A few kilometres from highway 1 on the south shore of Iceland lies the wreckage of an abandoned plane that crash landed in 1973 on the black sand beach of Sólheimasandur. While much of the plane has been stripped away, it is in surprisingly good shape in spite of being left where it landed for nearly half a century. Most of the cabin and wing engines are still intact and makes for some amazing pictures.
On November 21 or November 24, 1973, this United States Navy Douglas DC-3 plane took off from Hofn Hornafjördur Airport on a supply run. As it was flying over Vestur-Skaftafellssýsla county, it crashed landed on the beach. There’s some debate about what caused the plane to crash, but the general consensus is that it either ran out of fuel or encountered severe icing conditions, causing the pilot to lose control of the aircraft. Whatever the reason, the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing near Vík í Mýrdal. The occupants walked away unharmed, leaving the plane where it landed.
While no one is positive exactly why the airplane went down, the suspected culprit was an empty fuel tank that the pilot may have tried to access. However, whatever the reason, the plane had to make an emergency landing on the beach on November 24th, 1973. As opposed to attempting to salvage the wreckage, it was simply left to rot in its isolated spot on an Icelandic beach.
How to get there
Drive along highway 1 east from Reykjavik, past signs for Skógafoss you’ll pass over the Jökulsá River. Immediately after passing the river you’ll see an unmarked gate on the right side of the road. There’s a small parking area where you can leave your car and start the long walk across the blank sand towards the ocean. There’s a marked path that will lead you right up to the plane. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t see the plane for a while since you won’t see your destination until you’re nearly there. Walking out to the plane from the road feels a bit surreal. Depending on what time of year, you may end up walking against a harsh winter wind for most of the trek. Plan for the walk out to take 45 minutes in each direction plus allow for some time to poke around and take some pictures!
As of March, 2016, the family that owns the land that the plane is located on has banned vehicles from accessing the area, but you can still walk the 4 km (2.5 miles) across the beach along the path to the plane.