We had seen a few blog posts and Instagram photos of the renowned Sólheimasandur plane, and it was instantly on our ‘must-visit-when-in-Iceland’ list. Our base for the Southern leg of our mini-moon was the spectacular Hotel Rangá, and at dinner the night before the charmingly charismatic owner had laughed when we told him that we were going to drive out to the site the following day. He didn’t understand what the draw was, although he did admit that if he was a visiting tourist he’d probably be all over it too!
We headed out on the typically empty ring road towards Vík the next morning. Google Maps recognises the crash site as a location, however be aware that it sends you about 5 minutes past it up the road. If you are coming from the West, you will see an unmarked car park on the right hand side, quite literally in the middle of nowhere. That is where you need to pull in.
If you lose your nerve and miss it (we held too much faith in the Google Maps lady), there is a house on the left a little way up whose driveway we used to turn around in. You could possibly chance it and turn in the road, but Icelandic drivers do NOT drive slowly and are upon you before you even realise. We wouldn’t recommend.
When we had turned around and pulled into the car park, we still couldn’t see any signs to confirm that we were in the right place. We did however see about 30 cars and a lot of people following a marked path towards the sea. In a blind leap of faith, we too followed that path.
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At some points we were wondering if it was all some elaborate practical joke orchestrated by the locals, to trick idiot tourists into walking for miles to reach absolutely nothing. We carried on for what felt like an age (really it was probably about 45 minutes), but because the land is so flat and empty, it was hard to gain perspective and at times was a little disorientating. Often we couldn’t tell if the figures in the distance were walking towards or away from us until they were about 100 yards in front of us. The only judge of distance we had was to turn back and see the slight glimmer of the sun on the cars in the very distant car park.
The plane is nestled in a dip behind a ridge, so you really cannot see it until you are basically upon it. It was smaller than we had imagined, but it was still really impressive. Being from a country where anything remotely hazardous is removed or cordoned off, we both really enjoy being able to get up close to things like this.
We watched people clamber up on top of the body of the plane, but there were a few dodgy rusted areas where the metal had thinned and the people almost shoved their legs right the way through the roof. Not fancying having to hobble back another 4 miles to get a tetanus shot, we elected to watch with a morbid curiosity but (sadly) no one fell.
The plane crash landed in November 1973 when it ran out of fuel. All crew members survived, but we wouldn’t have fancied ending up in such a remote and desolate location.
There were quite a few people around the plane whilst we were there, which did mean a lot of photos ended up with someone else in them – we got there around midday, but in hindsight should have either got their sooner or left it for later in the day. There was one family who just would NOT get off the damn plane for the whole time we were there, and irritated everyone else by sabotaging all their photos. They had about three cameras each, and insisted on essentially using the plane as a prop for their family photo shoot, choosing to be oblivious to the rest of us who were patiently/awkwardly waiting in typical British fashion on the outskirts of the area.
Our advice: if you want to get some proper photos, go really early in the morning before the other tourists have arrived, or in the evening. We didn’t do this and managed to take some ok shots, albeit with a bloke who was pretending to be a plane featuring in more than a few of them.
What is the furthest you have walked to find a hidden wonder?