave Kex Hostel for the main train station in order to find the bus 15 to take us to Artùn.
After that, we waited a few minutes for the bus 57 to drive us to Borgarnes through yet more incredible Icelandic scenery: This bus was driving only once that day.
It took us all along the coast for an hour and a half during which we were more than happy to sit back and take in the views. One think to know, if you’re traveling with public transport: a handy tip is to use an app, which you can link to your bank card, to purchase your tickets. This means you don’t have to carry much cash with you on your trip and it prevents the hassle of drivers keeping your change.
Once we arrived in Borgarnes, we went to the closest supermarket to stock up on some food before hitting the road and raising our thumbs. The weather was very pleasant, and the traffic quite dense, I had a good feeling about this first ever hitchhiking experience: 119 kilometers to go!
After 20 minutes of walking, a nice fisherman stopped his 4×4 and offered to drive us all the way, as he was driving there to bring his daughter’s car back. He generously and proudly talked about his beautiful country and, without us asking, stopped the car randomly for us to enjoy the landscape even more.
Volcanoes, lakes, mountains, glaciers, beach, snow…. Unforgettable scenery.
Around 1PM we arrived in Olafsvik, a really peaceful town with a lovely harbour. At that moment we came to realise the first obstacle of the trip: Our AirBnb was in another town named Grundarfjordur, 15 minutes driving East, and we wanted to go to Þjóðgarðurinn Snæfellsjökull National Park, 15 minutes driving West. Dilemma indeed. We decided to hitchhike towards the Park, as it was too early to check in our host’s farm anyway.
A quiet fisherman from Bosnia offered to drive us towards our destination without really knowing where it was. Therefore, he dropped us in the middle of the park after kindly saying “There’s not much here”.
We weren’t very prepared to explore the park but went for it anyway. Our desire of getting the best out of these holidays was stronger than our phone’s batteries and we walked as much as we could through the lava fields and down the coast line.
After this, we went back on the road and met a lovely brittish couple on their way to see the Northern Lights. They were too worried to drop us in the middle of nowhere so they drove us all the way to our Air B&B and wished us good luck for the rest of our adventures. And trust me, we needed it.
The next day, after a breathtaking whale watching expedition where we met Melissa and Jonathan, a French couple, we hopped in their Fiat 500 back to Borgarnes. Happy and confident, we decided to cross the bridge linking us to the road we had to be on, in order to catch cars going in the right direction.
This bridge crossing wasn’t the safest option, but our only one.
Once on the other side, we managed to catch a car driven by an old Icelandic couple who offered to bring us 10 km closer. After they did, I decided to check the exact address of that Guesthouse, only to find out the horrific truth and the second, although slightly more significant, obstacle of the trip: in Iceland there are TWO towns named Reykholt. We weren’t going to the right one…
It was now 7PM, night and darkness approaching fast with only 2 hours of light left, and the drive towards the right town was 3 hours.
We had several options:
- Sleep close to where we were and manage to get to Reykholt the next morning when it would no longer be dark.
- Forget about that town and our activities planned around it and go back to Reykjavik
- Try to get there at any cost
I decided to call the guesthouse:
Their answer: “Sorry, we are a little guesthouse we do not offer a car service. This problem happened before and we doubt you could make it in time. We are going to cancel your reservation. We won’t be able to welcome you after 10PM.“
My answer: “No! We are coming! I’ll call you at 9PM to keep you updated!“
We went back on the road and raised or thumbs, one more time. The road was not busy, and none of the cars looked like stopping. Suddenly, a mother, with her two children and dog, very kindly opened the doors to her 4×4 and let us in. She was very worried, and uncertain we were making the right decision. She even offered to let us sleep at her parent’s house and gave us their number. She brought us back to Borgarnes where we tried to get a car going towards Reykjavik (which was easier and kind of the right direction to start with).
An old Icelandic man driving the most humongous car I’ve ever seen, stopped and invited us in. He couldn’t speak a word of English, but we managed to get him to understand where we were aiming to go. On the way he offered us an Icelandic specialty: dry fish. It doesn’t smell good, but tasted fantastic, by this stage we were craving anything to eat so it was so nice of him to offer!
He drove us to Mosfellsbær, and while stopping the car he tried to make us understand something. We figured out he didn’t want to leave us here. We had 1h12 more to drive and 1h40 to make it in time. He started to drive again, giving me hope that he was going to bring us to Reykholt. I decided to call the Guesthouse again, telling them we were on our way!
But suddenly, our driver stopped the car in the middle of Thingvellir National Park, on a Parking lot in the Campers area. We know he thought it was a good idea, and probably a safer one, but what was our options now? He left us there, unconscious of the difficulty. Campers around us even laughed at our situation, knowing like us, that getting to Reykholt now, was almost impossible. But of course, I could only hear “almost”.
One car came into sight. It was the one. It had to be. Night was here and if we missed it, the doors at the Guesthouse would be closed and our chances to get there, ruined. We jumped on the road, waving our arms like crazy people, and it worked.
A couple of Americans married for 35 years invited us in their small car, telling us how they tried to take a shortcut through the snow and failed, this being the reason they were on the road so late. They were from Wisconsin, and did a lot of hitchhiking in their life, explaining why they offered to drive us to Laugarvatn, a few kilometers before our destination. Nevertheless the wife wouldn’t drive us further because she was hungry. I decided to try everything in my power to make her change her mind.
21.29 when we arrived in Laugarvatn and they were desperately looking for an open restaurant. They had 3 options, and none of them were open. After those attempts, she made her husband stop the car at a red light and asked us: “What do we do girls?”.
For some reason she decided to make us wait a bit more, adding yet more suspense to our stressful situation. It was tough to bear as the clock was ticking and we were so close. Her husband had remained silent most of the trip, but that’s when he decided to speak up, tell her he will drive us and pushed down the pedal. We couldn’t believe it and will forever be grateful.
It’s 21.57 when we’re pushing the door of the guesthouse. The host welcomed us with a warm smile. We made it! It was the longest and most stressful day of all, but we didn’t give up, and the result was there. We fell in tears in each other’s arms, so happy to be here, in this lovely and beautiful Guesthouse in the middle of the woods.