You would think that negotiating the famous maelstrom in a RIB boat to see four-thousand-year-old cave paintings would only be for tough guys. But actually, this thrilling tour is suitable for everyone!

Trip around Lofotodden

From Reine, far out in the Lofoten archipelago, the RIB boat trip heads out to the weather-beaten north-west coast of Moskenesøya Island to visit the cave paintings here, many of which are four-thousand-years old. En route you can see traces of old settlements and you pass through Moskstraumen, the fabled maelstrom of literature.

Maelstrom

Moskstraumen (also known as Moskenesstraumen) is the original maelstrom. It exists because the mountains of Lofoten continue down beneath the surface of the sea like an underwater spine between the islands of Moskenesøya and Mosken, above which the waves created by the tidal waters between Vestfjorden and the North Sea react to the pull of the moon to form a complicated whirlpool that no tidal table can explain. In Jules Verne's famous novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, the submarine 'Nautilus' descends into the maelstrom. Fortunately the captain of the RIB boat is highly experienced and used to reading the currents. The trip is cancelled if conditions are too dangerous.

Cave paintings

The Refsvikhula Cave is a huge, open, cathedral-like cave on the western, outer side of Lofoten. It's shaped like a cross, and has two entrances. People used to gather here for ceremonies between three and four thousand years ago. On one side of the cave, male figures have been depicted, while female figures can be seen on the other side. The female figures are all quite close together, but the male figures are more scattered. This may reflect the lives they led: women tended to work together in sociable groups, while men were more likely to go hunting alone. 

Ceremony room

Without any written sources, we cannot know for certain how the cave was used. However, there are no middens or other remains to indicate that people lived here, which isn't surprising as the cave is both wet and cold. However, people would gather here for ceremonies, perhaps for transition ceremonies to mark a child's passing into adulthood. At the summer solstice, the midnight sun reaches right to the back of the cave, and it's easy to imagine that this would people gathering to celebrate midsummer. After the cave paintings in Refsvikhula were discovered in 1987, more and more cave paintings have been discovered in Lofoten. 

Abandoned fishing villages

Å is now the outermost settlement in the row of Lofoten islands that are connected to the mainland by bridges, although it doesn't lie as far out as the more remote islands of Værøy and Røst, which don't have a road link. In times gone by, however, people lived in tiny settlements much further out towards Lofotodden at the tip of the island chain. Travelling out towards Å, you can see numerous old settlements, some with houses still standing, while others only have the remains of stone walls and boat ramps. At Helle, almost invisible stone walls and fertile grassy mounds testify to old settlements. Your guide will show you pictures and tell you how the communities came to flourish and then die out.

Who can go on the trip?

This is a trip for almost anyone. The RIB is a means of transport here, not a way of setting a new speed record. This means that you can be sure of a comfortable and enjoyable trip, with plenty of opportunities to see nature and take photos. It takes about 45 minutes to walk from the landing site to Refsvikhula Cave, on paths that can be rugged in places, so you need to have a standard level of mobility. However, this is definitely not an extreme trip, and is suitable for families with children and fit pensioners. In summer, there are trips in the afternoon and evening, which means that you can enjoy the warming rays of the afternoon sun on the outer edge of Lofoten. During the rest of the year, trips are only available during the day, to make the most of the winter light. 

Come along

The trip starts in Reine. Pre-booked guests can also be picked up in Å. Take plenty of clothes for the boat trip and a picnic lunch, and your host will provide tea and coffee. 

  • Aqua Lofoten Coast Adventure operates the trips, and you can find information and photos on their website. 
  • Destination Lofoten is the local travel organisation, and it holds information about everything there is to see and do in Lofoten.