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Iceland was settled around 874 and in the following decades and centuries a great number of people moved to Iceland. Agriculture has been important to the islanders’ livelihood ever since the settlement. Population patterns formed mostly in the areas where conditions were good for cultivation and keeping livestock. In the latter part of the 19th century, Icelanders were among the poorest nations in the world. Agriculture is, naturally, sensitive to environmental fluctuations. Therefore, extended periods of cold weather or natural disasters often led to famine. The largest part of the population lived in the country and the farm was the centre of the community.

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Farm Animals

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Get Inspired by the Countryside

Turf Houses

Turf farms consist of houses partially or completely made of turf. Turf farms have wooden frames (and/or stacked stones). This was the main building style in Iceland from the 9th to the 19th century. Turf farms are therefore greatly significant to Icelandic heritage, bearing witness to the traditional Icelandic way of life. The oldest type of houses in Iceland are so-called longhouses, which had one or two doors near the gable on the front side. In the 11th century, the houses grew larger and had three parts: A hall or a kitchen, a living room and a pantry. Other parts of the house were accessible through the hall (skáli in Icelandic). These types of farms were called skálabær.

It is believed that in the 14th-century skálabær were gradually replaced by a different turf farm layout called gangabær in order to make the living quarters as warm as possible. These farms were characterised by a central passageway that extended from the entrance and connected all the rooms. This layout remained largely unchanged until around the year 1900. In the latter part of the 18th century, a new style of turf farms, the burstabær, appeared, which was characterised by a gable-fronted design.

The turf farms had considerably good insulation, that is, they were relatively warm inside even though it was cold outside, and they didn’t require heating. Turf was also used as insulation between panels in wooden houses in the early 20th century. Another upside to the turf farms was that the building material was inexpensive and usually easy to come by.




Visit Turfhouses

Visit the National Forests


There are 8 national forests in North Iceland. It is the responsibility of the Icelandic Forest Service to maintain and protect the forests. National forests are open to everyone but accessibility varies. The national forests are characterized by untouched birch forests where there are walking paths, campfire facilities, and campsites, and diverse possibilities for outdoor recreation. In addition to these forests, there are a number of other forests in Iceland that are not categorized as national forests. These forests consist mostly of birch, Russian larch, Sitka spruce, lodgehole pine, and Alaskan poplar (in 80% or 90% of cases). In Iceland, forests cover a total of 37,900 hectares with approximately 56 million trees.

Other Accessible Forests 

Kirkjuhvammur near Hvammstangi

Hrútey in Blönduós

Gunnfríðarstaðarskógur near Blönduós

Reykjarhólaskógur in Varmahlíð 

Skógarhlíð in Sauðárkrókur

Skarðsdalur near Siglufjörður

Hánefsstaðir near Dalvík

Laugalandsskógur near Akureyri

Kjarnaskógur in Akureyri 

Leyningshólar near Hrafnagil

Vaðlaskógur near Akureyri

Akurgerði near Ásbyrgi



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