I thought the Golden Circle and northern lights would be tough to beat, but I was wrong. Iceland was just getting warmed up. It has an abundance of beauty, vast as anywhere in the world. It was roughly 90-miles to our first stop of the day, Seljalandsfoss (selling the land of waterfalls). From Seljalandsfoss we would travel to Reynisfjara black sand beach, and then, if there was enough daylight, we would find our way to the famous Iceland plane wreckage.
On the way to Seljalandsfoss, we got to see the countryside, sheep farms and horses were plentiful, vegetation not so much. As it turned out, Seljalandsfoss was just off Highway 1 and was a perfect place to stretch our legs in the presence of the gorgeous waterfall and mountain landscape. As we approached the waterfall we saw a walkway that got us up close and personal to the hard-falling water, and even behind it. We were so enthralled with the idea of going behind the waterfall that we didn’t mind the intensity of the noise, or the fact that we got soaked by the overspray.
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland
Seljalandsfoss, Iceland

Skógafoss was another magnificent waterfall near Seljalandsfoss, but we chose to bypass it. We drove our van another 30-miles east to, Reynisfjara, a stunning black sand beach situated under the mountain, Reynisfjall.

One of the first things I saw when I stepped onto the black beach were signs warning visitors about “deadly sneaker waves.” I couldn’t help to think about the waves at the Wedge back home in Southern California. Nothing tops those. The signs put all visitors on notice that there have been deaths caused by rapidly changing tides and violent waves and rip currents, but I wasn’t afraid.

Reynisfjara black sand beach
As I looked around I was engulfed by striking black sand, huge basalt columns, caves, and a roaring Atlantic. It took my breath away. The scene was so unique to anything I had ever experienced. It was overwhelming. At one point, I was so taken aback that I had to sit down, and just absorb the beauty, trying to imprint it onto my memory forever. There is so much ugly in the world, the beauty of it should be relished. As I sat there, I could almost feel some of the guilt and regret I carry around release into the darkness of the ocean. I sat there for several minutes listening to the waves crashing onto the sand and rocks, inhaling the salty mist, feeling the gusts blow into my face. I was consumed with a sense of gratitude for the ability to be in such a magical place.
Reynisfjara black sand beach

As the sun began its descent, we decided we better get a move on if we were going to have any chance at seeing the famous Iceland plane wreckage, the downed American DC-3 airplane on another black sand beach, Sólheimasandur.

We took one last picture of Reynisfjara and turned to walk back to the van, my pants still wet from being hit by a deadly sneaker wave. As walked back, we decided to stop at the café by the beach for hot cocoa. While waiting for our order, the hostess, a pretty Icelander who grew up on a nearby farm, confided with a wide grin at the questions she gets asked the most: “How far is the beach from here?” “Where is the beach?” We had a good laugh at the absurdity of the questions. You could literally see the beach from the window of the café.

Guided by Google, we pulled into a remote lot unsure what to do or where to go to find the plane wreckage. We saw people walking down a long black sand pathway leading to the water way off in the distance. We soon found out that to get to the plane wreckage we would need to trek 2.4-miles to it. As the light dwindled we deliberated the 4.8-mile hike, there and back, in the dark. “Let’s just go for it,” I eventually said. With slight trepidation, we put our heads down and hurried down the path, hoping there would be enough light for us to get a few good images of the plane wreckage.

Iceland Plane Wreckage
When we made it to the famous Iceland plane wreckage, twilight was nearing its end. It was like being on a set from a science fiction movie, surreal. Walking up to the planes skeleton my mood quickly turned from excited and playful to solemn and mournful. Not knowing the backstory, I had no idea what had taken place on this black beach. One thing was for sure, the plane wreckage was no longer a tourist sight or a place we needed to reach before dark. It was a real place now. On this black beach, in the middle of nowhere, people could have died. I felt guilty for only then considering such a fate.
Iceland Plane Wreckage
On the 2.4-mile walk back to the van, in the cold darkness, I couldn’t stop wondering what could have happened, and why the plane was abandoned there. I needed to know if anybody had died. From what I could find out later, in November 1973, the U.S. Navy DC-3 plane ran out of fuel while flying near the southern part of Iceland, and the pilot crashed the plane on the black sands of, Sólheimasandur. Fortunately, nobody perished. The plane was pillaged but the skeleton remains.