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How to get to the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck

You’ve seen pictures. You’ve heard stories. The abandoned plane wreck on the desolate Sólheimasandur black sand beach – one of Iceland’s biggest tourist attractions.

On November 24, 1973 a United States Navy plane crashed onto the beach in South Iceland. Running into a sudden change of weather, the pilot had to perform an emergency landing – thankfully there was a beach visible nearby. Amazingly, everyone in the plane survived the crash. The U.S. military salvaged the usable pieces and left the rest on the beach. You can read the fascinating story about the crash and the Icelandic land owner here.

This famous plane wreckage was another sight we skipped on our honeymoon trip, so it has been two years since I’ve been seeing amazing pictures of this plane. When my friend Kristy said she wanted to drive South, I knew we needed to make a stop here. I was SO excited to finally see it!

And then…ONE week before she arrived, the road to access the beach CLOSED to the public.

With good reason, the land owner closed off access due to careless tourists driving off the path and tearing up his land. This means no one is allowed to drive on the beach to the plane. The only way to get there now is to walk – 4km one way.

If you don´t know where you’re going, it can be difficult to locate the wreckage, especially now that you have to walk and you do NOT want to be going in the wrong direction.

Read on for directions to the plane location.

 

The day we stopped for the plane was cold and suuuuper windy. “Jeannie, that sounds like a normal day in Iceland.” Correct, but not ideal conditions for walking 4km on a wide open beach.

If you have good weather then this walk won’t be bad at all. Just be prepared a long walk that looks like you’re on planet Mars walking towards nothing.

As for how to get there: just follow the other people. Since Justin Bieber added the plane to his music video for “I’ll Show You” literally everyone is stopping here. In the event that you don’t see someone walking before you, it’s a straight shot to the plane from the parking area.

The walk to the plane looks like this:

Now that the road to drive on the beach is closed, the only way to get there is to walk! It's 4km/45 minutes one way. Here is the route for the walk from the Ring Road to the abandoned plane wreck on Sólheimasandur beach in South Iceland | Life With a ViewFOR 40 MINUTES.

The wind was coming straight from the East straight into my ear holes. I was seriously wearing two hats! It was brutal. And let me tell you, my travel companions (my husband and Kristy) did not know what they were getting themselves into. I think they would have cared less if they saw a plane wreck on the beach. That was the last input I was allowed to have for the rest of the trip.

So we walked. And we joked about turning back for the vehicle. And then we look back towards the vehicle and realized it’s out of sight and we are literally in the middle of nowhere.

We keep walking. Except for it’s more like a bent over walk with head forward to try to make your body as aerodynamic as possible.

And then, after you’ve considered turning around for the tenth time, you finally get a glimpse of it. And you celebrate.

The first glimpse of the amazing yet eerie plane wreck on Solheimasandur black sand beach in South Iceland | Life With a ViewWhen we finally arrived at the site, the plane was stunning. The wreckage is amazing and slightly eerie.

Because there were SO many people there, it was nearly impossible to get a photo without someone in it.

You are able to walk around and in the plane wreck on Solheimasandur black sand beach in South Iceland | Life With a ViewI was just happy to walk inside and all around it. I imagined the passengers on the plane the day it crashed and how relieved they must have been when they landed gently on the beach.

READ MORE:   Iceland Stopover Itinerary - 5 Things To Do

 

You are able to walk around and in the plane wreck on Solheimasandur black sand beach in South Iceland | Life With a View

 

You are able to walk around and in the plane wreck on Solheimasandur black sand beach in South Iceland | Life With a View

Now there are bullet holes, graffiti, and plenty of footprints where people have walked.

 

he plane wreck on Solheimasandur black sand beach in South Iceland has become a photographers dream! So glad I got to see it in person, even after the windy 45 minute walk on the beach | Life With a ViewNo amount of photos can replace seeing it in person. I’m so glad we took the long journey to see it. And I can say that now, being recovered from the walk and in the warmth of my own home. Would I do the walk again? If I got to see the Northern Lights dancing above, YES.

I just hope they can figure out a way to get the road back open. But until then, it really is an adventure to get there and a good story to tell afterward.

he plane wreck on Solheimasandur black sand beach in South Iceland has become a photographers dream! So glad I got to see it in person, even after the windy 45 minute walk on the beach | Life With a View

 

 

Directions

The Sólheimasandur airplane wreckage is located on the South coast between Skógafoss and Vík.

(If coming from West to East) After Skógafoss going East on Route 1, you will cross a bridge and see a turnoff for Sólheimajökull on your left.

Keep driving for about 2 kilometers and keep your eyes open for a small turnoff with a gate on your right. (It will be the only opening in the fence after the bridge. If you cross a 2nd bridge, you’ve gone too far.)

There will be “parking area” most likely with several other vehicles. You will see that the fence to access the beach is chained off with a “Lokad” sign.

Get out of your vehicle and start walking towards the ocean. You will be walking for about 40 minutes before you will see the plane. You might consider turning back several times.

KEEP WALKING.

You won’t spot the wreckage until the last minute because it’s hidden behind a sand dune near the edge of the ocean.

GPS coordinates to the turnoff/parking lot
63.4912391,-19.3632810

GPS coordinates to the plane
63.459523,-19.364618

FYI – before your journey

  • Comfortable walking shoes – I can’t stress this enough. You are going for a LONG walk on a pebble beach. I saw some people wearing Uggs and I don’t even want to think about the blister situation after they were done.
  • Hat, gloves, scarf. Standard, but you don’t want to be exposed to wind on this long walk!
  • Wind/waterproof gear – top and bottom.
  • Headphones to catch up on a podcast or ebook for the walk there and back. Ha, I wish I would have done this!
  • Bring a snack and water. Ok, you might think I am joking, but seriously this was a 2 1/2 hour deal for us! Give or take based on your walking speed, but it was SO windy we literally couldn’t have walked any faster. Don’t let hanger happen to you (i.e. me), put a granola bar in your pocket.
  • Make sure your camera is fully charged or you have a spare battery. The worst thing would be to walk all the way out there and not have any photo proof!

Now that the road to drive on the beach is closed, the only way to get there is to walk! It's 4km/45 minutes one way. Here is the route for the walk from the Ring Road to the abandoned plane wreck in on Sólheimasandur beach in South Iceland

 

 

 

 

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Question: Will you still plan on seeing the plane even with the long walk?

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  • Katie Smith
    May 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    We were lucky enough to be able to ride atvs out to the crash when we went on an atv tour. I assume our tour company is who closed down the land(it seemed that way). I don’t if I could have braved that wind on foot. It was brutal the day we were there.

    • Jeannie
      June 7, 2016 at 9:58 am

      I’ve heard of the ATV tour riding out there, that would be so much easier! Unfortunately, I think the wind is brutal most days 😐

  • Cynthia
    May 24, 2016 at 6:31 pm

    I have been wondering about this, so thanks so much for posting about it! Although phewwww, sounds like a lottttta effort, but I guess we’ll just play it by ear – maybe we’ll luck out with the weather? 😉 That must be one HUUUGE beach if you can walk for 40 min across it, at least….

    • Jeannie
      June 7, 2016 at 9:54 am

      RIGHT?! Huge beach. If you get to see it, it is really cool but the walk is definitely tiring. Glad I could help with your plans 😉

  • Van @ Snow in Tromso
    May 24, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    I totally get that the people don’t want tourists to destroy their land but it’s beyond me why they had to close the road. Not many tourists are able or willing to walk for 8km. I guess it’s a nice sight but the walk wouldn’t be worth it for me to be honest…. especially not in this Arctic weather 😀

    • Jeannie
      June 7, 2016 at 9:45 am

      I know I can totally see the point from both sides. The walk was reaaaally not fun, I wouldn’t do it again! It’s crazy though how many people will still walk 8km to see a plane crash!

    • Danielle
      January 11, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      There are LOADS of tourists willing to make the walk – I went in September and was amazed at the amount of people, I thought it would cut down on the numbers visiting, but alas not. I think they are well within their rights to close their land if selfish people can’t respect it. I was going to walk it anyway as I wasn’t planning on having a 4×4 car and wasn’t going to risk damaging my rental car (as it turns out I got a free upgrade to a 4×4, but go figure) – I thought it was a lot more rewarding to walk (I did however have decent weather…)

  • Danielle
    January 11, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    I so wished I had known about this when I first visited in 2006/2007 – there would have been like, no one there – instead there were LOADS of people there. I was pretty amazed. I had always planned on walking to the wreck because hiring a 4×4 was too expensive for me (solo traveller) so them closing the road didn’t really affect whether I could visit it or not, in fact it probably helped in some ways. I went in September and the path you have a photo of (I’m sure you know, seeing as you live there) now has yellow marker posts along the route so it’s a lot easier to follow. I had visions of getting completely lost, going off track with my terrible sense of direction and ending up being one of *those* silly tourists who have to be rescued by SAR and end up on social media. I worried about knowing where to stop the car but I needn’t have done as there were about 30 cars by the side of the road!! I thought the walk was rewarding, and as I’d always planned on walking it, it wasn’t an issue, although I did have decent weather. I went for sunset (and wanted to stay if the NL forecast had been good, but it wasn’t) as I wanted to take photos but that wasn’t entirely successful due to the amount of people now visiting, climbing on it, flying drones etc – hence why I wish I had known about it in 2007!!

    the trip advisor reviews on this are quite frustrating with people complaining that ‘they should have put the car park closer’ and people completely exaggerating the distance to get there – it’s amazing how people seem to think Iceland is Disneyland and the people who own the land that just happens to have a wrecked plane on it that has got to provide a tram, refreshments etc. I don’t know about you, but I’m really concerned about some of the selfish behaviour of visitors that I’ve seen on recent visits and wish Iceland was not so popular – littering and people ignoring signs telling them to stay behind barriers in order to protect the flora and fauna (as well as for safety) just ignored, mostly so people could get the ‘perfect’ selfie or whatever for social media, its so depressing!!

    sorry for the rant. somehow I would like to move to Iceland (hence my finding your blog) but can only visit for now (but don’t think I will get there this year) and realise my own visits are part of the problem, & I don’t own Iceland but in my many visits in the past decade, seeing the irresponsible behaviour I’ve seen on recent visits is so sad.

    • Jeannie
      January 20, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      I totally agree Danielle – I support the landowners! It’s crazy now that they shut off the driving it seems like even MORE people are trying to visit the plane. I couldn’t believe how many people are making the walk either. But you are right, decent weather would make all the difference! No worries on rant, I appreciate your honesty 😉

  • Chris
    February 4, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    If you aren’t walking or hiking in Iceland, you are not having a good time. There is so much to see, easily accessible, yet some effort. Great time there with my daughter and would love to go back with a motorcycle to see some of the stuff that required either a bike or 4×4. One thing to remember if you are heading out there, you might want to go to the bathroom before you start. Also, bring a bottle of water or a way to stay hydrated. Between the wind, the cold and the exercise, you will get dried out.

    • Jeannie
      February 6, 2017 at 11:52 am

      Such a great point, Chris! I know with Iceland we get a little spoiled to be able to just get out of the car and have the sight right there – the walk is half the fun. Good tip about the water! I hope you get to visit again with your 4×4 or bike 🙂

  • jack
    February 6, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    i was there 5x…always with a car. Last winter in february, just a week before the farmer closed the road, there were at least 8 cars …mainly asians (sorry for this) stuck in snow. They dont know how to drive, and that their vehicles are not suitable for the snow even if they are 4WD city cars. I have saved 2 but then i ignored the rest…i had a schedule to do and didnt want to spend there 5 hours saving them. I understand the farmer for closing the road, since the land has been ruined by people not driving on the destroyed road that was marked but next to it. Only thing i do not understand is why doesnt he put there a person and a car that would charge you 1000isk to drive you from parking to the plane…that way he would make something to fix the road and people would be happy not having to walk….and its not that big of a deal those 8$

    • Jeannie
      February 23, 2017 at 8:56 am

      You make a great point, Jack! I know a lot of people walk the route, but charging a fee is a great idea! Still the number 1 factor has to be preservation of the delicate nature.