Turf Houses of Iceland’s South Coast

When driving around Iceland you will see plenty of turf houses. They come in all shapes and sizes and are incredibly intriguing. From the moment we saw our first one I wanted to see them up close! How were they made? What is it like inside? Do they have to mow their roofs? Ha ha! We learned that Icelanders used turf houses because they offered better insulation from the cold compared to wood or stone structures. Also it was difficult to find resources, such as wood, in Iceland to make houses. This will make total sense when you visit Iceland as there are basically no trees!

We visited the 3 locations below to experience turf buildings on our south coast adventure through Iceland. There are other places to explore turf houses on Iceland’s south coast; however, we chose to visit these because they are free, they do not have open and closed hours, and they were close to the ring road or hikes we had already planned.

Hofskirkja Church
First we stopped at a turf house church called Hofskirkja. This iconic church and graveyard are one of the oldest standing turf buildings in Iceland at over 130 years old! This church still has an active congregation and is maintained by the National Museum of Iceland as a historical monument. It is possible to go inside the church but we just peeked in the windows. Directly across from the church is a small building with bathrooms and a donation collection box. This was a quick stop but totally worth it as the church and tiny village were stunning! 

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Sel – Vatnajökull National Park
Vatnajökull National Park has some of the most amazing views! You feel surrounded by the massive Vatnajökull  glacier, and the park embodies the clash of fire and ice with stunning views of the glacier pouring out on to ancient lava and ash fields. This park is more well known for the Svartifoss waterfall that cannot be missed! If you continue to hike past the waterfall you will find more amazing views and a couple clusters of abandoned turf houses. We were able to poke our head inside these and see how they were built and what it would be like to live in one. I was surprised at how tall the ceilings were but how little floor space there was. I would love to have that amazing view right outside my front door everyday!

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Nupsstadur Farm and Church
This farm is like an entire village of tiny turf houses! It was so cute! This beautiful farm is located right along the ring road about 20 miles from Kirkjubæjarklaustur.  Set at the base of  a beautiful plateau, Nupsstadur Farm has many turf huts, a turf church, and any Iceland farm would be incomplete without a waterfall!20160419_150342

Do not be skiddish to visit Nupsstadur. When we first arrived at this farm we found the gate closed and a private property sign. We didn’t want to trespass so continued to Kirkjubæjarklaustur. We asked at the visitors center in Kirkjubæjarklaustur and they told us that the farm is open to visitors. However, you cannot drive up the driveway and you can only go inside the church. When we came back to explore you could tell that this had at one point been set up as a tourist point of interest. There was an old bathroom building and signs around the property. In the window of the main farm house there was a paper explaining the history of the farm and about its most recent owners and residence, a pair of brothers who had recently passed away. Since the brothers passed away the farm is vacant and the new owners of the property are trying to preserve it so please be respectful!

We visited Nupsstadur on a rainy day so we missed out on some of the amazing views in this area. Dispite the weather this was my favorite of the 3 turf houses we visited. The farm was so quiet and tranquil. The huts were so small and there were so many I could just imagine a whole village of munchkins living in this fairy-tale place!
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