A couple of years ago I spent a month hitchhiking around Iceland. To some, this may sound like a great premise for a terrifying horror movie. In actual fact it was one of the easiest, most stress free travel experiences I have ever enjoyed.
Here are my reasons why Iceland is the perfect country to lose your hitchhiking virginity…
Iceland’s main “motorway” is known as Road 1 or ‘The Ring Road’. It is quite literally a two-lane ring around the whole country with smaller roads branching off into towns, villages and areas of interest.
This makes it very easy to figure out where you are going. Just make sure you are standing on the correct side of the road and get that thumb out.
It’s a fairly small road, meaning you can stand at the roadside without feeling like you might get flattened by a lorry. The air is remarkably clean considering you are on the country’s biggest road. It feels more like a quiet A Road than the M25.
99% of Icelanders speak, and are happy to converse in perfect English. However, if you want to get off to a really good start with your driver, put in the effort and learn a few key words and phrases.
Icelandic people are fiercely proud of their language and culture and love sharing it with others.
The word ‘Takk’ meaning ‘Thanks’ is a great place to start.
The very best recommendations and local secrets don’t come from guidebooks and websites – they come from locals.
I once spent an eventful day being driven around The Ring Road by a man named Jon. At first I thought he was a murderer but he turned out to be a great bloke. He showed us hidden waterfalls and a secret roadside bathing house among other things we would never have spotted without him.
Stick your thumb out, get a ride and ask some questions. Who knows what you’ll discover?
Iceland is a friendly, peaceful place. The murder rate is 1.8 per year (the lowest in Europe) and they often go whole years without a single homicide.
There is a national joke that says if someone sneezes in Reykjavik, someone will say bless you in Akureyri (Iceland’s largest northern settlement).
It’s a tight knit nation with a real community feel. It is difficult to get away with being a bad person in Iceland, and it shows. I’ve never once felt unsafe or unwelcome… apart from that time I thought I was in a car with a murderer.
Unless explicitly stated, wild camping is permitted on public land, for foot travellers (cars must find a designated site). Even on private land it usually only takes a brief knock on a door and a friendly chat to gain permission.
If you’re hitch hiking with a tent, this takes the stress out of travel deadlines. Didn’t manage to get as far as you had hoped? No worries. Pitch your tent for the night, give your thumb a rest and get it back out in the morning.
From mid-May to mid-August it is essentially light the entire day with the sun skimming below the horizon for about 3 hours late at night before coming back up again.
I remember arriving at the campsite in Reykjavik in the very early hours one July morning and feeling very silly when I opened my bag and found my head torch, Maglite and spare batteries sitting at the top. Oops.
That being said, the opposite is true in winter with very few hours of daylight to play with. Maybe keep hitch hiking as a summer adventure.
Whether it’s budget constraints, thirst for an adventure or something else that leads you to give hitch hiking a try, there’s no doubt that it can be an incredibly fun and rewarding way to get to know a country.
Understandably, it can also be a nerve-wracking experience so why not take some of the stress out of it and choose Iceland as the location for your inaugural hitchhiking adventure.
To learn more about Iceland and for help planning a trip, why not pick up the fantastic Lonely Planet Guide by clicking HERE.
They also have a really cool guide specifically for planning a trip on the Ring Road. Check that out HERE.