Picture the ghostly white silhouette of the remains of an aircraft set against the windswept sands of a black volcanic beach. This haunting yet familiar sight has become one of the most popular images coming out of Iceland. What I’m describing is the Douglas DC-3 plane wreck site at Sólheimasandur beach in South Iceland. As you make your way from Reykjavik to Vik along Iceland’s Ring Road, this is an extra stop you’ll want to make. It’s a nice walk to the crash site, and once you’re there, you can go in and around the plane’s fuselage. This is a great photo opportunity and will no doubt be one of the highlights of your trip.
The Story of the Plane Crash at Sólheimasandur Beach
So what exactly happened at Sólheimasandur beach all those years ago? Back in 1973, a US Navy DC-3 aircraft was flying over this zone when it ran out of fuel. Apparently, the pilot accidentally switched over to the wrong fuel tank. The plane crashed, but through sheer luck, everyone came out unscathed. The survivors may have walked away, but there was still a plane resting on the beach. The Icelandic government refused to pay to have it removed, and the remains still sit there today. The plane no longer has wings or a tail. Unsurprisingly, it makes for an incredible subject for professional photographers and photography fans alike.
How to Arrive at DC-3 Plane Wreck Site
In the past, you used to be able to drive right up to the plane crash site. Some people even camped out overnight next to the aircraft body! That’s no longer possible as the cars (and people) were destroying fragile vegetation in the area. Things have changed. Now, you must park your car and walk to the site. It takes 45 minutes to an hour each way when walking from the parking area. Just follow the trail (and the other visitors) and make sure you head back long before the sun sets. As with most tourist attractions, it’s less crowded early in the morning or later in the day. Take special advantage if you are visiting during the period of the Midnight Sun to go late at “night”. If you’re thinking about camping out, you need to obtain the permission of the landowners beforehand. This is Icelandic law.
Area Around Sólheimasandur Beach
Once you’ve walked around the crash site, gone inside the fuselage, and snapped photos your heart’s content, you’re probably wondering what to do next. After all, hiking an hour to spend 15 minutes investigating a plane wreck might seem like a lot of time to invest. Luckily, you’re in southern Iceland, an area with a lot of volcanic activity. Why not take some of your time here to explore the famous volcanic black sand beaches? Sólheimasandur is not as famous as Vík or Reynisfjara, but it still has the region’s well known midnight-hued sands. Explore not just the plane wreckage but also the surrounding areas. This might be your first taste of this unique feature of Iceland, so soak it up.
Sólheimasandur Beach DC-3 Plane Wreck Site
The site of the DC-3 plane crash is one that will haunt you and leave you in awe. Very few people have the chance to view the wreckage of an aircraft up close. This is your chance! The site is quite special and is one that is unique to Iceland. When traveling along the Ring Road, make sure that you add this stop on your itinerary. And bring your walking shoes along with your camera!