The Sólheimasandur plane crash along the southern coast of Iceland is frequented by travelers and photographers, all of whom trek miles to gaze upon the eerie site of an empty plane body on an otherwise abandoned black sand beach.
On our recent trip to Iceland, Connor and I made a stop at the plane wreck. I’m glad we made the journey to the site, and I can understand why many do while driving between Reykjavik and Vik. There is something about that place that inspires the imagination to run wild; however, the true story behind the plane’s arrival on the beach is quite simple and, fortunately, far less tragic than it initially seems.
In November 1973, the United States Navy cargo plane was forced to crash land on Sólheimasandur beach. Miraculously, entire crew survived, but the plane was just left on the beach, and still remains there even after over forty years. Due to pillaging of the interior by locals, as well as the harsh Iceland weather, all that remains is the hollow main body. It is a strange story, and I just had to see this plane for myself.
Getting to the plane crash is a bit of a guessing game. While there are no real roads or signs pointing the way to the plane crash (it is in the middle of a beach after all), the crash site does show up on Google maps, so I would recommend looking it up before you go. As long as you have a general idea of where the plane crash is, finding it shouldn’t be too difficult. The easiest way to remember is that it is approximately halfway between Skogafoss (where you most definitely have to stop to see the gorgeous waterfall) and your next stop at the black sand beaches at Vik.
As I said, there are no obvious signs pointing to the plane crash, so you’ll have to keep a careful lookout for cars parked on the side of the road. Driving south-east toward Vik, on the right side of the road, you’ll see a makeshift path made out of yellow markers making their way down the beach to the ocean. That’s your cue to pull over!
The yellow markers create a two-mile path out to the wreckage. I would say it is about a 45 minute walk one-way, so plan accordingly! That was a major deal for us because, when we visited in November, we only had about six hours of sunlight a day, and we had to use our precious time wisely. Now, I know the walk sounds long, and it is, but as long as you are prepared for it, I don’t think it’s too terrible. The path is flat, and as long as you don’t encounter any nasty weather (check before hand!) and prepare for a long walk, you should be fine. We did experience a great deal of wind, so be sure to bring your hat and scarf!
Unless you are the first tourists to visit in the morning, or the last to arrive at night, I think you will find that many others are making the same walk to the wreckage site. That makes finding the plane a thousand times easier! Just follow the line of people!
An eerie feeling truly does come over you when you see the plane for the first time. It’s hard to describe; you don’t feel sad because you know everyone survived the crash, but your mind still fixates on tragedy. It’s as though this one lonely plane represents all other plane crashes. Perhaps the most appropriate description is the feeling of abandonment. I don’t know… you’d have to experience it for yourself.