If you’ve seen photos of Iceland you’ve probably seen the haunting photos of an abandoned old plane. Its wings, windows and tail long since taken by the elements, the fuselage sitting in stark contrast to the surrounding snow and black pebbles.
In the past, visitors hunting out striking photo opportunities access the crash site directly by car but recently, the owner of the land by which you access the site has restricted car access. The following post will guide you through finding the site and how to access it now. If you’re in Iceland, we highly recommend you head out there – it’s well worth the time and effort.
The History of the Sólheimasandur DC-3 Crash
In late November of 1973, a US Navy plane found itself in trouble. Though there is uncertainly as to the exact reason theDouglas Super DC-3 crashed on this rugged beach (the most common belief being that the plane ran out of fuel) and discrepancies in even the recorded dates of the incident, fortunately all aboard survived the landing.
With the plane damaged, the decision was made to abandon the wreckage rather than salvage it – a choice that has benefited countless tourists and photographers over the last fourty years.
How Can I Find the Sólheimasandur DC-3 Wreckage?
To get to the general area, you’ll need either your own rental car or to join a tour that stops of at the carpark. Now that you have to walk the 8km round trip to find the plane, fewer tour companies are visiting (which is great news for visitors that do manage to make their way there!) so a rental car may well be the best option. We used Geysir and were very happy with our little Duster – it handled the wintery Icelandic conditions in its stride.
The carpark itself is located in between the Skógafoss waterfall and Vik. If you’re using a GPS device you may like to plug in the co-ordinates (63.4912391, -19.3632810) or do as we did, and bring the location up on Waze. If you don’t already use this app, load it onto your phone right away! It will let you preload destinations whilst you have wifi and will then reconnect to them whilst you’re travelling – it’s a great tool to help you get around in a car, sans wifi/data and has the Sólheimasandur plane crash carpark preloaded.
From the carpark it’s close to impossible to get lost – follow the yellow markers and stay on the track until you run out of markers about 3.5km in. At this stage, the track splits off into a fork – take the left hand side and keep your eyes peeled for the plane as within a few hundred metres you’ll be upon it. You really can’t miss it but if you’re there by yourself and would rather plug in the co-ordinates then you can use these ones for the plane itself (63.459523, -19.364618).
What Can I Expect From the Conditions in the Area?
On the day we visited, a real Icelandic storm was brewing and though the walk is almost entirely flat, the weather did make it a challenge at times – hail, snow and huge wind gusts, we experienced it all. It goes without saying that you’ll want to prepare properly for the elements with plenty of warm clothes and good boots. It’s not a hard walk but the conditions can quickly dampen your spirits and leave you questioning why you decided to visit in the first-place.
That is, until you reach the crash site!
At the DC3 Crash Site
If you manage to get the plane to yourself, you may find yourself surprised by the stillness of the area. Though we’d walked through atrocious weather, everything out at the site was surprisingly calm. The eerie quiet was broken only by the sounds of crashing waves on the distant shoreline and the odd gust of wind. There’s no doubt we were lucky to strike the timing right, managing to avoid most of the other visitors, but it really did feel like a surreal spot.
If you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, do as we did and head out in less-than-perfect weather – with a little luck, most of the other travellers won’t be silly enough to do the same! Do keep an eye on things though, as amazing as it is, it’s not worth getting yourself stuck in dangerous weather.
Whilst you’re visiting the old DC-3, don’t neglect popping down to the neighbouring beach. In the time we were there we didn’t see another soul do so and they really did miss out. The shore is as rough and rugged as the come in Iceland and a real beauty on a moody day.
Keep your eyes peeled for ‘sneak waves’ (as they call them in Iceland) as a number of unsuspecting tourists have lost their lives to these over the years. As you’d expect, the water is close to freezing and the waves massive – a dangerous combination if you get too close to the waterline.
Is it Worth the Trip?
Yes, a thousand times, yes! Nathan didn’t really know what to expect going into the walk (I tend to make most of our travel plans) and he was very hesitant considering the weather – surely nothing could be worth a trek in conditions like those? By the time we returned to the car with big smiles on our faces, he was convinced.
The crash site has a unique feel about it – after-all, it’s not everyday you head off on an adventure to find an abandoned plane nestled into the snow, sitting on a black-sand beach on the rugged coast of Iceland.
If you have the time and opportunity to visit, we would definitely suggest grabbing the opportunity with both hands.
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