The Ring Road leads tourists to the incredible Icelandic South Coast and its black shorelines, but also throws a few surprises along the way – the crashed and abandoned American DC plane on Sólheimasandur being one of them.
Since its discovery and in response to the increased curiosity of locals and visitors alike, its location has become one of the most visited non-natural attractions in this part of the country.
The U.S. military Douglas Dakota aircraft (referred to as Super DC-3, officially designated as Douglas C-117), a veteran of the Korean War, was flying from the northeastern town of Höfn to deliver equipment for the U.S. radar station located there. Headed for the capital, it encountered a combination of adverse conditions. A storm with low temperatures and ice forming on its wings, minimal visibility as well as human carelessness.
The plane crashed in the sands of the Icelandic coastline in 1973, as one of its engines was left without fuel. The pilots managed to crash land on Sólheimasandur, a short distance away from the raging waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It turned out that the pilot had switched on the plane’s power to the empty engine, which resulted in the machine crashing. Fortunately, there were no casualties among the 5-men crew. The proximity of the remains of the eroding aircraft’s skeleton right next to the ocean paired with the extraordinary landscape of black sand and mighty crashing waves nearby, make the site very surreal and highly attractive.
Sólheimasandur has nowadays become a great attraction for those who visit the island. The plane can also be viewed from the inside. It is also a favorite photography spot for many keen photographers who explore the country year in year out.
How to get there
It is wise to visit this place during summer or at least in good weather – the snow is heavy, the wind is strong and snowstorms are a frequent occurrence in this region. The location is easy to find: between Skógafoss waterfall and Vík. After crossing the Jökulsá river, you pass a left turn on road 221. You continue for about 2 km until the entrance to a parking lot appears on your right and then follow the orange signs. Access to the plane crash site by car is forbidden unless given explicit permission by the landowners. Therefore be prepared for about 2 hours or more of walking from the main road to get to Sólheimasandur.
The scenery around Sólheimasandur
The scenery is completed by views of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which, after erupting flooded the terrain with masses of water rushing towards the ocean. The release of these ever so powerful flooding waters is considered one of the most dangerous consequences of the Icelandic volcano eruptions. They have also claimed more victims than the lava, and are difficult to predict and prepare for. This is the reason for the absence of settlements in the area from Vík í Mýrdal to Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
The surrounding area of Sólheimasandur consists of moon-like formations. Below Mýrdalsjökull is Iceland’s most active volcano, Katla.
This part of Iceland is becoming increasingly commercialized: film directors from Bollywood, music and commercial advertising agencies, video and music video makers of famous musicians (e.g. Justin Bieber) film their productions there.
Why not book one of our many Road Trips on offer and see Sólheimasandur for yourself!