Iceland, Day 3


April 8, 2018


leaving reykjavík \ the south

Behind the Scenes:

Ava almost froze to death walking back from the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck. 

The Scene:

This was our most diverse day. We checked out of our hotel, and headed to see two of Reykjavík's landmarks before leaving for a week : Harpa Concert Hall and the Sun Voyager. Harpa is an architectural wonder, abolishing the church's monopoly on stained glass. Even more geometrically impressive than the exterior of the building is its interior. The ceiling is covered in honeycomb-shaped mirrors, with staircases zigzagging as the windows cast beautiful patterns across the floor. The Sun Voyager is an abstract metallic Viking ship facing out to sea, looking constantly toward the open ocean and the next journey, much like we were.

Our next destination was Vík, and in between we hoped to see Seljalandfoss, Skogafoss and the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck. We opened the trunk and had lunch while looking out at Seljalandfoss. In the summertime, you can walk behind the long thin falls for an amazing counter-perspective, but ice still blocked the way for us. 

At Skogafoss, the weather took a turn. It was overcast, drizzling, and the wind and the mist coming off the falls soaked our jackets and backpacks. Skogafoss is the complete opposite shape and landscape of Seljalandfoss. Here, you could walk right up to the water, which fell like a wide, shimmering curtain to the black rocks below. 

Concerned about the weather and the time, we made the Sólheimasandur Plane Wreck our final stop of the day. Here was our experience:

"...Sólheimasandur plane wreck, a US Navy DC-3 forced to make an emergency landing on the black beaches of Iceland’s south coast in 1973.
Sólheimasandur was our last stop of the day, it was well past 5pm, and the parking lot was full to the brim with more people arriving than leaving.      

We walked, without stopping, in one direction, for 45 minutes. The scenery of black sand stretching out uniformly in all directions was unchanging since the distance between us and anything- the coast, the mountains- was enormous. The wind was whipping, the clouds threatened rain or snow, and we wondered, absolutely astonished, where this plane could be. Over a dune, Sóldheimasandur finally and dramatically came into view.

It was crawling, literally, with people. Girls in high heeled boots scrambled across the top, shrieking as the metal squeaked and the wind tried to knock them back to the ground. Guys sat with their legs dangling in the wreckage of the cockpit. Everyone had a smug look of victory, defiance, or carefully practiced apathy. Their sycophantic friends circled them below, brandishing iPhones, capturing the ridiculously inauthentic scene from every conceivable angle 

Cam and I sat on a dune and waited for an hour or more, eventually snapping off a few of the shots we wanted.

I never expect to have a place to myself. I’m a tourist like everyone else who made the pilgrimage out there. But I had a lot of time to think sitting on the beach in the middle of nowhere on this volcanic glacier island just below the Arctic Circle. The lessons I took away from Sólheimasandur are that this plane is greater than me, it was on this beach before I was born and will be here after I leave; being a witness to surreal beauty rather than a conquerer is the most authentic experience you can have; and finally, that Cam might be the only person who would wait with me for that long just for some photographs. He’s the best."

We somehow, eventually, made it back to our car and sped off to Guesthouse Carina for the night which was clean and cozy. A hot shower was all we cared about. Looking for dinner past sundown off season in a small coastal village was tough, but we stumbled into a small restaurant with barn doors, a skeleton key hole and warm atmosphere. It was lit up with string lights and conversation. We felt transported in time to a WWII-era cafe. We don't even remember the name of this little hidden gem, so it'll stay our little secret.


-Sólheimasandur is about a 5.5 mile walk round-trip on one windy strip of beach. 

-Pack hand and foot warmers. The hand warmers especially saved a loss of digits on this trip.

-In the off season (not summer) restaurants close pretty early, around 8 or 9PM. Be prepared with a back-up plan for food if you get into town late.