If you have seen a lot of photos from Iceland there is a good chance you have seen photos of the Solheimasandur plane wreckage. The famous silver plane, that is becoming one of Iceland’s most sought-after attractions, sits at a remote location on the South Coast surrounded by nothing but pitch black volcanic sand and incredible history. The Solheimasandur plane lies quite far in the downstream about 1-hour walk from the actual parking lot.
The airplane belonged to the American Army and was used to transport supplies around bases until it dramatically crashed in 1973.
After the crash, the plane was left and for decades only served as a raven’s nest and a model for local photographers who have always enjoyed capturing the wreckages in different lights and seasons. The black sand beach and the stellar scenery makes the location look like something from another planet so one might not be surprised to hear that the plane wreck has been used in quite a few commercials, documentaries, a Bollywood film and even Justin Bieber’s video for the song I’ll Show you in 2015.
Fun Facts about Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
- The plane is commonly known as a Douglas DC-3 plane model but is actually a C-117.
- The five members of the flight crew were all left unharmed by the plane crash.
- Justin Bieber shot parts for his video I’ll Show you at Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
How did the airplane end up at Solheimasandur?
The now-famous Plane Wreck at Sólheimasandur, South Iceland has a very interesting history. During the time that the American Army was stationed in Iceland, the soldiers used to transport supplies using. The 21st of November 1973 the Douglas DC 117 Airplane was transporting supplies to the American Army station near Höfn from Keflavik. When heading back to Keflavík from Höfn the weather started to worsen rapidly. The heat faltered down to negative 10 celsius, strong winds started to hit the plane and ice started to accumulate in the engine.
Understandably, this caused quite the panic within personnel, and when the engines on both sides completely shut down the crew was terrified. The fog that surrounded the airplane was so thick that the five members couldn’t see a thing and the airplane started to drop and was heading straight into a hill of a nearby mountain. The captain Mr. James Wickle tried his best to try to steer the airplane but his efforts were worthless. The crew was at this point convinced that this was it, there was no way they were going to survive, and to add to the mayhem they were running out of fuel.
At this point, the co-pilot Gregory Fletcher, who was still in training, took control of the airplane. He made the decision to steer the plane South and land the plane in the ocean South of Iceland. He knew that the crew couldn’t survive long in the ocean but that they could die instantly if they hit the mountain so he decided to take the chance.
When the airplane came down from the clouds, heading into the Atlantic ocean the crew couldn’t believe their eyes. They weren’t going to land in the ocean, what sat in front of them was a pitch black beach, it was like nothing they had ever seen before and it felt like they were about to land on the moon!
The beach, Sólheimasandur, was frozen but they managed to land on it and their aircraft stopped only 6 meters away from the sea. The plane was in bad shape after the crash but the crew was alive and that was all that mattered. One of the crew members was even quoted saying “it was the most comfortable landing I have even been in”.
As soon as they had landed the crew rushed out of the airplane, there were holes in the fuel tanks, which explains why they were running out of fuel and they needed to get away from the crash site quick.
They gathered everything they could, the first aid kit and portable radio station and Fletcher began to contact the army base in Keflavík. Only an hour later a rescue chopper showed up and they were taken to the hospital for a check-up, the conclusion; they were in perfect health!
Later a flock from the army came to collect anything of value from the plane but it the actual plane wreckage was just left there at Sólheimasandur beach where it still stands today.
The reason that has been given for the abandonment is that this type of an airplane, the Douglas C-117 was no longer being produced and the army was about to quit using the plane so it wasn’t worth the effort and resources to save it. Still. no one knows for sure but the rest is sure the dc plane at Solheimasandur is still there today!
Where is Solheimasandur Plane Wreck Located?
GPS: 63.459121°N, – 19.364734°W
The Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck is located on the South Coast in Iceland, right off the Ring Road about 164 kilometers (101 miles) away from Reykjavík, 215 kilometers (133,5 miles) away from Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and 535 kilometers (332,4 miles) away from Akureyri. The nearest attractions that frame it in are the cape Dyrhólaey and Skógafoss waterfall each roughly about 15 kilometers (9 miles) away.
How to get to Solheimasandur Plane Wreck?
Driving from Reykjavik to Solheimasandur Plane Wreck will be along the Ring Road one in an easterly direction. You will pass the town of Hveragerði and go through the town Selfoss, Hella and Hvolsvöllur. Further on you will see waterfall Seljalandsfoss from the road and go further on to pass the famous stratovolcano Eyjafjallajokull. The last famous attraction you pass is the powerful Skógafoss and after having crossed the river Jökulsá you see the car park on the right.
The drive should take about 2 hours and 15 minutes with no stops.
Driving from the East to Solheimasandur Plane Wreck you are likely coming from the Eastfjords or are driving the Ring Road heading West. You are likely to pass the town of Höfn, and have Vatnajökull National Park along your right side for a majority of the drive. Past the glacier outlets of Vatnajökull Europe’s most voluminous glacier and the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon and Diamond Beach. Further on you go past Skaftafell, through Kirkjubæjarklaustur, and towards Vík. Now you are getting closer. After having past through Vík you only have about 15 minutes to go before reaching the parking lot.
The drive from Jökulsárlón to Solheimasandur Plane Wreck parking lot it about 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Access to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck is quite restricted and driving on the beach is forbidden so you will need to park your car at the parking lot and walk for about an hour each way. The plane cannot be seen from the road as it is located about 3,5 kilometers down South off the road.
Accommodation and hotels near Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
- Volcano Hotel
- Hotel Dyrholaey
- Hotel Skogar
- Hotel Edda Skogar
- Hotel Skogar
- Hotel Skogafoss
B&B and Guesthouses
- Solheimahjaleiga Bed & Breakfast
- Guesthouse Vellir
- Guesthouse Steig
- Hvammból Guesthouse
- Grand Guesthouse Gardakot
- Skogar Guesthouse
Cabins and Cottages
- Vestri Pétursey
- Farmhouse Lodge
- Hvoll Cottages
- Skogar HI Hostel
Camping near Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
Skógar campsite is the nearest camping ground to the plane wreck.
All Year Around
1200 ISK per adult per night
Service on Site:
- Waste Disposals
- Running Hot and Cold water
Vik Camping Ground is the second closest camping ground to the plane wreck.
15th May to 30th of October
1750 per adult per night (extra fee for showers and washing)
Service on Site:
- Hot and Cold running water
- Dining facilities
- Washing Machines and Tumble Dryers
Tips for visiting Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
- Skip the hike, join a tour that takes you to the plane, 2 hours walking in the same terrain isn’t as much fun.
- If you are walking, make time for this stop, the time it takes to walk down doesn’t get talked about enough (unusual for Iceland). Also, there are so many different photo opportunities you are going to want to explore once there!
- Read up on the history, it makes the visit so much more amazing, see at part two in the article!
- You won’t be able to see the plane wreck until the last minute because it’s hidden behind a sand dune. Make sure to follow GPS coordinates.
Solheimasandur Plane Wreckage in Winter
On a regular day the hike down to the plane wreck isn’t of any concern but if you are taking the walk in winter the path is covered in snow, which is often blowing around making the path more difficult to track and follow. We only advise visiting in winter with an experienced guide. During winter the Icelandic Search and Rescue team are regularly called to rescue travelers who have gotten lost attempting to find the Solheimasandur plane wreckage.
Movies, Tv Shows or Music Videos filmed at Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
Films and Documentaries:
Heima (2007) The Icelandic Band Sigurrós made a documentary about their home country, Iceland, hence the name Heima translates “at Home”.
Justin Bieber – I’ll Show You (2015) the famous child star shot two videos (Cold Water and I’ll Show You) in Iceland in a short period going all over the county. At 2:10 in I’ll Show You music videos Bieber is seen skateboarding at the top of the plane wreck!
Gerua – Shah Rukh Khan & Kajol (2015) The video is shot all around Iceland but at 1:29 the pair in the video are seen embracing at the top of the airplane wreckage.
Dierks Bentley – Black (2017) American Country singer Dierks Bentley shot his video for the song Black around the Black Sand beach with a great focus on the plane wreck. Kind of a must-see for those interested in the plane wreckage!
Interesting places near Solheimasandur Plane Wreck
- The Ring Road
- Cape Dyrhólaey
- Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach and Basalt Columns
- Skógafoss Waterfall
- Fimmvörðuháls Trail
- Eyjafjallajökull Stratovolcano
- Sólheimajökull Glacier
- Hjörleifshöfði Cape and Yoda Cave
- The Ice Cave under the Katla Volcano
- Seljalandsfoss Waterfall
- Gljúfrabúi Waterfall
- Gluggafoss Waterfall
- Þórsmörk Valley