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Explore Borgarvirki Fortress

Borgarvegur, Iceland



0.5 miles

Elevation Gain

75 ft

Route Type



Added by Barry Holloway

Many people travel to the Vatnsnes Peninsula of northern Iceland to visit Hvítserkur, the stone troll, but nearby is a historic site you’ll not want to miss. At 177m (580ft) above nearby Húnafjörður, Borgarvirki is believed to be an ancient fortress atop a volcanic plug.

After driving road 711 clockwise from Hvammstangi around the Vatnsnes Peninsula and stopping to visit Hvítserkur, I had to decide whether to continue straight on 711 or turn left onto 717. Since both led to the Ring Road, either was suitable. Maybe because it looked as if 717 might pass closer to a lone peak in the valley ahead, I turned left. It’s a great way to travel, spot something interesting off in the distance—go explore it!

It soon appeared the road would not pass around the east side of the peak as expected, but almost over the top of it! The narrow gravel road followed contours of the mountain, and in many cases was perched atop ridges with steep drops to either side. Nearing the top, I spotted the familiar “four leaf clover” design indicating a point of interest.

The point of interest is the summit of an ancient volcano that has, over time, eroded away leaving a tower of basalt columns rising 10 – 15 meters (35 – 50 feet) higher. From the parking lot, a trail and steps lead up to an opening in a stone wall built within a natural opening between the columns. Inside, more stones appear to outline small rooms. Climbing up further, you’re able to walk atop columns around the perimeter of the formation for a 365 degree view. In some areas, walls have been built for additional fortification.

Although there are no existing documents detailing the history, it is believed to have been built around 1000 AD by Víga-Barði, “Killer Barði”, as a defense against Borgarfjörður men. In an attempt to trick the attackers, who planned to starve Barði and his men into surrendering, Barði flung their last bit of food, a blood-sausage, at the besieging forces. Thinking they still had plenty of supplies, the forces withdrew. In 1817, Borgarvirki was granted conservations status, one of Iceland’s first historical sites to receive this status.

Admire the views one last time and consider a siege was defeated here by someone flinging food at their attackers, then make your way back to the parking area. Continue south on 717 and veer left as it runs into 716; the Ring Road is only a few minutes away. If you don’t want to drive the entire route around the peninsula, you can drive to Borgarvirki and back on this same section of road. 

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