Explore DC-3 Airplane Wreckage in Sólheimasandur

Sólheimasandur Trailhead, Iceland

  • Activities:

    Chillin, Camping, Photography

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

Beach
Dog Friendly
Scenic

Surreal photo opportunities of a wrecked airplane on a black sand beach. Beautiful views of the volcanoes and glaciers on the horizon. Amazing place to camp overnight for views of the Aurora Borealis during the winter. Fun place to off-road explore with a 4x. 4. One of Iceland's many gems off the beaten path.

If you've ever felt the urge to go to Iceland and explore one of the planet's most geographically fascinating locations, you've most likely seen photos similar to mine: dilapidated wreckage of an old airplane on a black sand beach. The United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 in Sólheimasandur was forced to make an emergency landing on November 24, 1973, and since the crash, it has remained in it's place. Fortunately, all crew members survived, and thanks to the laissez-faire mentality of Icelandic culture, the haunting scene can be enjoyed by visitors from around the world. Iceland's iconic wrecked DC-3 airplane is a widely photographed site, but if you don't know where to look, it's almost impossible to find.

The beach is directly en route between Skogafoss waterfalls and the town of Vik in southwestern Iceland. The turn-off road is on the 1 (Ring Road, Iceland's highway that loops the island), and if you're traveling south it will be on your right hand side. After passing Skogafoss, there is a glacier access road (221) on the left to Sólheimajökull that reads, "Sólheimajökull 5km." The road to the plane wreck is the next right immediately after the glacier road. There is a small turn-off area with a gate and a sign with vague instructions on how to reach the wrecked DC-3.

In Iceland, most of the roads besides the 1 and major routes around Reykjavik are gravel and can require 4x4 at places. The way to the wrecked plane is entirely black sand, gravel, and large rocks. There is a sign at the beginning of the turn off that says "4x4 Vehicles Only," but if you know how to drive cautiously on gravel roads and pay attention to huge potholes, it can be made in almost any vehicle. That being said, if you're driving a rental, you're definitely going to want to have gravel protection added to your agreement when you pick up the vehicle, and it's a good idea to let out some air pressure in your tires so you don't get a flat.

The path to the plane starts off clear, but less than 1km (0.6 mi) in it becomes difficult to figure out where the actual "road" is. There is a fork just before a road that goes towards a farm, and you'll want to bear left at that fork. Once you've taken that left, the best bet is to try to keep going in a straight line. The road has wooden markers on each side to indicate it's path, but it's hard to follow in spots. There are tracks running all over the beach in every direction, and as long as you don't diverge too far from the direction of the fork, you'll eventually end up near the site.

You won't see the plane until you're very close because it's hidden behind a dune, so just continue driving towards the water and watch out for potholes. The entire distance is only a few miles, so if you're worried your car won't make it or you don't want to take the risk with a rental, you can park at the turn off and hike in (be sure to bring water and a windbreaker!).

If you're visiting Iceland in the winter, this is a great spot to get a secluded view of the Aurora Borealis. During the summer it's more frequently visited, but easier to access since there's little chance of snow.

GPS coordinates for the turnoff: 63.4912391,-19.3632810

Pack List

  • Multiple layers of clothing
  • Windbreaker
  • Tripod (especially for nighttime in the winter)
  • Sturdy boots
  • 4x4 vehicle (not necessary, but good to have)
  • Water
  • Camping gear (optional)
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Before visiting I had seen many photos of this plane online. I was afraid I would be disappointed, but I have to say it was quiet cool. I went nearly two years ago, and then you could drive out to it (I see some reviews say they had to walk). Either way I think it's the kind of experience you could only have in Iceland and a super cool photo op.

8 months ago
8 months ago

This was by far the flattest, most boring walk of my life, about 4km each way. You can't drive to it from the main parking area, but if there is a different route please share. I know some atv tours visit it. If you have limited time in Iceland I would seriously consider if the time to get to it is worth it to you, but the wreck is pretty cool. We went at midnight in May and there were several other people out there.

9 months ago
9 months ago

Super interesting and rare plane wreck! When I went, driving up to it was not allowed, so it was a good walk to the crash site. Not so easy to photograph during the day, as other tourists climb all over this thing like a tree house. I reckon it would make an awesome night photography subject though!

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

It wasn't exactly clear whether or not you can drive to the plane wreck. We ended up parking in the lot right off the road and walking to the wreck however there were a significant amount of cars that passed us and just drove right up to the wreck. The walk there definitely isn't overly interesting as its just flat through a lava field but the plane wreck is really cool and definitely worth the stop!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This hike reminds me of driving across Kansas. The first twenty minutes, the desolate landscape is awe inspiring. An hour later, it's still the same and mind numbing. It's worth it though, as the plane is really really cool! The landowners have closed the road to vehicle traffic so you'll have to hoof it. There is a car park on the right side of the road 2km past highway 221 (if traveling east).

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Chris Mongeau Explorer

I am a 26 year old lifestyle and travel photographer from Providence, Rhode Island. I spend my time planning trips, scouring maps, and drinking lots of coffee. I love sharing travel tips and hearing stories from other folks, feel free to get in touch with any questions!

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