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 a part 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 was very useful as well as the Strateo website focusing on the buses routes and schedules.
Indeed, we were exploring the island in April, considered the beginning of spring. Therefore the bus schedule is quite restricted due to bad weather causing some roads to still be closed. Meaning: some days, the car was our only option, and hitchhiking was our solution.
We started our adventure from Rekjavik, 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 couple of minutes for the bus 57 to drive us to Borgarnes through the wonderful Icelandic landscape: This bus was driving once that day.
It took us all along the coast during an hour and a half where we could gladly enjoy the view. One think to know, if you’re traveling with public transportation: it exists an app to purchase your transport tickets to which you can link your credit card. If you don’t want that you must have cash on you and get the exact amount as the drivers won’t give you your change back.
Once we arrived in Borgarnes, we went to the closest supermarket to get some food before hitting the road and raising our thumbs. The weather was enjoyable, 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 and nice harbor. At that precise moment we realized the first bad surprise of the trip: Our AirBnb was in another town named Grundarfjordur, 15 minutes driving Est, 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 ans 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 bad news of the trip: Iceland owns TWO towns named Reykholt. We weren’t going to the right one…
It’s now 7PM, night was going to be there in 2 hours, 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 the night wouldn’t be a threat anymore.
- Forget about that town and our activities planned around it and go back to Reykjavik
- Try to go 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. Not a lot of cars, and none of them were stopping. Suddenly, a mom, her two children and her dog nicely opened her 4×4’s doors and picked us up. She was very worried, and uncertain we were making the right decision. She even offered us to 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 wasn’t speaking a word of English, but we managed to make him understand where we were aiming to go. On the way he offered us an Icelandic specialty: dry fish. It doesn’t smell good, and the taste is amazing, but we were craving for food and 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 hey, I just wrote “almost” right?
One car appeared in our vision. 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, the reason why they were on this road so late. They were from the Wisconsin State, 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 was opened. After those attempts, she made her husband stop the car at a red light and asked us: “What do we do girls?”.
For some reasons she decided to make us wait a bit more, to add suspense to our stressful situation. It was tough to bear as the clock was ticking and we were so close. Her husband had remain silent most of the trip, but that’s when he decided to speak up, tell her he will drive us and pressed 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 felt in tears in each other’s arms, so happy to be here, in this lovely and beautiful Guesthouse in the middle of the woods.