The dc-3 plane wreck in Iceland is one of the most famous sites in South Iceland on Sólheimasandur beach. And after being in Justin Beiber’s music video, it has been awash with tourists trying to see the amazing site of the crash. 

So what is so magnetic about the site of the beloved relic of the former US Navy plane? And what draws so many tourists visiting the country to visit the beach just for this? 

In this article, we will tell you this and more. If you do decide to visit the DC-3 wreckage, this post will come in handy with a brief history of the crash, the exact location of the DC-3 plane wreck, how to get there, what type of rental car to visit with, the best time to visit, and safety precautions for when you visit. So read on to find out all you need to know about the DC-3 Iceland airplane crash site, one of Iceland’s top attractions. 

Related links: Rent a car in Iceland, Iceland self-drive travel guides

the winter skogafoss Iceland

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A quick history of the Iceland plane crash in 1973

While flying from Hofn on the east coast of Iceland, a Douglas R4D-8, which is a Super DC-3 also known as a C117D, owned by the US Navy crashed into the Sólheimasandur beach at about 2 pm on November 21st, 1973.

When the plane was forced into a crash landing, it had seven passengers on board who were all members of the crew on a supply mission, and luckily they all survived the crash. There has been a lot of debate about the reason for the crash, but the aviation safety network believes that the main cause for the crash had been bad weather which led to ice freezing the engine’s thrusters and knocking them out, causing the plane to fall to the ground. 

Other theories include a pilot error during fuel-tank switching. None of these other theories have ever been credited, however, and the mystery around the reason for the crash continues to add to the folklore of the DC-3 plane wreck. 

After the crash, the US Navy took most of the working parts of the plane, leaving behind the wreckage that lies there today. After being battered by the wind, snow, and rain, as well as allegedly having its tail taken by a local farmer, the remains of the DC-3  can be seen on the black sand beach of Sólheimasandur as a fossil of one of the most remarkable planes of its time. 

Since its popularity in mainstream media, it has appeared in music videos from artists like Justin Bieber, Shah Rukh Khan, and the Korean group Loona. It has also been seen in documentaries, and TV series, making it a hugely popular tourist attraction in Iceland. 

the plane wreck of Iceland

Where is the DC plane wreck?

The site of the Iceland airplane crash is on Sólheimasandur beach. This black sand beach on Iceland’s southern coast is nearly four miles south of the Iceland Ring Road between Skógar and Dyrhólaey. 

Hvolsvöllur is the nearest large town close to the beach and lies about a 40-minute drive or 35 miles away east. Using a GPS, the exact location of the DC-3 plane wreck can be found at these coordinates: 63°27’32.7″N 19°21’53.3″W.

The plane wreck is not expected to be there indefinitely. Since Sólheimasandur happens to be a glacial outwash plain, it means that if an eruption beneath the Mýrdalsjökull glacier occurs, floodwater may wash the wreckage away. Considering Mýrdalsjökull is over Katla, one of Iceland’s most regular and explosive volcanoes, it is almost a certainty that there will be an eruption in the near future. So if you have plans to see the beautiful artifact that is the DC-3 wreckage, then you should consider going sooner rather than later.

the plane wreck in iceland under aurora

Map of the plan wreck

map of how to get to dc3 plane wreck

How to get to the Iceland airplane wreck

To reach the DC-3 plane wreck, just drive south from Reykjavik through Suðurgata and Hringbraut/Route 49 on the Ring Road. It would take around 2 hours and 15 minutes by car to reach the car park of the plane wreck on Sólheimasandur beach, which is 6km from Route 1 and nearly 24 km away from the town of Vik in the west. 

Just 10km from the DC-3 wreckage site is the Skogafoss waterfall which can be reached by a 10-minute drive east from the plane wreckage. We definitely recommend going to visit this amazing Iceland waterfall if you’re in the area. 

Access to the plane wreck itself is restricted from private drivers because the land is privately owned and had been defaced by an excessive number of cars driving directly up to the DC-3 plane wreckage.

Therefore it would be illegal to drive on the beach where the wreckage is without a license, and getting caught could earn you a large fine. Instead, you can drive up to the parking lot, a short distance from the wreckage, and walk. Parking at the designated lots costs 750ISK or $5.32

Plane wreck in Iceland

Walking to the site of the wreckage from the car park is a bit of a hike and could take between 45 minutes to an hour to get there. However, you could rent a bicycle from one of the stalls in the parking lot if you’re more of a biker than a walker. 

You could also take one of the official shuttles that will drive you and your company to the wreckage from the parking lot. The shuttle takes only 15 minutes to reach the site, and are available on average every 35 minutes.

 Another alternative is taking a tour of the South Coast, which follows the lighthouse trail along the coastline and includes organized hiking, horse riding, or ATV riding and has a stop at the Solheimasandur beach. Tours will usually have a license to drive up to the wreckage and will also have the added benefit of a tour guide. 

You should also note that you will not be allowed to stay overnight or camp around the site or the parking lot of the crash site, as this is illegal. 

iceland plane crash site in autumn time

What car should you rent if you want to get to the entrance?

Getting to the entrance by driving is not difficult, and the choice of car would likely be down to comfort and season. When traveling in a small company of one or two people, a compact or economy car would be perfect for you, but if you have a larger group with a bit more luggage, then an intermediate or full-size car should be the go-to choice for you. 

If you would like to visit during winter, then you should rent a 4×4 SUV since the roads would become more difficult to drive on. If you want to travel with the highest level of comfort, then consider renting a luxury car, or an electric vehicle. For more information about which cars to rent, you can check out our tips for car rental in Iceland.

camping in a camper van in Iceland

Is visiting the crashed plane in Iceland free? 

At the time of writing this article, access to the plane wreckage is completely free. The only cost involved is the cost of parking. Additionally, if you decide to take the shuttle or rent a bicycle, that will also come at a small cost. 

the iceland plane wreck is free to visit

What is the best time to visit the DC-3 plane wreck? 

The DC-3 plane wreck site is accessible throughout the year, but there are several reasons why the summer period would be the best period to visit the site of the crash. Summer months provide the longest days and the most amount of sunlight. That means that you can visit the site at any time of the day and still see the fallen plane in all its glory. It also helps that the site is located on the Sólheimasandur beach, which is a remarkable place to be during summers in Iceland. 

Summer also has the best road conditions, so it’s easier to travel to the DC-3 crash site parking lot and also from the parking lot to the wreckage itself. This is important because bad weather conditions can become a safety concern for tourists and hikers. In fact, two hikers were found dead in 2017 after trying to find the wreckage site on foot and getting lost in the snow. 

the iceland planc crash at summer time

There are some positives of seeing the DC-3 wreckage in the winter months, especially the opportunity to see the crash site with the backdrop of a beautiful night sky with the Northern Lights. But while winter visits to the plane are possible, you must be prepared for more extreme weather conditions. 

The location of the Iceland airplane crash is an exposed part of the beach, with cold winds blowing across the landscape on a regular basis. These are capable of transporting sand, snow, and ice, so visibility can be severely reduced, and the weather can change rapidly.

Four miles of flat terrain may not appear difficult, but in a blizzard, this terrain can be difficult to navigate, and it is easy to lose your bearings. You should definitely be prepared in terms of winter clothing, as well as carrying either a GPS device or a compass – in the worst-case scenario, you can simply head north until you find Route 1.

the iceland plane wreck in winter

Safety and sustainable travel tips for DC-3

There are some general safety precautions that tourists are encouraged to take note of for their own safety and the sustainability of the crash site. 

  • DO NOT climb on the plane for a photo. This could be dangerous since the plane is very old and brittle, as well as being very high off the ground. A crash from the top of the plane due to a piece of the plane falling off could cause serious injury. Climbing the plane could also cause serious damage to the aircraft, damaging a national artifact.
  • Before visiting, make sure you check the weather conditions, so you don’t get stuck in a storm, especially between the parking lot and the main crash site. 
  • If you decide to take the walk from the parking lot to the main site of the DC-3 wreckage make sure that you have the proper clothing to keep you warm and dry. Sturdy shoes are also a must since it’s quite a far walk.
  • You should rent a proper car that would be appropriate for the season when you’re visiting Iceland. As explained above, different weather conditions require different types of cars, for both comfort and safety. 
never stand on the plane wreck in Iceland

DC-3 Iceland airplane crash

The DC-3 Iceland airplane crash site is a unique and interesting attraction that you don’t want to miss when visiting Iceland. Especially if you plan to visit the south coast of Iceland. 

You can visit the DC-3 wreckage as part of many self-drive itineraries in Iceland, since this area is very well-trafficked and easy to access all year long. We recommend renting a car to reach the site of the DC-3 Iceland Airplane crash most effectively. Always book your car online and in advance to ensure you get the best-suited rental car from Hertz Iceland for your group’s needs.

Recommended rental car for your plane wreck trip

rent a hyundai Tucson in Iceland

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid or similar | Automatic | 4×4

IFAI | Group: N3 (IFAI)

  • 5 Passengers
  • Automatic
  • 3 Large Luggage, 1 Small luggage
  • Airconditioning
  • 5 Doors
Rent a Kia Sorento PHEV in Iceland

Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid or similar | Automatic | 4×4

SFDI | Group: O6 (SFDI)

  • 5 Passengers
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning
  • 5 Doors
Rent the 4wd land rover defender in Iceland

Land Rover Defender Hybrid or similar | Automatic | 4×4

PFAI | Group: L6 (PFAI)

  • 5 Passengers
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning
  • 5 Doors
rent a tesla model Y in Iceland

Tesla Model Y or similar | Automatic | 4×4

UGDC | Group: V1 (UGDC)

  • 5 Passengers
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning
  • 5 Doors
Toyota Hilux Camper or similar | Manual | 4×4 | Sleeps 3

Toyota Hilux Camper or similar | Manual | 4×4 | Sleeps 3

SHMN | Group: S (SHMN)

  • 5 Passengers
  • Manual
  • Airconditioning
  • 4 Doors
KIA Sportage or similar| automatic | 4x4

KIA Sportage or similar | Automatic | 4×4

IFAR | Group: O (IFAR)

  • 5 Passengers
  • Automatic
  • Airconditioning
  • 5 Doors