Along the windswept volcanic coasts of South Iceland’s Sólheimasandur beach lay the remains of the Douglas DC-3 plane wreck. The white fuselage of the abandoned military aircraft rests in stark contrast against the black sand beaches and surrounding landscape. It’s a haunting sight and has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. It’s actually quite easy to get to as a quick stop off when driving between Vík and Reykjavík. So how do you find Iceland’s famous plane crash site? What happened and how did it get there? Let’s look at one of Iceland’s most iconic sights and everything you need to know.

Detail from the Sólheimasandur beach plane wreckage

What Happened at the DC-3 Plane Wreck Site?

Back in November of 1973, a United States Douglas DC-3 military plane crash-landed on Iceland’s Sólheimasandur beach, near Vík in South Iceland. The aircraft experienced issues with icing, and the seven crew members were forced to make the unexpected landing. Luckily for those involved, everyone on board survived. After the plane crash, there was some debate about what to do with the carcass of the slowly rusting aircraft. The Icelandic government did not want to pay to remove it as it not their issue and therefore not their problem. In the end, the plane was abandoned and left to rot. The wreckage is still there to this day and rests slightly inland on the black sand beach. All that remains today is the fuselage. The aircraft’s wings, tail, and cockpit have all disappeared over the last four decades.

Interior of Sólheimasandur beach plane wreckage

How to Arrive at Sólheimasandur Beach

It’s really easy to get to the path that leads to Sólheimasandur and the plane wreck. You used to be able to drive right up to it, but that is no longer the case. Too many people were coming and not respecting the land and the fragile vegetation, so the landowners banned vehicles in 2016. Now, you’ll need to park near the entrance of the walking path and make the 45-60 minute trek that it takes to get there. It’s around 2 miles (3.2 km) to arrive. The beginning of the path is 14 miles (22.5 km) west of Vík and 7 miles (11.2 km) east of Skógafoss waterfall. It takes a little over two hours to drive the 102 miles (164 km) from Reykjavik.

What to Do and See at the Plane Crash Site

Once you’ve arrived, you’ll see people taking pictures in and around the fuselage. Some people even climb on top for photo ops. All in all, most visitors spend 15-20 minutes exploring the crash site. Afterward, you can also walk around the see the area’s famous volcanic black sand beaches. I’ve got two tips if you plan on visiting. The first is to go later in the day or early in the morning. Sólheimasandur has steadily grown in popularity, and if you go in the middle of the day, there will be lots of people at this famous attraction. But if you go at off-peak times, you’ll have a more intimate experience. This is especially true if you’re coming to Iceland in the summer. Take advantage of the Midnight Sun and go around 9 pm or 10 pm (or later!).

Be sure to visit the Sólheimasandur beach plane wreckage at off-peak hours

The second tip is related to the first. If you plan on visiting Sólheimasandur toward the end of the day, give yourself plenty of time to get back. The walking path is not lit, and it’s quite a ways from civilization. Walking in the cold in the dark when it’s pitch black is not a situation you want to find yourself in.

The Haunting DC-3 Plane Wreck at Sólheimasandur Beach

When driving along Iceland’s South Coast, there are several points of interest that you should include on your itinerary. Not only are Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls quick and easy stops to make along the way, the DC-3 plane wreck at Sólheimasandur beach in another one you won’t want to miss. It’s a highly memorable, unique thing to see and one of many unusual attractions in this one-of-a-kind place called Iceland. Be sure to leave time on your schedule for a visit to the plane crash site.

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