Solheimasandur Plane Wreck HISTORY
In November 1973, a US Navy Douglas Super DC-3 made a forced landing on the black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur after icing caused the plane to go down. The cabin and crew all walked away, but the plane itself remained on the beach, where it sits abandoned today and is known as the “Solheimasandur Plane Wreck”.
Experience and Images
We stumbled upon the plane crash scene entrance by accident. It was initially set as the first thing on day two of our 8 Days In Iceland itinerary, but we ended up enjoying this attraction as the last item on our first day in Iceland. On the way to Vik from the Skogafoss waterfall, we noticed a parking lot with a good number of vehicles. Off in the distance on a flat path was what looked like our first real glimpse of black sand beach. We parked the Subaru Forester and ventured out between two large wooden pillars, noticing that the pathway was wide, and had the yellow reflectors found on the Ring Road. Here is what the entrance area for the path looks like:
After a little over a half mile of walking in 30 mile-per-hour winds, it clicked for me that we were walking to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck scene. The beach was not getting any closer, and seemed to be an optical illusion. Until recently, this path was driveable, although the owners of the property recently gated the area off and only allow people to access the wreckage by walking. It’s worth noting that the walk is close to two and a half miles in one direction. The entirety of the walk consists of the following view:
Eventually (after a solid 40+ minutes of walking), you crest a small hill and are greeted with the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck scene. Although we only passed by maybe 20 others in our walk out, there were easily 12-15 tourists standing around the wreckage when we arrived:
Several tourists were climbing on top of the plane wreckage and inside the fuselage. Due to the smaller nature of this attraction compared to others we saw in Iceland, it was difficult to get any good photos of the wreckage without brightly-colored jackets in the frame. Here is what the wreckage looks like on the inside:
And here is what the wreckage looks like from the outside:
Pros and Cons
Pros: Probably one of the few plane crash scenes in the world that can be easily hiked to and photographed in its original environment. The scenery is striking with the black sand and gray-white fuselage. It is conveniently located about 11 kilometers east of Skogafoss on Route 1 and 22 kilometers west of the southern Iceland oceanside town of Vik. On the way to Vik you will also pass by the side roads to Dyrhólaey and the Reynisdrangar Rocks.
Cons: When it seems as if you are getting close to the beach, you quickly realize that you are not. The pathway to the wreckage barely makes the walk worth the experience of the scene. Even if you pass by few tourists on your way to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, prepare for a large number of tourists at the wreckage climbing all over the fuselage and taking photos. It can be very windy on the way to and from, and with nothing to block, if unprepared you may experience windburn, or get black sand in your face. Also, it is easy to pass by the entrance if you don’t know where to look ahead of time. If you are following our itinerary and traveling south from Reykjavik, this will be the third attraction in a row that is very populated by tourists, even though buses rarely experience the plane wreck.
Tips and Pointers
- Wear something windproof and waterproof on your way, as well as comfortable shoes. Icelandic weather is highly unpredictable, but there’s a good chance being near Vik that you will be experiencing high winds and potential rain.
- If you do this on your first day like we did, make sure you have the stamina for a five mile trek. It is not hilly by any means, but if you got off a restless plane first thing in the morning and started your adventure immediately, by this point it will be afternoon and you will likely be pretty tired.
- As stated above, I suggest once you finish with the plane wreck to bypass Dyrhólaey and the Reynisdrangar Rocks and head straight to Vik for the evening. Dyrhólaey ended up being far more walk-heavy than anticipated, and we are very glad we backtracked to it the following day.
- To get to the entrance to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, drive east past Skogafoss on the Ring Road. You will cross a bridge soon after, and then on the left will be a sign for Sólheimajökull and a gravel road. Keep going. After another mile or so there will be a parking lot and turnoff on your right, with those pole-like gateways you see in the first picture above. This is the entrance.
Additional Links and Information
- Guide to Iceland: The abandoned DC plane on Sólheimasandur
- TripAdvisor: Crashed DC 3 Plane
- Atlas Obscura: US Navy DC-3 Wreckage
- Land Lopers: Searching For The Solheimasandur Plane Crash Wreckage in Iceland
- The Travel Pockets: How to Get to the Solheimasandur Plane Crash in Iceland
- Expert Vagabond: How To Find Iceland’s Famous Sólheimasandur Plane Crash