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How To Find Iceland’s Sólheimasandur Plane Crash (Famous DC3 Wreck)


Modified: September 26, 2023

by Eolande Watterson



Imagine being in a remote and rugged landscape, surrounded by picturesque glaciers and black sand, on a quest to find a hidden treasure. That’s the thrill seekers’ dream that awaits those who seek out Iceland’s Sólheimasandur plane crash. Known as the famous DC3 wreck, this iconic site offers a unique and hauntingly beautiful experience for adventurers and photographers alike.


The story behind the Sólheimasandur plane crash goes back to 1973 when a US Navy DC-3 airplane was forced to crash land on the remote black sand beach, Sólheimasandur. Fortunately, everyone onboard survived, but the wreckage remained, becoming a captivating attraction for those who dare to venture off the beaten path.


What makes this site even more special is the secluded and untouched setting. With no roads leading directly to the wreckage, visitors must embark on a hiking adventure to reach their destination. This adds an element of exploration and excitement to the journey, making it a truly memorable experience.


In this guide, we will take you through everything you need to know about finding the Sólheimasandur plane crash and making the most of your visit. From preparing for the journey to navigating the hiking route and capturing stunning photographs, you’ll be well-equipped to embark on this extraordinary adventure.


So, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to discover the incredible Sólheimasandur plane crash – a hidden gem waiting to be explored amidst Iceland’s enchanting landscapes.


Background: The Sólheimasandur Plane Crash

The Sólheimasandur plane crash has become an intriguing landmark in Iceland’s iconic landscape. On November 24, 1973, a US Navy DC-3 airplane made an emergency landing on the desolate black sand beach of Sólheimasandur. Miraculously, all passengers and crew members survived the crash, but the aircraft was left abandoned and partially buried in the sandy terrain.


Since then, the wreckage has become a hauntingly beautiful attraction for adventurers and photographers. The isolated location, combined with the desolate beauty of the surrounding landscapes, creates a unique sense of curiosity and exploration.


The exact reason behind the crash is still debated. Some theories suggest that severe icing on the plane’s wings caused the engines to fail, leading to the forced landing. Others speculate that a navigation error or miscommunication may have played a role. Regardless of the cause, the Sólheimasandur plane crash has left behind a captivating piece of history.


Over the years, the crash site has gained popularity, attracting visitors from around the world. It has become a symbol of both tragedy and resilience, reminding us of the fragility of human existence in the face of nature’s power.


While the wreckage itself is the main attraction, the surroundings enhance the experience even further. The black sand beach stretches out in all directions, contrasted by powerful waves crashing onto the shore. Majestic glaciers loom in the distance, completing the otherworldly atmosphere.


It’s important to note that due to the rising popularity and increasing foot traffic, access to the crash site has become more regulated in recent years. In order to preserve the area and maintain safety, certain guidelines and precautions are now in place for visitors.


Now that you have an understanding of the background and significance of the Sólheimasandur plane crash, it’s time to prepare yourself for the exciting journey ahead. Strap on your hiking boots and get ready to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Iceland as we delve into how to best approach this adventure.


Preparing for the Journey

Before embarking on your quest to reach the Sólheimasandur plane crash, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. Here are some essential tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:

1. Dress appropriately:

Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to dress in layers and wear sturdy, waterproof clothes and footwear. Bring warm clothing, including a waterproof jacket and pants, thermal layers, and comfortable hiking boots.

2. Plan your visit:

Check the weather conditions and daylight hours to plan your visit accordingly. Keep in mind that daylight can be limited during winter months, so plan your hike during the daylight hours for better visibility and safety.

3. Bring necessary supplies:

Carry essential items such as a map or GPS device, extra food and water, a first aid kit, a flashlight/headlamp, and a fully charged mobile phone. It’s also a good idea to pack some snacks and energy-boosting food to keep you fueled during the hike.

4. Research transportation options:

As there are no direct roads leading to the crash site, you’ll need to consider transportation options. One popular choice is to rent a car and drive to the nearest parking area. Alternatively, you can book a guided tour that provides transportation to the site.

5. Take note of road and parking conditions:

If you’re driving yourself, be aware of the road and parking conditions. Some parts of the access road may be challenging, especially during winter. Ensure your vehicle is suitable for the terrain and be cautious while driving on uneven surfaces.

6. Respect the environment:

The Sólheimasandur plane crash site is a fragile and protected area. It’s vital to respect the environment and follow any guidelines or restrictions in place. Stay on designated paths and do not disturb or remove any artifacts from the crash site.

7. Inform someone about your plans:

Let a friend or family member know about your hiking plans, including your expected route and estimated time of return. This way, someone can alert authorities if you encounter any issues or if you fail to return within the expected timeframe.


By adequately preparing for your journey to the Sólheimasandur plane crash, you can ensure a safe and memorable adventure. Now that you’re ready, let’s delve into the next step: getting to the crash site.


Getting to Sólheimasandur

Reaching the Sólheimasandur plane crash site requires some planning and navigation, as there are no direct roads leading to the wreckage. Here are the main options for getting to Sólheimasandur:

1. Self-Driving:

One popular option is to rent a car and drive to the parking area closest to the crash site. From Reykjavik, the capital city, it takes approximately 2.5 to 3 hours to reach the parking lot. You’ll need to drive along the Ring Road (Route 1) towards the south coast of Iceland.


Once you reach the town of Vik, look for Route 218, which will eventually lead you to a gravel road marked with a sign for Sólheimasandur. This gravel road can be rough and bumpy, especially during inclement weather, so drive slowly and cautiously.

2. Guided Tours:

If you prefer not to drive yourself, you can book a guided tour that includes transportation to the crash site. Many tour companies in Iceland offer guided tours specifically catering to the Sólheimasandur plane crash. This option allows you to relax and enjoy the scenery without worrying about navigation.


Joining a guided tour also provides the opportunity to learn more about the history and significance of the crash site from knowledgeable guides.

3. Shuttle Buses:

An alternative to self-driving is utilizing shuttle buses that transport visitors to the Sólheimasandur plane crash. These shuttle buses typically depart from nearby towns such as Vik or Skógafoss and can be a convenient option if you don’t have access to a car or prefer not to drive.


Shuttle bus services may have designated time slots, so it’s important to check their schedules in advance and book your seat accordingly.


Regardless of the mode of transportation you choose, it’s essential to plan your journey ahead of time. Check weather and road conditions, as well as transportation availability, to ensure a smooth and hassle-free trip.


Now that you know how to get to Sólheimasandur, let’s dive into the next section: the hiking route to the wreckage.


Hiking Route to the Wreckage

Navigating the hiking route to the Sólheimasandur plane crash requires a sense of adventure and a willingness to explore. Follow these guidelines to reach the wreckage:

1. Start point:

The hike starts from the parking area near the main road. From there, you’ll walk along a gravel road that stretches towards the black sand beach. This initial stretch is approximately 4 km (2.5 miles) long.

2. Follow the path:

After reaching the beach, continue walking straight along the sandy path. Look out for marker sticks that guide hikers in the right direction. These sticks are essential, especially during times of low visibility or foggy conditions.

3. Enjoy the journey:

The hike to the Sólheimasandur plane crash site takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your walking pace. Take your time to soak in the unique surroundings, including the dramatic coastline, volcanic landscapes, and glacier views. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so embrace the journey.

4. Arriving at the wreck:

As you approach the wreckage, you’ll notice the iconic sight of the abandoned DC-3 airplane. Located in the vast expanse of black sand, the eeriness of the crash site is a stark contrast to the peacefulness of the surroundings.

5. Stay safe and be respectful:

While exploring the crash site, exercise caution and be mindful of your safety. The wreckage itself is unstable, so avoid climbing on or entering the plane. Preserve the historical integrity of the site by refraining from removing any artifacts or leaving trash behind.


Remember, the hike to the Sólheimasandur plane crash is an adventure in itself. The journey is as important as the destination, so take your time, enjoy the scenic vistas, and appreciate the natural beauty of Iceland.


Now that you know the hiking route, it’s time to delve into the next section: exploring the famous DC3 wreckage.


Exploring the Famous DC3 Wreck

As you step foot on the sandy terrain surrounding the Sólheimasandur plane crash, you’ll be greeted by the awe-inspiring sight of the famous DC3 wreckage. Exploring this iconic site is an opportunity to witness history and capture mesmerizing photographs. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Soak in the atmosphere:

Take a moment to absorb the unique atmosphere surrounding the crash site. The juxtaposition of the abandoned airplane against the stark black sand beach and surrounding glacial landscapes creates a hauntingly beautiful scene. Reflect on the history and resilience that brought you to this remarkable place.

2. Investigate the wreckage:

While climbing on or entering the plane is prohibited for safety reasons, you can get up close and personal with the exterior of the DC3 aircraft. Walk around the wreckage to observe its twisted metal frame, shattered windows, and remnants of the past. Feel free to take photographs and capture the haunting beauty of the scene.

3. Uncover hidden treasures:

As you explore the wreckage, keep an eye out for unusual artifacts or remnants from past visitors. People often leave behind small mementos or objects, which can add a touch of intrigue to your experience. Remember to respect the site by not removing or disturbing any artifacts.

4. Marvel at the surrounding landscapes:

While the plane crash is undoubtedly the main attraction, don’t forget to look beyond. The surroundings offer a breathtaking backdrop, with black sand stretching as far as the eye can see and glaciers glistening in the distance. Take a moment to embrace the raw and untamed beauty of this remote location.

5. Immerse yourself in photography:

The Sólheimasandur plane crash provides a perfect setting for photography enthusiasts. Experiment with different angles, perspectives, and lighting to capture the essence of this awe-inspiring scene. From wide shots that showcase the vastness of the landscape to close-ups that highlight the intricate details of the wreckage, let your creativity soar.


Remember to not only focus on capturing the wreckage itself but also on incorporating the surrounding elements to tell a complete and captivating story through your photographs.


Exploring the famous DC3 wreck at Sólheimasandur is an opportunity to connect with history and immerse yourself in the remarkable landscapes of Iceland. Keep in mind that visiting this site comes with a responsibility to preserve its integrity and respect the environment.


Now that you’re ready to capture stunning photographs, let’s move on to the next section: photography tips at the Sólheimasandur plane crash site.


Photography Tips at Sólheimasandur Plane Crash Site

The Sólheimasandur plane crash site offers photographers a multitude of opportunities to capture breathtaking images amidst the hauntingly beautiful landscapes. Whether you’re a professional photographer or an amateur enthusiast, here are some tips to enhance your photography experience at this iconic location:

1. Timing is key:

Consider the time of day and lighting conditions when planning your visit to Sólheimasandur. The golden hours of sunrise and sunset provide soft, warm light that can add a magical touch to your photos. Be prepared to adjust your schedule accordingly to make the most of the optimal lighting conditions.

2. Explore different angles:

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles and compositions to create unique and compelling photos. Capture wide shots to encompass the vastness of the landscape, or get up close to highlight intricate details of the wreckage. Look for interesting lines, leading to the plane crash or in the surrounding landscape, to guide the viewer’s eye through the photo.

3. Utilize the elements:

Incorporate the natural elements of the scene to add depth and drama to your photos. Use the contrasting black sand, the crashing waves, or the distant glaciers as prominent features in your compositions. Consider capturing long exposure shots of the waves or the clouds to create a sense of motion and add an ethereal feel to your images.

4. Include human elements:

To provide a sense of scale and perspective, include human figures in your photos. This can help emphasize the grandeur of the wreckage and the surrounding landscapes. However, be respectful of other visitors and mindful of their privacy when capturing images.

5. Shoot in different weather conditions:

While sunny days provide great lighting, don’t shy away from photographing Sólheimasandur during overcast or misty weather. These conditions can add a moody and atmospheric quality to your images, further enhancing the haunting ambiance of the crash site.

6. Pay attention to details:

While the plane crash itself is fascinating, don’t forget to capture the smaller details and textures that make up the scene. Photograph the rusted metal, broken windows, or weathered components of the wreckage to tell a more comprehensive story.

7. Respect the site and the environment:

While capturing stunning photographs is undoubtedly important, it’s equally crucial to respect the site and the environment. Preserve the integrity of the crash site by not removing or disturbing any artifacts. Leave no trace behind and ensure that you’re not causing any harm to the fragile ecosystem around you.


With these photography tips in mind, you’re well-equipped to capture incredible images at the Sólheimasandur plane crash site. Remember to enjoy the experience and let your creativity flow as you immerse yourself in the haunting beauty of this extraordinary location.


Now, let’s move on to the final section of this guide: important safety precautions to keep in mind during your visit.


Safety Precautions

As captivating as the Sólheimasandur plane crash site may be, it’s essential to prioritize your safety during your visit. Keep these safety precautions in mind to ensure a secure and enjoyable experience:

1. Stay on designated paths:

Stick to marked paths and trails to avoid potential hazards and minimize your impact on the environment. Straying off the designated paths can lead to damage to fragile vegetation and increase the risk of accidents.

2. Be aware of changing weather conditions:

Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable, with sudden changes in conditions. Stay informed about the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for potential changes during your hike. Bring appropriate clothing and gear to protect yourself from wind, rain, and cold temperatures.

3. Watch out for tidal waves:

The crashing waves along the black sand beach can be powerful, so stay vigilant and maintain a safe distance. Be cautious of sneaker waves, which are unpredictable and can unexpectedly surge far beyond the usual tide line. Always keep an eye on the ocean and retreat to higher ground if necessary.

4. Avoid climbing on the wreckage:

For your safety and the preservation of the historic site, it is prohibited to climb on or enter the plane wreckage. The structure may be unstable and could pose risks to both you and the artifacts. Respect the site by appreciating it from a distance and refraining from any actions that could cause harm.

5. Leave no trace:

Help preserve the beauty of the Sólheimasandur plane crash site by leaving no trace behind. Pack out all your trash and dispose of it responsibly. Refrain from removing any artifacts or disturbing the surroundings. Leave the site as you found it, ensuring that future visitors can continue to appreciate its raw and natural significance.

6. Inform someone about your plans:

Before embarking on your journey, inform a friend or family member about your plans, including your expected route and estimated return time. This way, someone will be aware of your whereabouts and can take necessary action if you encounter any issues.

7. Respect other visitors:

Be mindful of other visitors and respect their personal space and privacy. Avoid obstructing their views or getting in the way of their photographs. Maintain a peaceful and considerate atmosphere for everyone to enjoy.


By keeping these safety precautions in mind, you can fully enjoy the experience of discovering the Sólheimasandur plane crash site while prioritizing your well-being and the preservation of the environment. Now that you’re aware of the safety measures, it’s time to conclude this guide.



The Sólheimasandur plane crash site in Iceland is a captivating destination that offers a unique blend of history, adventure, and natural beauty. Finding and exploring the famous DC3 wreckage is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. From the initial anticipation of the journey to the hauntingly beautiful landscapes and the striking visual of the abandoned aircraft, every step of the adventure is filled with wonder.


As you prepare for the journey, remember to dress appropriately, plan your visit according to weather and daylight hours, and bring necessary supplies. Whether you choose to self-drive, join a guided tour, or take a shuttle bus, make sure to follow the designated route and respect the environment along the way.


Once you arrive at the Sólheimasandur plane crash site, take the time to soak in the atmosphere, investigate the wreckage from a safe distance, and capture the haunting beauty through your photography. Remember to adhere to safety precautions, including staying on designated paths, being aware of changing weather conditions, and avoiding climbing on the wreckage.


Ultimately, it’s important to prioritize your safety and the preservation of the site, leaving no trace behind. By doing so, you can ensure that future visitors can also experience the magic and allure of the Sólheimasandur plane crash.


As you reflect upon your adventure and the images you’ve captured, remember the raw power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit. The Sólheimasandur plane crash is a testament to the fragility of life and the captivating stories that can be found amid the most unexpected and remote corners of the world.


So, take a deep breath, embrace the thrill of the journey, and let your exploration of the Sólheimasandur plane crash be a reminder of both the beauty and the resilience found in the heart of Iceland’s enchanting landscapes.