The most common dwelling until the late 19th century, turf houses are an important part of Iceland’s history. They tell stories of the country’s past: stories of survival and ingenuity, of making the most of the few raw material available, of progress and hope, and of the eternal human quest to make life little more comfortable.
Turf houses are difficult to maintain and easily reabsorbed by the landscape. Today, most of the surviving such heritage structures belong to the National Museum of Iceland. Here is a list of some of our favourite turf houses, which you can visit as part of your Iceland cruise:
The birthplace of Jon Sigurdsson, the leader of the 19th century Icelandic independence movement, Hrafnseyri is now a museum.
Stunning fjord-side views, regular whale sightings, and great cakes served in the turf house make this a favourite stop on our Dynjandi waterfall tour from the Isafjordur port.
At the end of the old coast road from Isafjordur, overlooking Bolungarvik beach, is Osvor – a replica of a traditional Icelandic fishing station from the 19th century; complete with a rowing boat, a hut with tools and equipment, a salt house and a drying shed.
If you’re lucky, you will meet the curator, who dressed in a traditional fisherman’s outfit will offer you glimpse of a long gone past and life of fishermen in that era.
It is possible to visit Osvor on some our private tours from the Isafjordur port. Depending on what you are interested, take your pick from a tour to Bolafjall mountain, Osvor and Bolungarvik or a tour of the Westfjords Villages.
The “Little Farm” was built in 1895 by two families who lived in separate halves of the house. Inhabited until 1969, it is now owned by the museum with an exhibition about life in those days, the place also serves the best waffles in Iceland.
It is possible to stop there on our tour to the Isafjordur Bay with some stunning fjord landscape and opportunities to see seals.
The Sorcerer’s Cottage
The remote Strandir region has a long history of sorcery and witchcraft. The Sorcerers Cottage consists of 3 connected turf houses and has an assortment of medieval items and tools, which help recreate the past.
The Sorcerers Cottage is right on the way on our tour to Northern Strandir, so it is possible to spend some time there.
Now a museum, Laufas was a wealthy farm with five turf-roofed houses and a church dating back to the 9th century.
It makes for a great add on to our tour around Akureyri town.
A bit further along the coast from Husavik, at the tip of the Tjornes peninsula, is the Manarbakki folk museum housed in two turf houses. A personal collection of an assortment of objects, the spectacular views are worth the stop on our tours from Husavik port.
You can take your pick from our Diamond Circle tour to Dettifoss, Asbyrgi and Myvatn, or a coastline drive to Asbyrgi and the Arctic Henge in Raufarhofn.
In the midst of the tranquil Icelandic countryside, Geirsstadakirkja is reconstructed from the ruins of a Settlement Age turf church.
It is possible to visit the place with a short detour on two of our private tour options from the Seydisfjordur port, either to the Studlagil Canyon or a tour to Borgarfjordur Eystri, the town of puffins and elves. These tours are also available from Eskifjordur.
One of the few remaining inhabited turf houses, Lindarbakki is hard to miss.
The red painted house is an important landmark of the village and a great stop on our tour to Borgarfjordur Eystri, offered from the ports of Seydisfjordur and Eskifjordur.
Turf houses in South West Iceland
Keldur: Home to Ingjaldur from the famous Njals Saga, the pretty Keldur is believed to be the oldest turf house in Iceland. The farm also has a turf mill by the creek.
Islenski baerinn: A privately owned museum consisting of a group of turf houses, a barn and stables.
Skogar: The Skogar folk museum is housed in reconstructed turf roofed houses and makes for a very interesting add on to your stop at the Skogafoss waterfall.
Stong: The Thjorsardalur valley features a reconstructed farmhouse and church from the settlement age. The site was also used for filming a scene from the Game of Thrones show.
It is possible to stop at these sites on our private tours to the South Coast and Golden Circle.
Turf houses around Reykjavik
One of Iceland’s favourite turf roofed houses and very well maintained, Arbaer is now an open-air museum. A collection of 20 buildings forming a town square, village and farm; this place will definitely take you back in time.
The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik is built around the ruins of a settlement age hall, which is believed to be one of the oldest remains of turf dwellings in Iceland.
It is possible to visit these as part of our Reykjavik city tour.