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The splendour of Iceland isn't just in its glaciers, geysers, or hot springs, but also in the less predictable spots like the captivating Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. Set amidst the surreal volcanic sands of the South Coast of Iceland, the wreckage paints an intriguing picture against the backdrop of an almost alien landscape. If you are an adventurer at heart, the exploration of the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck is a must-add item to your Icelandic journey.
Two individuals standing on the wing of a plane wreck, with a mountain visible to the left and expansive black sand surrounding the rest.
Best time to visit
All year-round
Coordinates
63.45920, -19.36467
Distance from Reykjavík
162km (100mi)

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Discover the Enigmatic Beauty of Solheimasandur Plane Wreck: A Must-Visit Site in Iceland

The Intriguing History of the DC-3 Plane Wreck on Solheimasandur

On the fateful day of November 21, 1973, the Douglas C-117 aircraft was on a mission to transport supplies from Keflavik to the American Army station near Höfn.

While official US records claim that the crash occurred on November 24, actual accounts suggest that it was three days earlier. As the plane ascended into the sky, mechanical failures and the relentless wrath of a looming storm began to impact its journey.

The aircraft soon found itself surrounded by a cloak of thick fog and forceful winds. The temperature plummeted to below -10 degrees Celsius, causing ice to start building up on the plane. With failing engines and drastically reduced visibility, the crew on board started to panic, believing their plane was heading towards a nearby mountain slope.

Despite the dire circumstances, co-pilot Gregory Fletcher, still in training, made a decisive move. Instead of allowing the plane to crash into the mountains, he navigated it south, intending to land in the Atlantic Ocean. While this decision posed its risks, the chances of survival were higher than a catastrophic collision with the mountain.

As the plane descended from the clouds, the crew saw an unexpected sight before them—a perfectly flat pitch-black beach stretching for miles. Seizing the opportunity, they made an emergency landing on the frozen beach of Sólheimasandur. Despite the damage the aircraft suffered, it stopped just six meters short of the sea. Miraculously, not a single crew member was injured.

The Aftermath: An Unexpected Attraction

Following the crash, it was discovered that holes in the aircraft's fuel tanks were the cause of the sudden fuel shortage. After the crew was rescued and given a clean bill of health, the US Navy recovered any valuable items from the wreckage.

However, the damaged aircraft was left at the crash site due to its discontinued production and pending phase-out from the US military service. Over time, the wreck became a poignant reminder of this dramatic event and an enigmatic symbol of human triumph over adversity.

Today, the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck, set against the stark beauty of the Icelandic landscape, draws in thousands of visitors from around the globe, adding an unexpected attraction to this naturally blessed land.

Iconic Plane Wreck in the Media: From Bieber to Bollywood

The isolated yet strikingly beautiful Solheimasandur Plane Wreck hasn't gone unnoticed by the media either. It was featured in the 2015 music video 'I'll Show You' by Justin Bieber, and also in 'Dilwale', a renowned Bollywood film, besides making appearances in several advertisements. The wreckage's unique setting has indeed proven to be a significant artistic allure.

Where Is the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck?

Situated on the coast of South Iceland, right off the Ring Road, the plane wreck is approximately 164 kilometres (102 miles) from Reykjavík. The Dyrhólaey Cape and Skógafoss waterfall, two other fantastic tourist spots, are just about 15 kilometres (9 miles) away from the site.

Making your way to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck isn't just about reaching the destination; it's also about savouring the journey. Whether you're driving from Reykjavik or from the East, you'll pass several awe-inspiring attractions like the Seljalandsfoss waterfall, the renowned stratovolcano Eyjafjallajokull, the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, and Diamond Beach.

As you drive along the road between Skógafoss and Dyrhólaey, you may notice a spot with many cars parked. It may seem like it is in the middle of nowhere, but this is the parking lot by Solheimasandur.

To visit the plane wreck, prepare for a long walk taking up to an hour each way. It's an invigorating stroll over 3.5 kilometres (2 miles), where you'll experience the vast expanse of volcanic sand and the striking isolation that embodies the true essence of Iceland.

Essential Tips for Your Visit to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

While the walk to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck can be a thrilling experience, the ever-changing Icelandic weather can significantly influence the journey.

The best time to visit the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck is during the Icelandic summer, between May and August, due to milder weather and longer daylight hours.

In good weather, the walk from the parking lot to the wreck is relatively straightforward and manageable for most fitness levels. The flat black sand beach provides an easy path, making it an enjoyable trek for seasoned hikers and casual walkers alike. The breathtaking landscape around you with the contrasting starkness of the black sand and the Icelandic sky creates a mesmerising backdrop for your journey.

However, Iceland's weather is known for its unpredictable nature. The walk can become a challenge if you're caught in sudden fog or rain. Visibility can drop dramatically in a matter of minutes, transforming the otherwise easy trek into a navigation puzzle. In such conditions, the black desert becomes a vast, disorienting expanse, making it almost impossible to track back to your path if you lose your way.

Before embarking on your journey, it's essential to check the local weather forecast and take heed of any advice or warnings issued by the local authorities. Dress appropriately, layering your clothes to adjust to changing conditions, and carry essential supplies such as water, snacks, and a reliable navigation tool.

We advise against attempting this hike in the winter months. The harsh Icelandic winter brings not only freezing temperatures but also regular snowstorms, which can cover the path entirely. The visibility during these storms is near-zero, making the trek dangerous and the plane wreck almost inaccessible. The safety and well-being of visitors are paramount, so it's best to plan your visit outside the winter season.

Remember: there are guided transportation services available all year round. Take an exciting ATV tour or the shuttle bus to the plane wreck to ensure a fun and safe experience.

Questions and Answers about Solheimasandur Plane Wreck

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