While driving on the Ring Road in Iceland, you’ll notice numerous churches scattered across the country. It might surprise you to learn that this small Nordic island with almost 340,000 inhabitants has over 350 churches. Quite excessive for a country that isn’t particularly religious. Currently, Iceland ranks among the top six most atheistic countries in the world. Nevertheless, there are quite a few beautiful churches that you shouldn’t miss. Their unique architectural style and unusual exteriors are part of Iceland’s cultural heritage. We bring you the most beautiful churches in Iceland.

Lutheran Church with Red Roofs - The Most Beautiful Churches in Iceland

Brief Summary of the History of Religion in Iceland

Like many European countries, paganism was practiced before the arrival of Christianity. The Vikings brought with them Norse religion and mythology, which consisted of an immense pantheon of gods like Thor, Odin, Freya, Loki, among others. Due to various political reasons and commercial tensions between Norway and Iceland, the latter was compelled to embrace monotheistic religion around 1000 AD. The Godafoss waterfall plays a significant role in this entire narrative. Once Christianity became the state religion, things changed.
All Icelanders are registered as Christians under the jurisdiction of the Lutheran Church of Iceland when they are born. Later, they undergo confirmation around the age of 14, when they are considered full-fledged members of the church. However, all this gives a somewhat deceptive impression. Icelanders are not as religious as it may seem. Although data shows that 85% of Icelanders are Christians, most people, especially the younger ones, don’t believe in God as the great creator. Numerous surveys confirm that the percentage of believers decreases each year. The majority also doesn’t get married before having children. So why are there so many churches in Iceland? Honestly, for convenience. It doesn’t matter where you go; you’ll probably come across a church. Even in totally remote and unusual places. For a country that is so irreligious, it’s quite surprising. Perhaps the reason can be found in the climate and harsh conditions of the country. It wasn’t practical at all to have to travel to attend church. So, to avoid these trips, small churches were built everywhere so that everyone could attend.

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in the Ásatrú Association, which isn’t itself a religion or a faith, but they keep rituals and beliefs of their Viking ancestors alive and worship Norse mythologies.

Hallgrimskirkja: Reykjavik Cathedral

Let’s start with the largest and most imposing one, Reykjavik’s main church. It’s probably the most famous in Iceland. Its unparalleled facade and organ make it a monument both inside and out. Architect Guðjón Samúelsson was inspired by volcanic landscapes for his work. You’ve probably managed to relate the exterior of the cathedral to the basalt columns you’ve seen in waterfalls like Svartifoss, right? This is one of the most visited churches; don’t forget to climb the bell tower for city views.
Reykjavik Cathedral, One of the Most Beautiful Churches in Iceland

Akureyrarkirkja: Akureyri Church

In northern Iceland, we have another church by Guðjón Samúelsson. It’s also inspired by classic Icelandic landscapes and sits atop a hill. Akureyri Church, known as Akureyrarkirkja, has a facade similar to Hallgrímskirkja. Unfortunately, not many people have the opportunity to visit this church because not many travelers decide to go to Akureyri from Reykjavik. It’s a distinctive landmark in the city featuring bas-reliefs and a large pipe organ. The stained glass windows also have an interesting history. They were created in England, at Coventry Cathedral, and were removed to protect them from bombings during World War II. Imagine everyone’s faces when the windows appeared in Akureyri years later!
Akureyri Church in the List of the Most Beautiful Churches in Iceland

Vík í Mýrdal Church

While driving along Iceland’s south coast towards Vatnajökull National Park, you must make a stop in the coastal village of Vík. With around 300 inhabitants, Vík may be small, but it has a lot to offer. The local church is especially striking. The iconic white building with a red roof sits atop a hill overlooking the village, adding to its charm. Many travelers staying in the village overnight take the opportunity to climb the hill and enjoy the views.
One of the Most Beautiful Churches in Iceland: Vík Church, Sitting Atop a Hill

The Black Church in Iceland: Búðakirkja

Have you heard of the black church in Búðir? It definitely has to be on our list of the most beautiful churches in Iceland. This small church in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula isn’t particularly special or unique architecturally compared to other churches in the country. In fact, it’s a rather representative example of typical Icelandic style. Many churches in Icelandic cities and towns have similar places of worship. In Iceland, most churches have exteriors or roofs painted in bright or light colors like red or green or even pastels like sky blue. The church in Búðir in Iceland is different, and it’s precisely its color that sets it apart.
Black Church in Iceland, Among the Most Beautiful and Curious Churches in Iceland

Búðir, once a prosperous and lively village, now consists only of the black church and the hotel. Did you know that Jules Verne mentions this place in his novel as the starting point for the journey to the center of the Earth?

Grass-Roofed Churches in Iceland: Hofskirkja

You’ve undoubtedly heard of typical Icelandic turf houses. But did you know there are churches of that type too? This traditional architectural style can be seen represented in the town of Hof in southeastern Iceland. With the thick grass covering its roof, it looks like this church sprouted from the surrounding ground. It’s one of the six remaining in the country, so you should definitely go see it. This church is particularly close to Vatnajökull National Park and the glacier, so you have no excuse not to visit.
Church with Traditional Grass-Roof Construction in Iceland

Skálholt Church: Skálholtskirkja

Skálholt Cathedral is a building officially recognized by the Church of Iceland. It’s one of the newest churches in Iceland and was built in the 1960s. The interior features 25 stained glass windows designed by Gerður Helgadóttir. Skálholt is a highlight off the typical Golden Circle route, so if you’re nearby, drop by the church.
Skalholt Church Among the Most Curious Churches in Iceland

The Blue Church in Iceland: Seyðisfjarðarkirkja

Another beautiful church to visit in Iceland is the lovely Seyðisfjarðarkirkja with its beautiful pastel blue. It’s located in the East Fjords and is probably one of the most recognizable architectural landmarks in Iceland. This beautiful building has a rainbow-painted path on the ground leading to its door. The views, the surroundings, the church, and the path all contribute to making it something totally unique. Like the black church in Búðir, this structure has a very curious and distinctive color. The pastel blue church in Seyðisfjörður is one you should include in your Iceland itinerary.
Rainbow Path Leading to the Blue Church in Iceland

Blönduós Church Iceland

Blönduóskirkja is a church with a very modern look; some might even say futuristic. Like some other churches in Iceland, volcanic landscapes were the inspiration behind this design. Certainly, it’s hard to think it’s a church if not for the cross right beside it. The church mimics a volcanic crater with its silhouettes and conical shape.
Blonduos Church in Iceland is Not Among the Most Beautiful Churches but One of the Most Curious

The Most Beautiful Churches in Iceland

If you’re someone who loves things out of the ordinary, then you might also consider visiting a pagan worship site in Iceland. Although not a church itself, the pagan temple in Grindavik, on the Reykjanes Peninsula, could be the perfect place for a day trip. About a 47-minute drive from Reykjavik, it’s easy to visit. Where else could you opt for a grass-roofed church, a pagan temple, or a black church? Well, in Iceland. Take advantage and explore these small but charming sites.