Photos and narration by Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.
Houses made from turf, with a wooden frame and/or a stone wall, were the primary type of house in Iceland between the 9th and the 19th century.
Their history is considered unique and they are the result of millennium-long development.
The turf farm is in fact a cluster of houses connected with tunnels. Usually each house belonging to the turf farm originated at different times.
Such farms had to be renovated quite often because they didn’t weather well, but there wasn’t enough timber for building more practical types of houses.
Turf farms have been preserved better in North Iceland than in South Iceland because of the cooler climate. One of the most famous Icelandic turf farms is Laufás in Eyjafjördur, Northeast Iceland.
Other famous turf farms include Glaumbær in Skagafjörður, Nýibaer in Hólar in Hjaltadalur, Hólar in Eyjafjörður, Grenjadarstaður in Aðaldalur and Þverá in Laxárdalur.
Laufás is an ancient manor farm, the earliest records of a church there dating from 1047. The present church was built in 1865, and was one of the most impressive of its time. It contains a pulpit with wood carvings from 1698.
The large turf farm house was built between 1866 and 1870, and is a typical example of a gable-end parsonage built for a priest with a large household of up to 30 people. Laufás required a large team of servants because the vastness of the land belonging to the farm was rich with natural resources.
The carved eider drake on one of the gables refers to the eider nesting area belonging to the property, which brought the owners considerable income.
Laufás was inhabited until 1936. Since 1948 it has been administered by the National Museum of Iceland as a museum.
It was saved from destruction with extensive repairs between 1957 and 1959 and since then it has been maintained the way it looked at the time of Rev. Björn Halldórsson, who served as priest and dean on Laufás between 1853 and 1882.
The furniture and the objects inside the turf farm today are typical of those found inside Icelandic farms at the turn of the 19th century. In the service building belonging to the Laufás museum, there is a souvenir shop and a restaurant serving traditional Icelandic delicacies. The museum, shop and restaurant are open every day from May 13 to September 15 between 9 am and 6 pm.
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