Since 1973, an abandoned US Navy aircraft has lain on the southern shores of Iceland, after the plane crash landed onto the black volcanic sand at Solheimasandur. Miraculously, all passengers on the DC-3 plane survived. The plane was returning to the naval air base at Keflavik after its supply mission to Hofn Hornafjördur Airport, delivering supplies for a radar station in Stokksnes.
While the cause of this Iceland plane crash is still debated, icing of the engines due to freezing weather conditions is listed as a highly likely cause, as is pilot error during fuel tank switching. After the crash, the US Navy salvaged all remaining useful parts from the aircraft, leaving only the shell of the DC-3 plane.
The Solheimasandur plane wreck in popular culture
You may have seen the famous Iceland DC-3 plane wreckage on your screens before, such as in Justin Bieber’s 2015 “I’ll Show You” music video. Sigur Rós’ 2007 musical documentary, Heima, which follows the post-rock band around various venues in Iceland, also features the Solheimasandur plane wreck.
Where is the Iceland airplane crash site?
Located just over 6 kilometers (4 miles) from the Ring Road, also known as Route 1, the DC-3 plane wreckage in Iceland is fairly easy to visit from Reykjavík, taking around a 2 hour 15-minute drive. Solheimasandur is situated on the south coast of Iceland, around 24 kilometres (15 miles) from the closest town, Vik, in the west.
Skogafoss waterfall is around 10 kilometers (6 miles) to the east from the plane wreckage, taking around a 10-minute drive to reach. You may wish to plan your stop at Solheimasandur as part of a south coast tour by following the lighthouse trail along the coastline.
How to get to the Iceland airplane crash site
The majority of the journey to reach Solheimasandur is via the Ring Road, which can be easily driven by car. However, it’s no longer possible to drive directly to the site of the Iceland airplane crash yourself. This is due to the increasing number of visitors, difficult driving conditions on the volcanic beaches to reach the plane and the damage done to the area’s delicate flora by vehicles. Instead, you can park in a specially created car park just off Route 1, around 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the plane crash site.
It doesn’t take long to hike to the DC-3 plane wreckage; from the car park, it’s around a 45 minute to 1 hour walk to the crash site, depending on your walking speed. The route will take you across a sparse desert environment, with views of green mountains and yellow markers along the way to guide you. Be careful not to make the journey when weather conditions are bad during the winter months.
If you don’t fancy walking, you can cycle along the same route to the plane for a quicker alternative that still allows you to enjoy the view and fresh air. You’ll need a suitable bike with thick tires to traverse the rocky path. During the summer months, you may find bikes to rent in the car park, although this isn’t guaranteed. There is also a Plane Wreck shuttle bus operating along the path to the Solheimasandur plane wreckage, usually running most days and taking around 15 minutes each way.
When to visit the DC-3 plane wreckage?
The Solheimasandur plane wreck is open all year round to visit. Still, due to the more favorable weather conditions, the safest time to go is during the summer in Iceland, from May to August. You’ll also benefit from longer daylight hours during these months, making your trip easier and more convenient.
Weather conditions at Solheimasandur have been known to become bitterly cold during winter, with people even dying at the site of the plane wreck due to the harsh weather. The area around the DC-3 plane wreck is often quite empty, so make sure to bring your phone with you in case of an emergency. Try to plan your trip on a day with mild weather to make sure you can enjoy your visit.
Solheimasandur plane wreck tours
Shuttle bus tours to the Solheimasandur plane wreck are available, as well as package tours that take you around Iceland’s magnificent south coast, including a stop off at Solheimasandur.
If you’d like to travel by bus to see the plane wreckage, you can book your shuttle bus tickets online in advance, ready to take the bus when you arrive at the dedicated Solheimasandur parking.
Top tips for visiting the Iceland DC3 plane wreck
We recommend wrapping up warm for your trip to the Iceland DC-3 plane wreckage, with layers coming in particularly handy. If you decide to walk from the car park, you may wish to remove your outer layer while on the trail. It can get cold quickly so it’s a good idea to have a coat with you to add to your outfit. Wear some comfortable and waterproof layers, along with good walking shoes.
Seeing the northern lights at Solheimasandur plane wreck is a spectacular experience, with the colorful glow lighting up the sky above the skeleton of the airplane. The peak season to view the northern lights in Iceland is between September and March. Early autumn or late spring can be a good time to visit the plane wreck at Solheimasandur, when the weather isn’t too harsh and you have a good chance to spot the northern lights!
It’s free to visit the Iceland airplane crash site, although you’ll have to pay for parking, which can be bought online or via the Parka app.
Get prepared for your trip to Solheimasandur by booking your car ready for the trip of a lifetime in Iceland.