The hike to the Sólheimasandur plane wreck in Iceland is a little bit of a boring hike. It is also an easy hike though as it is a flat pathway to the airplane and back. Don’t let the flat path fool you though – the hike takes a little while to complete.
The plane crash is a popular photo spot in Iceland. The remains of a United States Navy DC-3 were left on the black sand beach where it crash landed onto a black sand beach after running out of fuel. Apparently it wasn’t actually out of fuel though – the pilot just switched it to the wrong fuel tank. Thankfully everyone survived the crash.
This guide will help you with everything from the plane wreck location in Iceland to what to wear and take with you on the hike to the Sólheimasandur plane wreck. Hiking out to the plane wreck in Iceland was one of the highlights of our Ring Road road trip.
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FINDING THE ICELAND PLANE WRECK LOCATION
The Sólheimasandur plane wreck is located on the southern coast of Iceland. If you stay in Reykjavik, it takes about 2.5 hours to drive from Reykjavik to the parking lot for the plane wreck.
The plane wreck is located about 9 km (10 minutes or 5.5 miles) past Skogafoss when coming from Reykjavik. If you are coming from the opposite direction, the parking lot for the plane wreck is 24 km (20 minutes or 15 miles) from Vik.
There is a small parking lot off to the south side of the road (right side if you are coming from Reykjavik). A small sign marks it as parking for the plane wreck. There used to be a shuttle to the plane wreck, but now you park and walk the rest of the way.
If you use Google Maps, here is the exact location for the plane wreck. If you use Apple Maps, search for Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck. Note that the Apple Maps location is the actual location of the plane wreck, but you will park just off of Ring Road and then continue on foot.
If you plan to make the day trip from Reykjavik, make sure to see some of the other nearby waterfalls and attractions including Seljalandsfoss (and the hidden Gljufrabui), Skogafoss, the Dyrholaey lighthouse and puffins, and Reynifsjara (the famous black sand beach). Get tips on these locations and more in our full itinerary.
If you are taking a road trip around Iceland or looking for somewhere closer to stay, we loved the Solheimahjaleiga Guesthouse located just a few minutes from the parking lot for the plane wreck. Our room for the night was about $130 and included a large buffet breakfast. We ate more than our fair share of the breakfast after hiking to the plane wreck that morning.
HOW LONG IS THE HIKE TO THE
ABANDONED AIRPLANE IN ICELAND?
The hike (or walk) to the plane wreck in Iceland is 7 km (4.3 miles) round trip. Since we both run, the distance did not sound too bad. However, it felt like it took forever, especially on the way to the airplane. In the end, it took us about 35 minutes to hike out and about 40 minutes to hike back without rushing.
The path you follow is a wide road that is marked on both sides. The path is black sand and pebbles and is fairly hard packed. Overall the path feels pretty flat. It does drop from 40 m (130 ft) to 9 m (30 ft) on the way to the plane making the way back a slight uphill.
The main reason it feels like a longer hike is because you cannot see the plane until you are very close. The whole way you are walking, if the weather is clear, you just see flat black landscape. If you look off to the left, you may be able to see the Black Arch Rock at Dyrholaey.
Because the path is slightly downhill, you do not really notice it. There is a bigger drop off (nothing crazy) just before the airplane. This keeps it out of sight until you are very close to it. Because you cannot see it during the majority of the hike, it feels like you will never get there.
You can see from my route below that we walked around at the airplane some and ended up with closer to 5 miles (8 km). This is the course from my Garmin watch. If you have a Garmin Connect account, you should be able to send it to your Garmin device to track your own hike.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE
SÓLHEIMASANDUR PLANE WRECK
The best time to visit the Sólheimasandur plane wreck depends on the season you are in Iceland. In the winter, the hike would be cold and miserable for us, so we would want to go at the warmest part of the day. However, that means others are likely to have the same idea.
With fewer daylight hours in the winter, try to hike to the plane crash near sunrise or sunset. There are typically less people near sunrise and sunset at most places. If you take flashlights, you could even start or finish the hike in the dark as it is an easy trail.
We visited Iceland in June when the sun was up nearly 24 hours a day. Even when the sun set, it did not get dark. We originally planned to do the hike in the later evening hours. When we drove by the parking lot at 9 p.m., it had a decent number of cars parked in it.
We opted to head to our room for the night and try again in the morning. We ended up starting the hike just before 6 a.m. There was one person ahead of us and two people not far behind us on the hike out. No one else was at the plane crash site when we arrived other than the one guy ahead of us.
We stayed at the plane wreck for a while to take pictures and then started the hike back. On the way back, we passed a few larger groups and lots of smaller groups on their way to the airplane. We arrived back at the parking lot around 8 a.m.
If you want to get photos of the plane wreck without anyone in them during the summer, be done by around 7:30 a.m. That seemed to be when the pathway became more crowded with people walking out to the plane.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE FAMOUS
ICELAND PLANE WRECK
Iceland’s unpredictable weather means you might get a little of everything on your hike. We experienced a mix of sunny skies, low clouds, and light rain when we went.
Take some water as it is possible to dehydrate without realizing it thanks to the cooler temperatures. If you are like my husband, make sure to take some snacks too. While it is not a difficult hike, plan to be out for at least an hour and likely longer.
Most people do not stay very long at the plane wreck site, so be patient. Otherwise, get creative with using the plane to hide the others who are also there. Think of others around you while you are there too. For example, the guy who was ahead of us waited for us to catch up on the hill leading down to the plane so that we could get pictures from a distance without anyone in it.
We flew our drone there and so did several others. One guy was reckless with his, flying fast and crashing a few times. Don’t be that guy – he almost hit me at one point, and his girlfriend (the owner of the drone) was not happy when he broke the drone hitting the plane.
There is not much to see at the plane wreck site itself. You can walk around what is left of the plane and even climb inside of it, but there is not much to see or do. I’m glad we hiked out to the plane wreck, but I can see why others would find it a waste of time.
One thing to note is that you are not supposed to climb on the plane. We did not stop to read the sign on the way out to the plane because we wanted to beat the other car turning in to the lot. We did read it when we finished the hike and saw it on the sign then.
If you do climb on the plane, it is definitely a climb at your own risk situation. I did not feel safe at all on top of the plane as it did not feel sturdy. My husband is braver and walked around some, but I climbed up and stayed in one spot.
On the way down, I sliced my pants open in the back on a piece of medal sticking out from the plane. Thankfully it was only my pants and my jacket kept me decent. That’s what I get for breaking the rules.
GEAR + WHAT TO WEAR ON THE HIKE TO
THE ICELAND PLANE CRASH
No matter the season, wear layers for your hike to the famous Iceland plane crash. Because the weather changes quickly in Iceland, you want to make sure you stay warm but can also remove layers to cool down if needed.
We went in the summer, but it was still cold to our Florida blood. With temperatures in the 40s (4 – 9 C), I wore my hiking pants, a tank top, a long sleeve shirt, and a jacket. I ended up taking the jacket off for part of the hike though.
Waterproof clothing and shoes are strongly suggested throughout your Iceland trip. We ended up dealing with rain for a few minutes of our hike despite sunny skies at the start. Thankfully we had on waterproof jackets, waterproof pants and waterproof shoes.
In addition to wearing waterproof gear, comfortable hiking or walking shoes are a must. With the path made of sand and pebbles, wearing flimsy shoes on the hike would not be fun and may cause an injury.
Because my hands get cold easily thanks to Reynaud’s Syndrome, I wore my thickest gloves but took them off as I warmed up hiking out to the plane wreck. From there they were on and off as I got colder or warmer throughout our time at the plane wreck. Take gloves if you can as they are easy to throw in a backpack.
If you plan to take photos with you in them, take a tripod with you. There is nothing around to set the camera on other than the ground and the plane itself. Even with the plane, there aren’t many places to set the camera and get the plane in the shot.
Because there are not always other people around, it is better to take a tripod and not need it than need it and not have it. We were able to trade out photos with another couple, but we had the tripod just in case. We also ended up using the drone to get a couple of photos together before the other couple showed up.
For the same or similar gear as ours, here is my jacket, his jacket, my pants (find a much cheaper pair here as I got mine in a sample sale at the outlet for significantly less – I do not pay this much for pants!), his pants, my shoes, and his shoes.
SHOULD I VISIT THE FAMOUS ICELAND PLANE WRECK?
This one depends. I enjoyed visiting the plane wreck. We enjoy hiking and knew what the plane wreck looked like already. It was worth it to us to take a couple of hours to visit the plane wreck.
However, it is not for everyone. If you do not want to take the long walk or are not able to walk that far, skip it. There are plenty of other amazing things to see in Iceland without seeing the plane wreck.
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