The Westfjords – hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere

After having survived a freezing cold night in Ólafsvík, we packed our things, had Skyr and Muesli for breakfast, and walked to the main road. This being my first hitchhike adventure ever, I had no clue how long we’d have to wait to catch a ride, especially on a lonely road in the northwest of Iceland…

Luckily Icelanders are friendly and open-minded people and we didn’t have to wait long until our first ride took us a few mountains further into Grundarfjördur. Our goal was to get to the Westfjords by the evening, but we had no set plan on how to get there. So when our next driver told us he was going to Stykkishólmur, from where a ferry left towards the Westfjords, we happily accepted the ride.

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Stykkishólmur seen from the cliffs
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Stykkishólmur harbour

In Stykkishólmur we first bought our surprisingly ridiculously cheap ferry tickets and then walked around town, had hot dogs (another national speciality) for lunch, free coffee from the bank to warm us up and went exploring the cliffs.

The ferry left in the early afternoon and we stayed outside for a while watching the small islands passing by. When it got too cold, we went inside and both fell asleep in the uncomfortable chairs. A few hours later we arrived in Brjanslaekur, which on the map looked like a tiny village. It was of the enormous size of two entire houses. Luckily, we managed to catch a ride with a couple on their honeymoon to Flókalundur (How cool is going to Iceland on your honeymoon?!). From there, we wanted to go north towards Ísafjördur, the biggest town in the Westfjords.

DSC05009The next ride promised to take us to a crossing which was on the way up, however it turned out that the map was wrong. Yes, the map! We ended up in a tiny fishing village with 168 inhabitants called Bíldudalur because our driver’s brother’s girlfriend’s parents lived there. You could only reach the place by a gravel/dirt road which first leads into the lunar landscape of the hinterland and then winds down into the valley of the remote fjord and looks like you’d only drive it when you were seriously unhappy with your life.

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Bíldudalur campsite

We spent the night on the campsite before trying to get back to civilization early the next morning. It took us two rides to get to Patreksfjördur, the next bigger town. After two additional rides and an exhausting walk up a hill (in the rain) we were back in Brjanslaekur at the ferry dock. We decided not to pay for a ferry back but to keep on hitchhiking our way to the ring road that goes all around Iceland. We found chances were better at a petrol station, so we walked the 6 kilometres to Flókalundur with the harsh wind blowing mercilessly from the ocean.

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On the way to Flókalundur

Arriving at the restaurant, we crashed on the chairs and treated ourselves to a hot meal. The following hours turned out to be the longest of my life. We spent almost 3 hours outside stopping cars, cursing at those who didn’t stop, becoming increasingly desperate, then dancing in the middle of the road and finally, finally catching a ride with a cool Swiss couple. The warmth in the car was amazing and the couple took us almost all the way to the ring road (picture below). We got off in a place called Búdardalur and after finding the local liquor store closed (again), we settled for sprite and tortilla chips for dinner.

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On the ring road!

What else you should know:

  • Skyr is addictive.
  • Don’t trust Icelandic maps.
  • No matter how small the “village”, you will always find a campsite.
  • You can always fit 4 people and 4 backpacks plus camping gear in a small Toyota. Always.
  • Finding a restaurant in the middle of nowhere is what real happiness feels like.
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