Last Updated on 12/22/23 by Rose Palmer
During my visits to Iceland, I became infatuated (obsessed?) with looking for and photographing the many unique churches that I came across as I traveled around the land of fire and ice.
I’ve been fortunate to tour Iceland twice in the last year. My first visit was a two week ring road trip circling the whole island and exploring as many of the nooks and crannies as time allowed. My second trip was a circumnavigation cruise with Iceland ProCruises on the expedition ship MS Seaventure.
Both trips took me to many of the major Icelandic sights as well as unique and more out of the way locations. As I explored all around Iceland, I couldn’t help but notice that every community had a small church. Many churches were built with white clapboard and red roofs, but many others were very uniquely designed.
For fun I started taking photos of the churches I came across to see how many different architectural styles I could find. Then I became a little obsessed with this scavenger hunt, and actually started looking for unique churches on Google maps along my planned route.
I was particularly impressed at how Icelanders embraced avant garde designs, not just for churches in larger towns, but also small buildings that were essentially in the middle of nowhere.
I soon realized that this exercise gave me an unexpected perspective into Icelandic culture and history. From sod covered houses to white clapboard buildings to structures that had no right angles at all, they mirrored Iceland’s journey from a poor farming community to a cutting edge, westernized, first world destination.
Beautiful churches in Iceland
Located in the heart of Reykjavik, Iceland’s most famous church architecture is the Hallgrimskirkja church with a front facade that looks like it’s about to take off into space.
Rainbow Street leads up to the Hallgrimskirkja.
Churches in the Snaefellsnes Peninsula
A beautiful, small modern style church that is all angles.
With sheep on the church grounds, you don’t need a lawn mower to keep the grass short.
Early morning clouds and mountains frame this typical red roofed church.
Budarkirkja – the Black Church
The Budir black church is one of the most popular churches for photography in Iceland. A nearby trail leads to the lovely little Buda beach.
A perfect setting for this church, the ocean on one side and the Snaefellsnes mountain and glacier on the other.
A beautiful church that is all triangles.
Sometimes it was the location that made the church stand out.
Churches in the Westfjords region
Traditional yet still distinctive.
The unusually designed church in the town of Isafjordur.
Next to this church was a beautiful memorial fountain dedicated to the local fishermen lost at sea.
I loved the isolated and peaceful location of this little church.
One of a number of churches I saw in Iceland with a rainbow walkway leading up to it.
Churches in North Iceland
An unusual church in that it was made out of stone.
This was definitely the most unique church architecture I saw. The round structure was built into the hillside and presented a different perspective from all four “sides”.
From the modern to the very traditional – a preserved turf church, one of only a few turf churches left in Iceland.
The Glaumbaer Farm and Museum protects old style sod houses. However, the church here was a more typical frame building.
The Grafarkirkja turf church is the oldest church in Iceland. Portions of this church date from the 17th century.
This design for the church in the town of Akurey had more art deco details.
The iconic church in Husavik is instantly recognizable with of its colorful Swiss chalet architectural style.
A lovely little church on the south side of Lake Myvatn.
Churches along Iceland’s eastern coast
This light blue church in the town of Seydisfjordur is best known for the rainbow walkway that leads to it.
A uniquely shaped six sided church with a view of a waterfall.
Another uniquely modern church design.
Churches found on Iceland’s south coast
One more sod church surrounded by sod covered graves.
Another traditional red roofed example, the Myrdal church stands guard on the hilltop above the town of Vik.
This unique little church was just down the road from the popular Seljalandsfoss waterfall.
An interesting combination of traditional and modern combined in one design.
Skálholtsdómkirkja – Skálholt Cathedral
Old and new come together in this architectural contrast between the large, modern Skálholt Cathedral which sits next to the remains of an older sod house.
The Heimaey stave church in the town of in the Westman Islands was gifted to the residents by Norway in the year 2000 to celebrate 1000 years of christianity in Iceland.
A large church in the town of Keflavik not far from the Keflavik International Airport. This contemporary styled church is all angles and triangles.
I read that there are aver 350 churches in Iceland for a population of about 370,000. That’s about one church for every 100 residents which explains the small size of the churches.
I only saw about ten percent of the total number of churches in the country, yet I discovered an incredible amount of diversity in the designs. I know there are many more interesting churches in Iceland, and the next time I visit, I will definitely continue to search them out.
Other related stories:
Detailed review of my Iceland ProCruises cruise: Experiencing Authentic Iceland in Style – An Iceland ProCruises Review
Information about the shore excursions I took in Iceland: Shore Excursions in Iceland – How I Spent a Day in Iceland’s Most Popular Ports
50 favorite photos from my Iceland trips: In the Land of Fire and Ice – My Favorite Iceland Photos and Photography Spots
My favorite gothic churches in Paris – Famous Churches in Paris – Gothic At It’s Best
Thanks for visiting.