Guide to the abandoned DC Plane on Solheimasandur

Guide to the abandoned DC Plane on Solheimasandur

Leah BIlquist Leah BIlquist
26. Sep 2022 (Updated: 30. Nov 2022) ∼ 10 min. read


Iceland is full of historic places. Some are the outcomes of volcanic eruptions, while others may have once been homes to Icelandic Vikings. But, sitting on a rocky black sand beach in South Iceland is the wreckage of a DC plane. Which is the aftermath of a plane crash that took place in 1973.

So how did it get here and why is it still here? We are giving you the perfect guide to help you navigate the Solheimasandur crash area. As well as surrounding attractions to continue your day trip after.


When did the plane crash happen?

The iceland plane crash took place on a DC plane, which stands for Douglas Commercial. These planes were the world's first successful commercial airliners.

They were used in the United States Military during World War II. This specific plane was known as a United States Navy DC-3. This aircraft typically holds three crew members and fourteen sleeper passengers.

On November 21st, 1973, the plane left from Hofn Hornafjördur Airport to Naval Air Station Keflavik. This route is roughly 311 miles.

They were making the trek to deliver items for the radar station at Stokksnes. While the plane was flying, it had issues with severe icing as well as low fuel. This forced an emergency landing at Solheimasandur. 

Why did the plane crash?

Problems with de-icing can cause many issues with flying. Sufficient ice buildup can force the engine to stop working entirely.

As a result, the plane can still fly and hopefully land, but the control will be almost lost. Ice can also change the airflow over the wing and tail. This reduces the lifting ability that keeps the plane airborne. This could even cause an aerodynamic stall, which is an issue that can lead to a temporary loss of control. 

Low Fuel was another issue, causing the plane to make a crash landing. It was found out after that the pilot accidentally switched over to the wrong fuel tank, which resulted in the plane flying with no fuel at all. Bad weather was also reported in the area. The combination of the three issues created a disaster scenario for everyone on board the small aircraft. 

DC airplane wreckage at black beach, Sólheimasandur,

What was the outcome?

Seven crew members were on the plane that day, and they all survived. Luckily after the landing, they were rescued by helicopter. The plane is still standing today, or at least what is left of it, mostly the shell. Making it a historic and unique tourist destination when visiting Iceland. 

Can you drive to the Solheimasandur plane wreck?

The wreckage site is located on Iceland's South coast between Skógafoss waterfall and the town of Vik. Making it a two and half hour drive, heading southeast of Reykjavik.

The parking lot is located at FJRP+9J8, Path to Wrecked DC-3 Plane on Solheimasandur, 871 Iceland. You will see a small sign displaying parking for the plane wreck. While you cannot drive to the foot of the site anymore, you can take a hike to it.

There is also a shuttle available for those who cannot or do not want to walk far distances. The Plane Wreck Shuttle follows a 30-minute schedule every day from 10:00 AM, year-round as long as conditions allow.

How Far is the DC Plane on Sólheimasandur from Reykjavik?

The abandoned DC Plane on Solheimasandur is a two and half hour drive southeast of Reykjavik.

How long is the walk to the iceland airplane crash?

The hike to the plane is on flat land and is relatively easy and a tad bit long. You will be trekking 4.6 miles total, out and back, mostly on the rocky black sand beach.

It takes an average of an hour, each way, to reach the wreckage. You will feel the mist from the ocean on your face when you start to get close. Then suddenly you will see it, the large white shell of the airplane on the black rocky surface. 

When should you go?

If you are visiting in the fall or winter, you can even start your hike before sunrise. This will give you an added chance of spotting the northern lights. There is also something magical about watching the sun rise over the white plane shell. 

What to do when you get there

Once you reach the plane, get ready to explore it! That’s right, you can even go inside and play around. While there is no cockpit left or seats on the plane, you can wander through and get a feel for what the passengers went through.

Once the plane crashed, the military decided to keep it there. After stripping it down and removing anything that could be of damage to the area. That is why it looks so ripped apart, in addition to the wear and tear from the weather over the years.

The fact that the shell is still there is a miracle of its own. Looking at the airplane in the condition it is today, you would think there would have been no survivors of the crash. 

Be sure to be respectful when visiting this historic scene. There has been vandalism, including graffiti or trashing the area. Whatever you pack in, pack out, and together we can keep Iceland beautiful! 

A Famous Area

Does this DC plane look familiar to you? You may have seen it before.

Celebrities have been using the site for photographs, videos, and more. Television shows that featured the plane are Top Gear America, which highlights the automotive industry and more. The Netflix series Katla was filmed here, which is fitting since it is a science fiction show. 

Some favorite music videos featuring the plane wreck are Justin Bieber I’ll Show You. As well as Loona’s music video for “Let Me In”, which is an orchestral ballad song.

There was a music video for Gerua from the Indian Film “Dilwale'' that was shot here. It showed the actors standing in the wreckage. This caused a bump in tourism for Indian travelers looking to visit the same spot in Iceland. 

If you are a George Hirsch fan, then take a look at his 2016 album cover. The beautiful yet eerie image was featured as the main image for his album Hijrah.

Check out this video of justin bieber in iceland on the dc iceland plane crash.

What To Pack

You should always have the proper gear and attire when visiting Solheimasandur. This entails a light rain jacket or heavy winter raincoat, depending on the season.

The hike is not too long, but good hiking boots are always recommended, especially with the rocky surface. You will be walking on flat terrain with no shade, so proper sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat would be ideal. Also, bring more than enough water.

The sun is hot during every season, so hydration is key. The recommended amount of water during hiking is two cups, or 1/2 liter, of water for every one hour of hiking.

In addition to water, snacks are a must-have. Granola bars, fruit, or salty and sweet items can help fuel you. These will also help replenish your body's salt that you lose through sweat.

You will be exploring by foot out in a place where there are not that many people. Just make sure to be prepared and to fill your backpack up with all necessary items. Besides, having a snack break at an old airplane crash site should be on your bucket list regardless!

Woman on winter clothes in front of the wreck of th crashed airplane in Iceland


Four Destinations To Help You Explore More

Now that you have learned all about the wreckage area, picked out your dinner spots, and got your accommodations booked, it is time to explore the surrounding areas. 

Skógafoss

Take the ten-minute drive west to Skógafoss, an epic waterfall. With a width of 25 meters, a height of 82 feet, and a drop of 197 feet, it is truly a vision. You can hike around the waterfall, a 4.2-mile trail with a 1,145-foot elevation gain.

This majestic hike will bring you to the top of the waterfall for optimal views. The terrain can be muddy and grassy, so hiking boots are recommended.

Afterward, visit the Skogar Museum which opened in 1949. This museum provides a unique look at the local turf houses. You can take a look inside the turf houses and experience how the Vikings once lived. A once-in-a-lifetime and historic opportunity near Solheimasandur.

Skógafoss waterfall

Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool

Want to soak your body in a hidden swimming pool after your hike to the DC Plane? Well, luckily you totally can at Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool. This loved hot spring is only accessible by a short hike of 1.2 miles, but it is absolutely worth it.

The pool was once used for swimming lessons to teach Icealdenrs how to swim. Then after the Eyjafjallajökull Volcanic Eruption in 2010 happened, the pool closed. This was due to all of the volcanic ash that hit the area. The locals came together and eventually got all of the ash out of the pool.

Today, it is used as a local and tourist hot spot. The pool is very warm in the summer months and lukewarm in the winter months. The views of the surrounding mountains and green landscape are gorgeous too.  

 boy swims in the Seljavallalaug geothermal pool located in south Iceland

Dyrhólaey

Visit the small peninsula of Dyrhólaey, which also means "the hill island with the door hole". This unique area was once a volcanic island.

Today it is a nature preserve that also has a scenic lighthouse. There is wildlife in the nature area, including lots of different birds. You can spot puffins during the summer months too. 

Walk out on the arch of heights. But, the views from the Dyrhólaey, which is almost 200 feet high. Not for the faint of heart if you are afraid of heights.

But, the views of the peninsula are breathtaking and completely worth it. Enjoy the vast ocean that is accompanied by black sand beaches beneath you. This is also where you can spend some time marveling at the castle-like Dyrhólaey lighthouse. 

Most people spend around two hours exploring Dyrhólaey. We recommend stopping here and enjoying the beautiful area.

Aeria view of Dyrholaey beach Vik village in Iceland

Vik

End your day of exploring by visiting the small coastal town of Vik. An area that is famous for its vibrant black sand beaches. There is so much to do in this little town, including stopping by one of their restaurants or museums.

The Skaftfellingur Museum is always a hit here. A maritime museum that sits by the harborless beach. You can see the ship Skaftfellingur firsthand and learn all about its history.

Afterward, stop by the Voyage Vik or Voyages Friendship Statue. A statue that symbolizes the friendship between Iceland and the UK, which ended the cod-fishing wars between them. The statue was created in 2006 by Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir. An iconic statue to see, with a positive ending to a historic story. 

Vík town in Iceland