Pia Marsh

My boyfriend, a Dane who is used to about three months of summer per year, hated me a little bit when I suggested we spend a decent slot of our summer vacation in Iceland this year. It was not how he had envisioned spending his holiday. With its sky-high prices and almost-always-dismal weather outlook, it was more than likely we would be seeing the sights through a thick layer of fog and shivering in our sleeping bags than sipping on mojitos at the beach.

After weeks of incessant whining, he finally caved and we booked our tickets to the land of fire and ice. Under one condition: we try our luck at hitchhiking.

 

Mama always told me not to speak to strangers, but this is Iceland we’re talking about, and as one of the safest countries in the world, it seemed the ideal place to make my hitchhiking debut.

Hitchhiking in Iceland has its perks. There is about a 50% chance you’ll be picked up by locals, in which case you’ll learn a lot about the land and perhaps even get some insider tips on where to travel. If not, you’ll get picked up by other tourists, which means there is a good chance you’ll see a whole load of the standard tourist stops – also a win. It's relatively safe, easy and it’s cheap.

On the flip side, it can be time-consuming. If you have strict time constraints, hitchhiking is probably not for you. We met hitchhikers who had waited 24 hours before being picked up. Travelling in late August, we experienced around 18 hours of sunlight each day. Hitchhiking is much less daunting in the daytime.

 

With one major road winding round the entire country, the Ring Road (Route 1) is a hitchhikers dream come true. You don’t even need a sign - you can only travel one way or the other. We took a local bus out of Reykjavik to a small town on the Ring Road and chose to start from there. As you get out of the Reykjavik, civilization becomes fewer and far between.

On day one, my boyfriend - a seasoned hitchhiker - gave me instructions on where to stand and told me to stick my thumb up. Ten minutes later, we were en route to our Skaftafell, picked up by two sweet American women.

 

Outdoor snoozing

Iceland is one of the most dynamic landmasses on the planet. It has everything from volcanoes, waterfalls, ice-tipped mountains and green pastures, to glacier lagoons, geothermal hot springs and black sand beaches. It’s a nature-lovers paradise.

I am fanatical about the Icelandic concept of allemannsretten – ‘every man’s land’ – allowing you the freedom to roam and camp anywhere, as long as it is not privately owned land. We took advantage of this as much as possible, swimming, camping and hiking anywhere we could.

We travelled south from Reykjavik, back into the highlands and then all the way up the west coast to Isafjordur in about seven days. Winding through the mountains on perilous gravel roads is made all the more exciting when you stumble across a steaming natural ‘hot pot’ or dramatic rainbow-garnished cascade.

 

We found our favourite hot spring in a small town called Laugar in West Iceland. We enjoyed solitude and unspoiled surroundings – a welcome change after spending a day exploring Iceland’s tourist mecca, the Golden Circle.

Don’t let the sun drenched photos lure you into a false sense of summer. It was still freezing. Even in the summer, temperatures can drop to around 0-3 degrees during the night, and even during the day, the average temperature was around 10-15.

 

Things to consider:

  • Bring warm clothing. This is my best (and perhaps most obvious) piece of advice. Even if you’re travelling in the summer, like we were, bring a warm jacket and wet weather gear to protect you against all the elements. Hiking boots are also a welcome addition.
  • If you’re camping, invest in a good sleeping bag that can handle the icy evening temperatures.
  • Before leaving Reykjavik, stock up on supplies at Iceland’s budget supermarket Bonus. Follow the signs to the yellow sign with the pink pig on it.
  • We skipped the Blue Lagoon (there are a million other natural hot springs dotted all over the country), but if you are interested in visiting Iceland’s busiest tourism mecca, be sure to book in advance. Tickets cost about 50 euro and sell out well in advance.

 

Pia is a freelance journalist and writer, originally from the Northern Beaches of Sydney, and now permanently living in Copenhagen, Denmark. She writes about her travels (and her undying love for Scandinavia) at www.piamarsh.dk  Instagram: pialoui

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.