Grafarkirkja Turf Church | The Oldest Church in Iceland


Basic Information

Grafarkirkja turf church has earned a high reputation, being the oldest turf church in the country. Several parts of the present turf church date back to the 17th century. Only a few of these historical sites remain in Iceland but they are treasured by the locals and the visitors. Based in North-Iceland, Grafarkirkja is the Chapel at Gröf in Höfðaströnd.

Interestingly, the Sturlunga Saga has the record of the oldest account on Grafarkirkja, which is from around 1240. Sturlunga Saga is a collection of Icelandic Sagas from the 12th and 13th centuries. Standing amidst the beautiful locales, Grafarkirkja offers relaxing and satisfying views. Interestingly, it is the only church in Iceland with a circular turf-wall. Along with the church, the turf wall also surrounds the graveyard. The church is now closed to the public for preservation purposes.

Grafarkirkja turf church in Iceland

Admiring the Locales of Grafarkirkja

During ancient times, the Icelandic citizens used to reside in turf houses, and the churches were made of turf. These historic structures add to the beauty of Iceland, making people conscious and increasingly aware of the country’s rich history. It is believed that most of the ancient churches in Iceland looked similar to the Grafarkirkja turf church.

A weather-vane on top of the church is imprinted with the letters 167_. The last numerical letter is missing. This is the joy of visiting historic places such as Grafarkirkja. They reveal so much about the begone culture and people but at the same time, there are elements of mystery. The significant and tiny church was deconsecrated in 1775. It is unfortunate to know that this happened by a royal order from the ruling authority. After deconsecration, farmers and other locals used it as a storeroom at Gröf. After almost 200 years Grafarkirkja was reconsecrated by the Bishop of Iceland in 1953. It was being completely remade in its original form by Þjóðminjasafn Íslands – the National Museum of Iceland. Repairs were again carried out in 2011.

Locals believe that Gísli Þorláksson, the Bishop of Hólar, was the major figure responsible for the establishment of the church. The sources present are not sufficient to confirm this. Perhaps this belief is based on the fact that Gísli was the legal owner of the land Gröf in the late 17th century. It is highly possible that Grafarkirkja was constructed by Guðmundur Guðmundsson from Bjarnastaðahlíð. Guðmundsson was one of the most popular wood-workers in the 17th century in Iceland. This is speculated because of the wooden roof trims on the church. The details of beautiful baroque style carvings can stun you.

Grafarkirkja turf church in Iceland

Inside Grafarkirkja Turf Church

There remain only six turf-churches in Iceland and Grafarkirkja is one of them. This turf church looks the oldest among all. The timber and turf structure is the only stave church in the country. The altarpiece inside the church is a reprint of the old baroque style altarpiece from the late seventeenth century. The Crucifixion and the Last Supper are portrayed on the central panel and the Apostles Andrew and Thomas are illustrated on the side panels. The old baroque style altar has been replaced. The wooden structure is beautiful from the inside.

Grafarkirkja turf church belongs to the National Museum of Iceland’s significant Historic Building Collection. It has been a part of the museum since 1939. The surrounding landscape makes the historic gem even more beautiful. Majestic mountain ranges in the backdrop have amazing energy. This is an ideal place to take your mind off of all tensions and spend a day relaxing under the sun.

Grafarkirkja turf church in Iceland

Get to the Turf Church

Grafarkirkja church is located by road 76, about 4 kilometers south of the village of Hofsós in North-Iceland. To visit North-Iceland, you can rent a car in Reykjavík or at the International Airport and drive up north.

A trail leads to the church and it takes 5 minutes from the parking lot to reach the church. Please stay on the outskirts of the church property when visiting and capturing it. Refrain from walking on any graves or climbing on the church or turf walls.

Grafarkirkja turf church in Iceland

Grafarkirkja Turf Church on a map

Interesting locations in the area

Hotels & Restaurants

More Nearby Locations

Ólafsfjörður fishing village in north Iceland

Ólafsfjörður – A Fishing Town in North Iceland

sunset at Hvítserkur cliff in north Iceland

Hvítserkur: Troll of Northwest Iceland

two people bathing in Fosslaug hot spring in north Iceland

Fosslaug Hot Spring

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Popular Articles

Best places to visit on Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Previous Next Ranging from north to the south, east to the west, the land of ice and fire never ceases

Top 10 Places in Westfjords | Exploring the Less Traveled

Previous Next High mountains, long-running stunning rivers, wonderfully beautiful waterfalls, spiral roads, the numerous landscapes which are waiting patiently for

Kayaking in Iceland | The Best Travel Guide

Iceland in one of the most beautiful countries in the world with nature in all its glory. Being a land

Best Geothermal Baths & Spas in Iceland

Previous Next A Soak for Healing and Relaxation Iceland is covered with marvels all over the place. Everywhere you would

The Best Places to Snowmobile in Iceland

Iceland is one of the top travel destinations in the world with the perfect release for everyone no matter what

Best Places to Visit on South Coast

Previous Next It is no secret that Iceland is filled with wonders that will render you speechless but there are
Most Popular Tours
0 Reviews

Volcano Tour – Geldingadalur Erupting volcano

0 Reviews

Crystal Ice Cave & Northern Lights | Day Tour from Reykjavik

0 Reviews

Northern Lights Super Jeep

0 Reviews

Golden Circle & Northern Lights

0 Reviews

South Coast & Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon

Most Popular things to do in Iceland

Northern Lights Hunting

Ice Caving




Whale Watching / Puffins

Glacier Hiking

Horse Riding

Hot Spring Bathing

Top Attractions in Iceland










Blue Lagoon

Explore Iceland by Region

Golden Circle

South Iceland


West Iceland

East Iceland

North Iceland




Hidden Gems