A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Iceland

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Not planning the next step of your journey, trip, vacation, or simply in life has its perks and pick-ups. This is why spontaneity is such a huge concept and it is every bit fun as it sounds. Although one seldom gets to go on an unplanned trip especially to a country far away. As difficult as it sounds wander around the country exploring places on the go, it is not that farfetched of an idea. All you need is to take the first step, be attentive, and open to new things, ideas, places, and ways to travel. Spontaneous travel stories are the best and not knowing what the road has in store for you is even better.

Hitchhiking in Iceland

Hitchhiking in Iceland

The ultimate form of travel to gather unknown stories and go on spur-of-the-moment adventures is hitchhiking. A form of travel that recently gained a lot of praise, attention, and preference from travelers, hitchhiking is a great way to experience the pleasure of the off-beaten track and Iceland is the perfect place to get your first-time hitchhiking experience. There are several reasons that Iceland can be the ideal hitchhiking place for you to get the best first-time hitchhiking experience. Filled with gorgeous explored and unexplored places, landscapes, and wonders, Iceland is the safest country in the world, literally. Iceland has topped the list continuously for the 12th time this year which gives every solo traveler some serious destination goals. The biggest challenge people face when deciding whether to hitchhike is the concern for their safety. That being eliminated in Iceland, there is nothing that can stop you from being a vagabond and have the trip of your life.

Why Hitchhike?

There several reasons that one would like to choose to hitchhike as the primary option to travel instead of any other mode of transportation. Here are our top picks to convince you if you are already not:

  • There is no better way to experience a country filled with glorious natural landscapes, wildlife, and flora. The freedom that comes along hitchhiking is revolting and very complementary to the spirit of the country.
  • Meeting new people, especially the locals of the country that you are visiting should always be a part of your travel itinerary, and hitchhiking gives you plenty of chances to do so.
  • Iceland may be a wonderful place to spend your vacation at but, it is no secret that it is very expensive. Hitchhiking rides with others will save you a lot of money that would have been spent on transportation.
  • When you travel around in a car, or a tour bus with other tourists, stay only in posh hotels and visit only the most popular places in the country, you surely get to experience the beauty that Iceland is but mostly in its fine, defined form. Hitchhiking, meeting locals, visiting small towns, and eating many other things apart from the delicacies bring the rugged side of the country in limelight, which is every bit beautiful as the fine, curated side.
Hitchhiking in Iceland

What to Keep in Mind to Ensure Safety?

It is no secret that crime is very low in Iceland and there are hardly any incidents of assault or vindication that come by but one can never be too sure of safety, right? Even though you will be traveling in the safest country in the world, there are still some things you should take care of to ensure maximum safety when hitchhiking. There are almost no surveys for one to gain some insights about the safety levels of hitchhiking in Iceland. There are two simple reasons for that – there are barely any crimes reported in the country in general and not many people choose the adrenaline rush of hitchhiking.

Although there are no potential threats to hitchhikers in the country, there is still no telling when a person would get stuck into a sticky situation. For instances like that, keep the emergency toll free number of Iceland handy – 112. Simply call and ask to send help if you face any kind of road emergency or otherwise. Another good thing to have on your phone is the 112 app of the country. It has all the routes and destinations packed in one place to help you navigate or even call for help easily.

Unlike the past, the flourishing tourism has brought hordes of hitchhikers in the country which means that you will probably come across many other folks like you touring around the country on their own. You can exchange tips on routes, places to eat, and stay with fellow hitchhikers and make the trip even better.

Hitchhiking in Iceland

Choosing the Spots

The definition of choosing a spot extends by a lot when hitchhiking is concerned. Now, it means a lot more than just finding a place to crash. You need to choose the spots to crash, spots to travels to, a spot to eat, spots to find the best of whatever that it is that you are on the search for on your trip, and the most important one, spots to hitchhike.

There are several paths and routes in Iceland and almost all the tourist places are now connected with each other via paved roads. But there are some spots and routes which are traveled more often than the others. If you end up stranded on a path that is never or rarely traveled by anyone, locals or tourists alike, then there will be no option for you to go with except for calling for help. So, it is necessary that you know and pick the routes which are frequented by people all year round.

The Pick-Up Spots

You need to be smart when choosing your pick-up spots because these are the spots that will either gain you a ride or have you stranded in the middle of the roads. You should hitch a ride around one of these spots:

Gas Stations

One of the best places now to hitch a hike are gas stations. No matter where you are traveling or which city you are staying in, it is almost sure that you will get to hitch a ride at a gas station. The odds are better than getting it at the side of a road. Hitchhikers who have given their personal experience a public transformation say that one of the top reasons they sometimes do not get a ride is because people are either in too much of a hurry to stop just to pick someone up or they may not feel that they know the concerned person well enough. Since gas stations are placed at quite a lot of distance, people generally stop for a few minutes to gather necessities along with gas. So, you will have plenty of time to strike a small conversation and get familiar with the people you will be hitching the ride with.

The Ring Road

If you insist on going with the conventional hitchhiking way and getting a ride from the side of the road, then the Ring Road is the best place to do so at. The Ring Road is the largest paved road in the country that goes around the whole country in a circle. When following the Ring Road, you will be traveling through the major tourist attractions in Iceland.  It is one of the most traveled routes in the entire country, regardless of the season which means that you will not be left stranded on the road even if you decide to tackle the roads in the offseason. The best part here is that Iceland’s top tourist locations are located around the Ring Road itself. There are several small towns and villages on this route so it will be very easy for you to find places to crash and places to get delicious Icelandic food.

Highways Passing Through Towns

The whole concept of hitchhiking and not conventionally traveling around the country is to experience the places which most people do not travel to. But these unknown travels may mean that you will have to travel the roads which are seldom traveled by other tourists and locals alike. This decreases your chances to hitch a ride and increases the chance of you waiting out on the side of the road for a long, long time.

The best idea to shorten the waiting time in this situation is by trying to hitch a ride near the part s of the highway which is closer to a settlement. It is highly likely that people will travel that way in the search for accommodation or some sort of food joint or just while crossing to get to another village or town.

Roads with Slow Traffic

Let’s say you are standing by the side of a paved road which allows the drivers to drive at a speed of 90 kmph. There is a very low chance that you will get a vehicle traveling at such high speed to stop and pick you up. Moreover, it can be very dangerous to try to have a car driving at such a high speed to stop on short notice like this as it can cause a horrible accident.

So, the best thing to do when trying to hitch a ride on highways and paved routes is to wait by the parts where the traffic is slow. This encourages the drivers to further slowdown and help the hitchhikers get to places. Stand in the direction that you are heading and ensure that you have plenty of space nearby so that cars that are stopping have some space to pull over safely.

Hitchhiking in Iceland

Where to Travel

There are no limitations on you when you are traveling alone in a country. But the fact that you will have to hitch a ride to get everywhere or travel on the bus makes the list of potential spots to travel a bit shorter. Even then the places you can travel are countless and will take several days or even weeks to cover. We have created a curated list for you to choose from:

Natural Hot Springs

There are over 170 hot springs and geothermal pools in Iceland and there is no telling when you will stumble across one. It is rather easy to find one which is frequented by the tourists but they are generally packed, especially in the peak season. Exploring the ones located in a remote location in the lap pf nature should be the highlight of your hitchhiking trip. Finding the hidden hot springs of Iceland could be a great adventure for you. Ensure that you get a ride to the place and have a plan to travel from the spring as well since most of the hidden springs are located in remote locations. You can always choose to hike to and from the location that you choose if you are feeling particularly athletic.  

Meet the Pet Horses

The Icelandic Horse and a girl in an Icelandic wool sweater

Riding the Icelandic horses is one of the mandatory things to do when you are in the country. While riding the horses is generally done in the presence of a trainer and other professionals, simply meeting the horses and getting friendly can be done anywhere around the country. There are about 80,000 purebred horses in Iceland. Many of these horses are privately owned and live on private properties. You will find many of them grazing in the fields openly. Just ensure that you take the permission of the owners before approaching the horses. If you would like to ride a horse, you have to book a horse riding tour

Visit Smaller Towns and Villages

Flateyri fishing village in the Westfjords of Iceland

You will find small towns and villages all over Iceland. More than 2/3 of the population lives in the capital area, so you can find villages with a couple of hundred inhabitants all around Iceland. Town and settlements near the east fjords and the surrounding areas are small but worth a visit. These small towns and villages seldom get visitors which means that locals are all the more accepting and welcoming to the tourists. You will get to experience the real picture and life of the locals which extends beyond lavish hotels, restaurants, clubs, and huge departmental stores.

Westman Islands

sunset in Vestmannaeyjar island in south Iceland, Westman Islands

Westman Islands is a group of almost 50 small islands is home to huge colonies of puffins. Only one island out of the 50 is inhibited by human beings and the rest are left for the puffins to settle their colony. Take the chance to explore these islands and know all about the natural biodiversity of the place. There are several places on these islands that indicate to the ancient history of the country like old buildings and such. You will find some guided tours in progress on the islands as many people like to visit it to watch the puffins. You have to take a boat ride to the islands. Once you have arrived, you can walk everywhere. 

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Midnight sun at Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon in south Iceland

Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon is known as the crown jewel of Iceland so, it will be a huge loss if you do not visit this beauty in your travels. The lagoon is located right behind the biggest glacier range of Iceland – Vatnajökull glacier and gets formed when ice from one the glacial tongues from Vatnajökull melts down. This calm lagoon is all that you need to feel a little peace and tranquility. The beauty of this place is incomparable to any other place even in Iceland so ensure that you pay a visit.

Hitchhiking in Iceland

What to Do When Hitchhiking

Camp Outside

camping in Iceland

The whole point of hitchhiking instead of going the tripping around the country is that you can experience the place unconventionally and ruggedly. Camping is the best thing to do when you hitchhike to amplify the experience to the fullest. There are several places and campsites around the country where you can set your tent. The campsites are generally huge and hence you will have plenty of options to choose your ground. Depending on how you are feeling, you can either set up near other tourists and locals or choose a remote location if you feel like being with yourself. 

Hike the less Traveled Trails

Highland Hiking in Iceland, Hike

Iceland is a dream destination for every hiker. There are several places one can go hiking in Iceland. While most of the tour companies offer hiking trips to the famous glaciers and trails, there are some trails that you can hike up yourself. There are several mountains and trails in the highlands, towards the west and the north that you can choose to hike. The most famous hikes in Iceland are Laugavegur trail and Fimmvorduhals trail. 

Waterfalls are Always a Good Idea

Flögufoss waterfall - East Iceland

There are endless of waterfalls in Iceland. Once you have started traveling the Ring Road of Iceland you will see waterfalls wherever you look. Some of the waterfalls are more popular than the others. Some of the most famous waterfalls in Iceland are Seljalandsfoss waterfall and Skógafoss waterfall. Those waterfalls are located very close to each other on the south coast and people generally cover both of them in a single day. You can read through the list of waterfalls on our website to see what waterfalls will make it to your Iceland bucket list

Things to Bring

Hitchhiking is different from other kinds of travel forms. You cannot take a lot of things with you since you may have to carry everything in a backpack which you will be carrying on your shoulders. You need to pack smartly and carry just the essentials.

The Clothes

  • Two layers of every kind of clothes that you may need
  • The first layer of sweat-absorbent clothes made with polyester
  • The second layer of warm clothes like sweaters, jackets, hoodies, and jumpers
  • The third layer of heavy clothes like a fur jacket or puff jackets
  • A water and windproof jacket and pants
  • Sturdy hiking boots for the road, flip flops and sneakers
  • Essentials like socks, several changes of undergarments, and sleepwear
  • Gloves, headwear, sunglasses, and earmuffs

The Extra

  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • OTC mediations
  • Flashlights, Batteries, Power Banks, light ropes, a small tool kit
  • Camera and camera equipment
  • Speakers and charging equipment
  • Sleeping Bag, mattress, water bottles
  • Cooking equipment
Hitchhiking in Iceland

Best Time to Go

If this is your first time you are hitchhiking then the summer season is the best bet. It is easier to commute and find a ride. Move towards a little bit colder season when you are more confident in your navigation skills and ready to explore more. Hands down, from March to September is the ideal time to go hitchhiking in Iceland. Although no matter where and when you decide to go hitchhiking in the country, it is sure that you will have an experience that you will remember forever.

winter Self Driving road trip in Iceland
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