The Iceland Plane Crash on the Solheimasandur black sand beach is where man-made and natural elements combine to create an impressive landscape. Back in 1973, the DC-3 US Navy plane was said to have run out of fuel, eventually crashing on the Solheimasandur Beach in South Iceland.
Thankfully, everyone survived the crash. The crew took everything of value with them, but it was decided that it was not worth the effort to recover the plane, so the body of the plane was abandoned and it remains on the beach today.
The complete story of the crash remains somewhat of a mystery, including the date of the crash and the reasons behind it. It is rumored that the pilot switched to the wrong fuel tank, but even that is not confirmed.
All that’s left of the Iceland Plane wreck is the hollow fuselage. However, the skeleton of the white plane, stranded in the middle of an expansive black sand beach, created a view so stunning that it has now become a prominent tourist stop along Iceland’s South Coast.
The plane wreckage is eerie, and the whole combined experience can make you feel like you’re on another planet. This is one of the best stops along the Ring Road in Iceland and you really shouldn’t miss it!
It’s a bit of a trek down the beach to get to the plane, but the walk is all on relatively flat ground, and can even be pleasant in the right weather conditions. So after visiting all the other awe-inspiring stops on Iceland’s South Coast, the Solheimasandur plane crash will be the perfect stop to change up the scenery.
If you can avoid the following mistakes, you’re on your way to an unforgettable trip as you take in the otherworldly landscape of The Iceland Plane Crash and Solheimasandur Beach.
To help you with your planning, we put together Where To Stay In Iceland where we break down all of the best lodging options around the Ring Road. We also have 3-Day Iceland Itinerary, 4-Day Iceland Itinerary, and 5-Day Iceland itinerary options to help you continue to plan your trip!
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7 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Visiting The Iceland Plane Crash
#1. Arriving At The Iceland Plane Wreck Too Late In The Day
There are a number of worthy stops along Iceland’s South Coast. If you choose to stop at other locations along the way, such as Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss, you may end up arriving at the Iceland plane wreck later in the day. While this is perfectly fine in the summer when the days are long and the midnight sun keeps the sky lit late into the night, the winter brings short daylight hours and the need to plan your adventures a little more meticulously.
Unless you are visiting the Solheimasandur Plane Crash late at night with the sole hope of seeing the Northern Lights dancing overhead (and are properly equipped), it is highly advised you keep your adventures to the daylight hours.
Before heading to the Iceland Plane Crash, make sure you look up the time of sunset. In December you could have as few as 3.5 hours of daylight.
You’ll need to factor in roughly 2 hours of walking, in addition to however much time you plan on spending taking pictures and viewing the plane and its surroundings. The path is not particularly clear, and in the dark, it will be extremely hard to find your way back to the car.
#2. Wearing Improper Shoes And Clothing For The Walk To The Iceland Plane Crash
Dressing appropriately is critical for your trip to the Iceland Plane Crash (and for that matter, Iceland in general). Yes, you are walking on a beach, but it isn’t your typical tropical beach. Solheimasandur is a black sand beach meaning you’re walking on ground-up volcanic rock.
At one time you could drive all the way up to the plane, but due to the plane being on private land, and the desire to preserve nature, you now have to walk a little under 2.5 miles each way. Even on a rare sunny summer day, it’s a good idea to wear sturdy hiking shoes.
In the winter, it’s particularly critical to wear appropriate shoes. Having waterproof boots that are comfortable to walk in for an extended period of time is ideal. The winter months bring snow and ice, and improper footwear will lead to an uncomfortable and slow-going trek to the plane.
Having a stormproof jacket is also necessary for eliminating discomfort as you make your way to the Iceland plane crash. Heavy winds often sweep the beach. With nothing along the path to block or lessen their ferocity, you are hit with their full force.
There are on average of over 300 days of precipitation in Iceland, which means more often than not you’re in for a wet adventure. Even in poorer weather conditions, you can still have an extremely enjoyable experience at the Solheimasandur plane crash with proper preparations. You might even prefer the view of the plane with moody foreboding skies overhead.
#3. Not Paying Attention To The Weather Forecast At Solheimasandur
Iceland’s weather is unpredictable and at times relentless. The hike to the Iceland Plane Crash is better suited for fair weather conditions, though given how consistently it rains in Iceland, foul weather can’t always be avoided.
We suggest checking the weather throughout the day to ensure the conditions will be optimal or at least tolerable for your visit. The website www.yr.no (which is also a phone app), is another great resource for keeping tabs on the weather. It’s a Norwegian app but is extremely accurate for Iceland as well. If the weather isn’t ideal, dress accordingly, or save this particular stop for another day.
The most dangerous conditions are a combination of wind and snow. The path to the plane is not always obvious. On clear days it’s easy to find the plane, but on snowy, windy days your obstructed vision makes it easy to get lost.
More than a few tourists have ventured out to the Iceland plane wreck in these conditions only to have to be rescued by Iceland’s search and rescue team. It’s not worth the risk. Even when there’s no snow, the wind alone will kick up dust and rocks.
There’s nothing fun about having to power your way through a whirling storm for multiple hours, and its not particularly safe either. Use common sense to determine the safety of the situation, and let the experts on the weather websites guide your decisions.
#4. Relying On Signs To Get You To The Parking Lot And The Plane
Signs won’t help you find the parking lot. The Iceland plane crash is roughly 10 minutes (7 miles) from the Skogafoss Waterfall, which is another typical stop along Iceland’s South Coast. After passing Skogafoss, you’ll head southeast on Route 1 (the Ring Road) to arrive at the parking lot for the Solheimasandur Plane Crash.
If you type in Solheimasandur Plane Wreck into google maps, it will take you directly to the parking lot. If you are driving west from the town Vík, the drive will take you just over 15 minutes and the parking lot will be on your left. Keep your eyes out. The parking lot is decent sized and is usually filled with a lot of cars, so if you’re looking for it, it should be easy to find.
At the parking lot, you’ll see a sign saying Closed, which indicates that the rest of the path up to the Iceland plane crash is closed to cars. You’ll also see a sign telling you it’s a 4km walk to the DC3 plane wreck and to follow the markers.
These signs are mildly helpful, but ultimately you’ll be walking for 45 minutes on a barely marked black sand beach with nothing but more black sand in front of you, and no glimpse of the plane wreck until the last minute.
That being said, the Solheimasandur plane crash is essentially a direct shot from the parking lot, and because of its popularity, there is almost always bound to be someone walking in front of you. Follow the crowd and you’ll have no trouble. But when in doubt, if there’s no one around, stick to the left of the markers and walk straight.
The GPS coordinates of the parking lot are 63°29’28.4″N 19°21’48.2″W
The GPS coordinates of the DC-13 Plane Crash itself are 63°27’32.7″N 19°21’53.3″W
#5. Thinking You’ll Have Ample Time To Take Unobstructed Photos of The Iceland Plane Wreck
The Iceland plane crash is fascinating and beautiful in its own eerie way. As a result, tourists now flock to see the remains of this plain. But more tourists mean more crowds and less time to photograph the plane with an unobstructed view.
The Solheimasandur plane crash is not as crowded as other stops such as Seljalandsfoss or Geyser, but when the only sight to see for a couple of miles in each direction is a plane, a handful of people gathered in a small space can seem like a lot. Though the beach is vast, people tend to crowd the section of the beach by the plane, and what from far away seems to be expansive and remote, suddenly seems a lot smaller.
Part of what makes the photographs of the Iceland plane crash so spectacular is the feeling the photo gives of the plane (or the plane and the human subjects in the frame) being a single piece of wreckage, alone in the otherwise vast landscape.
Unfortunately, you are far from alone. If you plan your pictures ahead of time you can improve your efficiency when an opening arises for you to take pictures. There is no line, or first come first served basis for taking pictures. It’s a bit of a free for all, and some people are more respectful than others when it comes to giving people their chance to photograph the plane.
You could very well end up waiting a while. Have some patience, but when there’s a gap, be assertive and take your chance to take your own stunning photos of the plane wreck. If you’ve thought about what pictures you want, you’re more likely to get the results you’re looking for before the next tourist works their way into the shot or wanders in unaware.
#6: Standing Or Walking On The Plane
One of the most common photographs you’ll see of the Iceland Plane Crash is of people walking or posing on top of the plane. While this makes for some dramatic photography, it is in fact banned. The last thing Iceland’s Search and Rescue team needs is to be rescuing tourists who have mishaps while on top of the plane. So enjoy your time at the plane, but stick to taking it all in from the ground.
In late 2015 Justin Bieber came to Iceland to film the music video for his song “I’ll Show You.” While he clearly enjoyed his time in Iceland he broke a lot of rules.
A section of his music video featured him skateboarding on top of the Solheimasandur plane wreck’s fuselage. Not only is this not allowed, but as a popular public figure, his actions gave the go-ahead for a lot of fans to behave similarly.
Tourism to the Iceland plane crash surged after the release of his music video, and in 2016 the road to the plane was closed off to cars because of the damage it was causing. Though the plane can still be reached on foot, the damage to the surrounding nature and to the plane is irreversible.
#7: Completely Writing Off Visiting The DC-3 Plane Wreck
Too many people discover you can no longer drive right up to the site of the Iceland plane crash and decide not to visit the plane at all. The Solheimasandur plane crash isn’t a thundering waterfall or ice cave, but it’s unique and beautiful in its own right and is worth every step of the 2.5 miles in and out.
The walk to the plane wreck is a great way to stretch your legs after a long day of driving. You can listen to a podcast, chat with your travel companions, or just marvel at the vast expanse of lava rock and volcanic minerals that make up the black sand beach. This DC-3 plane is abandoned but not forgotten, and rightfully so. So dress warmly, lace up your hiking boots, and enjoy the world where man-made meets nature in a stunningly eerie landscape.
How To Find The Solheimasandur Iceland Plane Wreck
The Iceland plane crash is conveniently located 10 minutes (7 miles) from Skogafoss Waterfall and 15-20 minutes (14 miles) from the town of Vík. Driving east from Skogafoss you’ll find the parking lot on the right side of the road.
The parking lot is large enough to hold a significant number of cars making it easier to spot as you approach. Keep your eyes peeled, because, with no clear signs marking your arrival, it’s not uncommon to accidentally drive past.
After parking, just follow the stream of tourists down the beach in the direction of the ocean, and you’re bound to hit the plane. The plane itself is hidden from view and is only visible at the last minute.
While there are markers, they are not always obvious, and the path is at times almost entirely indistinguishable. On the off chance, you’re alone on the beach just head in a straight line from the parking lot towards the water and do your best to follow the markers when you can. In fair weather conditions, it’s nearly impossible to miss the plane.
The GPS coordinates of the parking lot are 63°29’28.4″N 19°21’48.2″W
The GPS coordinates of the DC3 Plane Crash itself are 63°27’32.7″N 19°21’53.3″W
Best Time Of Year For Visiting Solheimasandur Plane Crash
The Solheimasandur plane wreck can be visited any time of year. However, there are a couple of things to consider when deciding the best time to visit. The first is the number of daylight hours. In the summer, the sky is lit all day long and the midnight sun keeps everything illuminated well into the early hours of the morning.
This means you can visit the Iceland plane crash at any time of day. In contrast, the winter months bring darkness, and sometimes when the days are at their shortest in December, you’re left with only a few hours of workable daylight. This still leaves enough time to comfortably visit the plane wreck, but it requires more planning to ensure you’ll arrive back at your car before sunset.
The other factor to consider is the weather. Iceland has limited days of good weather, even in the summer. With over 300 days of precipitation a year, the country is often rainy. It’s not uncommon to experience intense winds as well.
Though not every day brings wind and rain, it’s important to pay attention to the weather prior to your visit and prepare accordingly. In winter, when snow coats the ground, the wind has a tendency to blast the snow in your face making your visibility very low.
These are the days when it’s best to reschedule your visit. Because the path is not clearly marked, it’s easy to get lost. But on a slightly milder winter day, you can dress warmly and make the trek to the plane.
With no real vegetation nearby, the landscape looks very similar in the winter as it does in the summer. Though if you happen to catch it soon after a snowfall on a windless day, you’ll be greeted with a sparkling white landscape. It’s worth the visit any time of year as long as you’re well prepared.
Map Of Parking For Iceland Plane Crash Hike
Below are a couple of maps of the Iceland plane crash and how to get to it from the road. The red marker is the location of the parking lot right off the Ring Road (labeled 1 on the maps). Follow the red arrow path down the beach to arrive at the plane crash. As you can see, it’s a pretty straight shot from the parking lot to the plane.
You’re bound to enjoy your trip to the Solheimasandur plane crash. After getting your fill of stunning South Coast waterfalls, and spending hours sitting in a car, we can think of no better way to stretch your legs than visiting this Iceland plane wreck. It’s incredibly unique and once you see it in person, you’ll understand why tourists now flock to this location. With careful planning, this trip to the Iceland plane crash has the potential to be one for the books! If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments. And in the meantime, get excited for your Iceland adventures!