There’s a remote and stunning plane crash site in Iceland that feels post-apocalyptic.

When we first arrived in Iceland at the car rental counter, the clerk asked us what type of insurance we wanted to get. We decided to get the extra ash and gravel coverage, and I’m glad we did. It gave us a little more freedom to explore more rugged terrain than we otherwise would have ventured into with our little compact car. And ultimately, it allowed us to get to one of the highlights of our trip: the carcass of an aircraft wreck left long ago.

Our rental car this summer in Iceland.

I read about Sólheimasandur Beach and its plane wreck while reading up on Iceland before we left for our trip. It’s a US Navy aircraft that wrecked in the 70s. Everyone survived the crash.

I really wanted to check it out, but I didn’t know how difficult it would be to get there or if there would be much time after visiting the main sites of the ring road. Just in case, I brought with us Expert Vagaband’s excellent instructions on how to get there. After we passed the tiny town of Vik, we kept an eye out for the dirt road that would lead off to the crash site.

We passed miles and miles of sponge-like landscape while looking for the plane.

We almost missed the road, but at the last second I pulled off the two lane highway Indiana Jones style. We came to an abrupt halt at a sign in the middle of the dirt road advising 4×4 drive. An expansive lava field lay beyond that. I looked longingly over its distance trying to see anything that looked like the remains of an aircraft. I could see nothing.

We sat for a moment to decide if it was worth the risk. The weather was pretty good, no new snow or rain, and the road looked like mostly gravel and hard-packed black sand. And according to google maps it didn’t look too far away. We decided to go for it.

After about 15-20 minutes of bumpy driving on the mostly gravel and hard-packed sand road, we began to see the bones of the DC-3 airplane take shape.

Its metal fuselage sat stripped and alone in an empty ash field. In all directions it’s wasteland as far as the eye can see. But we were never completely alone. At any one time at least one other small group of travelers were exploring the site as well. It doesn’t take long to walk around, climb in, and out of. But its desolate beauty invites you to just sit and think for awhile or longer.

Wrecked plane in Iceland.

A post shared by Jim Dalrymple II (@jimdalrympleii) on

If you go:

The road is private land and there have been unofficial reports that it may now be closed to vehicles. However, you may still be able to park just off the ring road and walk in. Plan on giving yourself about an hour to reach the crash site. Respect the private land by keeping on the road. There are other reports that the crash site is barred altogether.

Related Reading:

Iceland is one of the most expensive destinations in Europe: a cost analysis

30 first impressions of Iceland

Höfn is a slice of heaven

— Laura Rowley


Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

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