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Solheimasandur black sand area and the airplane wreck

Black lava sand plains in Iceland

Most of the south coast of Iceland is big black lava sand plains. They are formed by volcanic activity for the last thousands of years as well as alluvial deposits from the glacier rivers, that are cleaning out the erosion from the moving glaciers.

Mostly the black lava sand areas are formed due to volcanic eruptions underneath the glaciers. Where there is a lot of glacier ice that melts during the early stages of the eruption, then at some point the water breaks out from underneath the glacier costing jökulhlaup or glacier outburst. Taking a lot of ice, gravel, and dirt down and out to sea.

Black lava sand beach and ocean


Volcano Katla

These great glacier outbursts have been building up the coastline and moving it further and further out each time. For example, the last big glacier outburst (jökulhlaup) from the volcano Katla underneath Mýrdalsjökull glacier in the year 1918 is believed to have moved the coastline east of Vík forward around 2 to 3 kilometers.

Glacial Outbursts on Sólheimasandur

The same goes for Sólheimasandur black sand area that is located between Jökulsá á Sólheimasandi in the west and Sólheimahjáleiga in the east. An area about 5 to 6 kilometers wide and covering about 18.500 km2. The area is mainly formed by big glacial outbursts (jökulhlaup) for the past thousands of years after the last ice age finished about 11 to 12 thousand years ago.

These glacial outbursts down Sólheimasandur are related to volcanic activity in the volcano Katla. Normally these glacial outbursts flow down the Mýrdalssandur black lava sand plain east of Vík. But sometimes they can flow down Sólheimasandur and Skógasandur from underneath Sólheimajökull glacier. There are at least two known glacial outbursts know from Katla and Sólheimajökull glacier down Sólheimasandur area since the settlement time, the last one a small outburst in the year 1999.

Volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull

The Sólheimasandur has an amazing surrounding, mainly the black sand with hills and rocks and small rivers and streams, mixed in with a little bit of grass here and there, as well as beautiful black sand coastline, with a great view to the Eyjafjallajökull glacier and Mýrdalsjökull glacier on a clear day.

The Airplane wreck on Sólheimasandur

Now Sólheimasandur is becoming a popular site for tourist traveling in Iceland, not only because of its beauty but more because of the old airplane wreck that is there. There was a DC-3 airplane from the US Navy that has to make an emergency landing on the coast there in 1973, everyone survived the lending and the plain was pulled from the coast to a place further up on Sólheimasandur, but close to the coastline. They took what they could use as spare parts and left the plane there.

For many years the airplane wreck was the home of the raven who had his nest in the cockpit.

Justin Bieber and the famous Airplane wreck

In the last years, the airplane wreck has been a popular site for people taking pictures, it is a unique place, and very picturesque.

When the musician Justin Bieber was in Iceland he went to the plane wreck and rolled on his skateboard on the top of the plain in his music video I´ll show you

You can also find the airplane wreck in the music video for the song Gerua with the famous Bollywood stars Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol.

Now there are two possibilities for getting to the airplane wreck on Sólheimasandur. The first one is to park your car at the parking about 2 km east from the bridge across Jökulsá á Sólheimasandi glacier river and walk from there, it takes you about 45 min to walk one way so with a 20 minute stop by the airplane wreck it will be in total around 2 to 2,5 hours in total. Make sure to have something warm and waterproof on and good hiking shoes. And do not forget to look at the weather forecast before you go.

The other way is to do an ATV tour with Arcanum, it is a fun ride, it takes about 1 hour in total and you get to have a guided tour to there.


Old airplane in the sand seen from above and people on an Atv tour riding by



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