Some farms in Iceland choose to hide in plain sight, literally blending into the landscape. These old buildings stand out, or rather the opposite, for their grass and peat roofing, a traditional Icelandic construction method incorporating peat and grass for insulation to survive the hostile climate.
These roofs provide the perfect insulation from not only temperature, but noise too, such as the whistling wind which never really stops in Iceland. This peat insulation is used commonly on roofs, but also along walls in regions where wood is lacking.
Peat roof construction was used extensively in the Middle Ages in Iceland to build farms in remote areas with hostile weather. The method is proven: peat bricks are arranged to form the walls, and a lawn carpet is rolled out over the roof frame, and both these layers being porous make them excellent thermal insulators.
Because of the harsh Icelandic climate, houses with grass roofs require maintenance and have to be rebuilt every 20 years. In 1910, there were about 5,500 grass houses, which represented half of the farms in Iceland, while today there are fewer than 250 of them left.
While this traditional construction is still practiced in Iceland it has become a bit of a luxury, with only a few remaining craftsmen trained in the age old techniques of previous generations.
Although these “traditional farms” are rare nowadays, some have been converted into museums, like the one in Skogar, and as a result will be around forever, allowing visitors to learn of the Icelandic way of life through history.
Here is a short and by no means complete list of the main traditional houses, as well as a map allowing you to locate many of them: