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Longhouses

The oldest type of dwellings in Iceland were longhouses which had one or two doors near the gable on the front of the house. In the 11th century the longhouses expanded so that there were three main buildings: a kitchen, living quarters and a store room and the other buildings could only be entered via the kitchen. In 1939 the remains of this kind of house were found at Stöng in Þjórsárdalur. The farm was destroyed in the eruption of Hekla in 1104. The Saga Age figure Gaukur Trandilsson lived at Stöng. To commemorate the 1100th anniversary of the settlement of Iceland, a replica farm based on the farm at Stöng was built in Þjórsárdalur in 1974.

The traditional turf farm

The Icelandic turf house developed from the longhouse in the 14th century. As the name indicates, the main building material is turf. Timber was used to build a frame and also panelling inside, while turf was used to form the roof and walls. Sometimes rocks were used in the walls with turf and stone slabs were sometimes used in the roof. In the late 18th century a new style of turf housing emerged, known as burstabær, which had wooden gables.

Building material

The Icelandic turf farm evolved from the longhouse, which came with the first settlers to Iceland. The main building material was in fact soil, both in turf and stone walls. Soil was packed tightly between the rocks and served both as an insulator and supported the weight of the walls. This type of housing did not last long and farmhouses needed to be frequently rebuilt.

Turf farms in Southern Iceland

A number of well-preserved turf farms and two turf churches can be found in Southern Iceland, including Austur-Meðalholt in the Flói district, Keldur in the Rangárvellir district and the turf farm at the outdoor museum at Skógar. The two churches are the chapel at Núpsstaður and the church at Hof in the Öræfi district. Most of these buildings are under the care of the National Museum of Iceland or other museums. Farm buildings made of turf and rock can be found widely across Southern Iceland in varying states of repair, some still in use. Replica turf houses have been built at Skálholt and Herjólfsdalur on the island of Heimaey.

Skogar Museum
This museum was founded in 1949. It is situated 150 km east from Reykjavík nearby ring road number 1. The museum was especially known for the curator Þórður Tómasson who has now retired. It is divided into three parts: the folk museum which offers a huge variety of tools and implements used for fishing and farming, as well as artefacts dating back to the viking age. In the rebuilt turf houses in the open-air museum you can catch the atmosphere of times long gone and experience how Icelanders lived through the centuries. The museum of transport, which also houses a souvenir shop and the Skógakaffi cafeteria, tells the story of technology and transportation and its development in Iceland in the 19th and 20th century.  Opening hours all days:June 1st to August 31st:  09.00 - 18.00September 1st to May 31st:  10.00 - 17.00 Please visit us on Facebook herePlease visit us on Instagram here
Keldur at Rangárvellir
Keldur is a historic settlement where Jón Loftsson, the chief of the Oddaverjar clan, lived during the last years of his life. Keldur also had a Catholic monastery. There is a medieval-type turf farm at the site, the only large turf farm that has been preserved in South Iceland. There is an underground tunnel leading from the hall, thought to date from the 12th or 13th century, which was probably built as an escape during a time of conflict. Although most of the houses date from the 19th century, the oldest part of the farm building is the oldest preserved part of a turf farm in Iceland. A number of outhouses have also been preserved at the farm. There is also a church there, built by constable Guðmundur Brynjólfsson in 1875. The church is built of timber and clad with iron. The pulpit, altar and candle arms were built by Hjörtur Oddsson, joiner and farmer at Eystri-Kirkjubær. The altarpiece illustrates the Last Supper and is by Ámundi Jónsson, joiner in Syðra-Langholt. The church underwent repairs in 1956–1957. Gréta and Jón Björnsson painted and decorated the church, like they did with the church at Oddi. Keldur derives its name from the springs that can be found in the farmland. The farm and its occupants are mentioned in many works of medieval literature, including Njal’s Saga, Sturlunga Saga and the Saga of Saint Thorlákur. The old farm at Keldur is managed by the National Museum of Iceland and can be visited daily during the summer.
Þuríðarbúð Folk Museum
Þuríðar´s cottage was rebuilt in 1949 in Stokkseyri but cottages such as this were numerous all along the coastline in the past. They were the shelters of the crews, where they lived, slept ant ate during the winter fishing season. Þuríðarbúð was erected in memory of Þuríður Einarsdóttir and old working procedures.Þuríður was a woman, born 1777 died 1863, who was captain in 50 years. Þuríðarbúð is always open for visitors and the entrance is free of charge.