You’ve probably seen Photos of the Iceland DC3 Plane Crash on the black sand beach in Iceland and you’ve been wanting to know. How Can I visit it? What’s the story behind it?
Well We are here to answer those questions. And help you get there too! Nearly everyone we know wants to visit it on their first trip to Iceland. Well, it’s super easy and this guide will help you with what you need to know.
History of the DC3 Plane Crash in Iceland
Twenty First November, Nineteen Seventy Three…
This flight was a regular over the skis of Iceland. A common US Navy cargo flight departing from nearby Höfn in eastern Iceland en route to NAS Keflavik. The US has had a military presence in Iceland and military exercises were common during the cold war.
The weather was quite bad that day and take-offs and landings are always the most precarious moment in flight. So shortly after take-off with the ice storm pounding the plane, around 2:00 pm local time they had to make a crash landing on the black sand beach Solheimasandur in the southwest of Iceland close to Vik.
The exact reason for the crash is unknown. There are several theories including the ice storm or pilot error. Regardless, the flight under the control of Captain James Wicke was able to make an emergency crash landing.
All 7 members of the crew survived that day and exfiltrated by helicopter. Documents and other important things were taken and the rest was surveyed and the unsalvaged remains were abandoned on the beach.
Where they remain even to this day.
About the Super DC-3 Airplane
For into Aviation like me, the plane was an Douglas C-117D, a US Navy military transport plane. The plane is based on a Super DC3 (DC stands for Douglas Commercial); a common plane designation made by Douglas (later McDonald Douglas then Boeing). The Super stands for the increase in size and body-strength for the needs of military transport.
This particular DC3 (Serial #17171) was first designated as an R4D-5 then later redesignated as R4D-8 to finally as C-117D in the 1960s. The C-117 designation was part of a redesignation of fleet aircraft with “C” for Cargo planes.
The Plane Today
Today the plane still sits on the same black sand beach in Iceland it crashed on that harrowing day over 40 years ago. It is now considered one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland. And one of the top places people going to Iceland want to see.
The plane body is largely still in tact with superficial marks from tourists and vandals. There are still cables and places to access within the plane. Parts of the plane that broke apart are not present at the site. The wings are long gone as are other items from within the plane. Both from prospectors and harsh weather. But overall the plane fuselage remains as it has since the 1970s
Photos of the plane and site are some of my favorite from Iceland. And since Justin Bieber’s videos from Iceland including his from here, the tourists come in droves.
While, accessibility, notoriety, and remoteness have disappeared it is worth visiting if you are in the region. Certainly it’ll be harder to get it to yourself. And you can no longer drive down to the beach to the wreckage.
Where is the Crashed Iceland Plane Located
The crashed DC3 is located on the black sand beach of Solheimasandur about 4 KM from the Iceland Route 1.
Location: Approximately: 63°27’32.8″N 19°21’53.1″W
The closest town to the DC3 Crash is Vik which is about 25 kilometers west on Route 1. Route 1 is also the closet road to access the DC3 Crash. To the east, Skogafoss lies about 10 km and Holt about 25kms.
Will they Close the Site
There was talk and concern about closure of the site over the years as the popularity of the crash site soared. As with anything that becomes popular, more regulations are necessary. In particular, that people have been hurt or done damage while visiting the site.
Additionally, getting to the crash site requires crossing private property. In the past you could drive on the beach to the site, or park near the road. There were no signs, and mostly it was shared as word of mouth. However, both of these options are now illegal.
Thankfully, work with the government and improvements for making it more accessible to tourists safely was decided. There’s now a parking lot and a well marked trail to the site.
Where to Park
Thanks to the construction of a parking lot several years ago. Parking for the plane is super easy. about 25 kilometers from Vik, you’ll see an entrance and a parking lot on the south side of Route 1 right after you cross over a small bridge. It used to be harder to find the locatoin prior to the parking lot being constructed.
There’s no sign for the parking lot on the road. So either use the coordinates below or pay attention after you cross the river/stream. (Or if coming from Skogafoss, before). You can also refer to the map below
Parking Lot Location: 63°29’27.1″N 19°21’49.1″W
I’m told from a friend who visited the site this year that they now charge for parking. Parking is 750ISK and is bookable online. It’s a bit on the honor system and you need to pay online and register your license plate #. Better safe than sorry.
Getting to the Site
Within the Parking lot for the entrance to the trail there is actually a sign that gives information about the trail and the location of the plane.
There are Several Options for getting to the site. In the past it was either driving or walking.
Walking to the Iceland DC3 Plane Crash
The trail itself is actually well maintained and well marked. You’ll see reflective tubes on either side of the trail. It is about 4km (2.5 miles) from the parking lot to the actual plane.
As you get close to the plane you can probably go off-trail a bit as its a bit more direct than taking the trail.
By Shuttle Bus
There is a daily shuttle bus that runs from 10am – 5pm daily (weather permitting). Last departure 4:30pm. It takes about 10 minutes by shuttle to reach the plane wreck.
You can book the bus either online here or from the parking lot (as long as its not sold out). Tickets cost ISK 2,900, and one-way tickets are bookable if you book on-site.
Other Important Tips
- Pay Attention to the Weather. Iceland weather is harsh and unpredictable (which is likely why we have this tourist site). It is possible to get stuck in really bad weather depending on the time of year. People have died at the site when the weather was really bad.
- Site is generally open all day/evening. I’ve been there late at night to view the stars or try to see the northern lights.
- Pay attention to site closures: There are occasions that the parking/site is closed. It’s for your own safety.
- Don’t park anywhere but the parking lot. Parking on Route 1 by the site or driving to the site is no longer allowed.
- Be Careful! I won’t tell you to not climb in or on the plane. Lots of people do it. But it is a wreckage with exposed sharp edges, missing panels, rusting parts. It’s very possible to get injured.
- Getting photos without people on it these days is difficult. You’ll need to either be fast when people move out of frame or go at weird hours. Early in the day is often better (I guess people like to sleep in)