Exploring a 1973 plane wreck on Iceland’s black beaches

Iceland, 1973. A USA Navy plane with five passengers on board ran into problems and crashed on the black beach at Sólheimasandur, on the southeastern coast of the country. All passengers escaped unhurt, and now, 46 years later, the corpse of the wrecked plane still remains on the black sands of Iceland’s shore.

Laying desolate in the middle of a vast, monochromatic winter landscape, visiting the Sólheimasandur plane wreck is like stepping onto a sci-fi movie set. The star of many an influencer’s Instagram feed, climbing into the eery plane wreck without bumping into hoards of tourists is an extreeeemely cool, but increasingly tricky affair. Visiting in winter definitely helped, with crowds all but diminishing all along the well-worn stops on Iceland’s Ring Road route. Freezing cold and sharing the experience with just two other travellers, it was one of the absolute highlights of a 10-day road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road.

If you do a bit of research on the plane beforehand, you’re bound to come up with a million blog posts that, honestly, make it look like a cryptic maze to get to this plane. But, it’s not. At least not anymore. You can search on Google Maps ‘Sólheimasandur plane’, and the exact location comes right up. And, if you have a European phone contract, you can use your data to load the map wherever you are. I guess it kind of saps a bit of the mystery and adventure around the whole thing, but whatever. Long gone are the days of following sketchy directions, peering out of the windscreen at tiny signs written in jibberish, angrily scrambling about with oversized maps. Oh! Welcome to the 21st Century, people.

Despite the ease of Google Maps, it is also recommendable to follow at least some of the lesser-exaggerated tips from the internet. For example: don’t expect any kind of indication you are there. Once you see the dirt car park, you’re there. Expect a good 45 minutes to an hour’s walk to the wreck – and make sure you keep to the vaguely marked path. If you venture towards the absolutely ferocious waves – don’t go too close. Don’t try and drive to the wreck as you will most likely get stuck, with no one in the vicinity to help you escape.

Beware, Iceland! The land of doom and wilderness and death at every miscalculated step!

GEmma Fottles – the art of overcautiousness

Okay, so it’s not that bad. If you’re not a reckless idiot, you’ll be fine.

Photo – as always – by Charl van Rooy

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