There are few things more fascinating than obscure abandoned structures. Such is the case with the Sólheimasandur plane crash, the relic of a United States Navy cargo plane which has laid to rest on a south Iceland beach for over four decades. The Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on the beach Saturday, November 24, 1973 after the plane ran out of fuel. It was later discovered the pilot had accidentally switched over the wrong fuel tank.
The windows, tail, and wings all shattered on impact. Remarkably, every single person aboard the aircraft survived the crash. Today, the fuselage remains on Sólheimasandur beach for hikers to explore and photograph.
Getting to the Sólheimasandur plane crash used to be an easy feat and explorers could simply drive up to the wreckage. However, it is now prohibited to drive your vehicle on the beach and the entrance has been gated off. Now one must walk 2.5 miles one way from Route 1 to reach the plane.
To reach this notorious crash site, begin by walking toward the beach from the parking lot. You’ll pass a gate and continue down the dirt access road. The walk down isn’t particularly arduous; however, it is a long walk with little to see. I’d recommend hiking this one with a group of friends for entertainment. Additionally, we did enviously eye several people who rode bikes from the parking lot to the crash site.
After approximately 45 minutes of walking down the well-defined access road, you’ll finally catch a glimpse of the plane crash. Because of its low position on the beach, you won’t see the plane until about five minutes before the end of your trek. Once you do reach the plane, take it in from every angle for all its glory. During Northern Lights season, the plane crash is even spectacular at night.
No number of photographs could do this plane crash justice. It’s certainly worth the walk and effort to see this in person if you’ll be travelling to Iceland.
Sólheimasandur Plane Crash Tips
- Bundle up. You will be largely exposed to wind chill throughout much of your hike. Wear warm gloves, a wind-proof jacket, and a beanie to protect your ears.
- Don’t forget to hydrate. Even though it will likely be chilly, you want to ensure you stay properly hydrated on your 5-mile round-trip hike.
- Look for other cars. The parking area can be difficult to spot and is seemingly in the middle of nowhere. If you see a dirt parking lot filled with cars in the near vicinity of your GPS’s directions, you’ve likely found the spot.
- Avoid in winter. It can be difficult to find the site of the crash during snow season. It will also be even colder than usual.
- Wear hiking boots. You’ll be traversing through some soft sand which can easily get in your shoes. The higher the boots the less likely you’ll be lugging the extra sand weight.
Parking Lot Coordinates: 63.4912391,-19.3632810
Airplane GPS Coordinates: 63.459523,-19.364618
Distance: 5 mile round trip