The town itself has some minor attractions, but if your time is severely limited, it would be better spent taking a tour of the wilderness.
The Rana Museum of Natural History, Moholmen 15 (tel. 75-11-01-40), reveals the flora and fauna of the Arctic Circle, with a number of "touch-me-if-you-want" exhibits of particular appeal to families with young kids. The fascinating geology and ecology of this Arctic wilderness come alive here. Admission is NOK40 ($8/£4) or free for children 11 and under, for both this museum and the one below. It's open mid-June to mid-August Tuesday to Friday 10am to 3pm and also Thursday 7 to 9pm. In the off season, it's open Tuesday to Friday 9am to 3pm.
North of Mo (30km/19 miles) lies the grandest natural attraction in this part of Norway, the Svartisen Glacier (means "black ice" in Norwegian). Svartisen is second in size in the country only to the Jostedal Glacier. The ice plateau is 1,005m (3,296 ft.) above sea level, covering 370 sq. km (137 sq. miles) of high mountains and narrow fjords.
Svartisen (more accurately known as Engen Glacier) consists of two main glaciers, the Østisen (East Glacier) and Vestisen (West Glacier). One arm of the West Glacier is the lowest-lying glacier on the European mainland. The glacial arm continues all the way down to Engenbrevannet Lake. It continues to grow, advancing 40m (131 ft.) a year. Motorists driving along Rte. 17 by Holandsfjorden can see many arms of the glacier stretching down between mountain peaks.
The Vestisen ice cap is our favorite section to visit if your time is limited. The Engen Skyssbåt (tel. 94-86-55-16) operates two ferries running across Holandsfjorden, taking 15 minutes and costing NOK50 ($10/£5) each way. From June to August, the ferries run 12 times daily Monday to Friday from 7:30am to 8pm, and 10 times on Saturday and Sunday 10am to 8pm. Ferries depart from the Holand and Brasetvik quays. Additional information about the glacier and the fjord-based ferryboats that access the climbing trails leading up to it are available from the tourist office at Meløy (tel. 75-75-48-88).
You can also drive to the glacier by going north from Mo on the E6 for 12km (7 1/2 miles), following the signs to the glacier for 23km (14 miles). At the end of the line, you'll find Svartisbåten boats (tel. 75-16-23-79) crossing the lake and coming within 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) of the Østerdal arm of the glacier. From the disembarkation point, it's still a rigorous 3km (1 3/4-mile) hike up to Austerdalsvatnet lake and the glacier.
If you happen to be in superb physical shape, and if you thrive on high-altitude adventures with just a whiff of primordial danger, there's a local tour operator that might appeal to your cravings: Rana Special Sports, Ltd. (tel. 75-12-70-88; www.spesialsport.no). Its guides can take you on a full-day climbing excursion on the glacier, with all the equipment included (including pitons and special ice cleats for your hiking boots) for NOK750 ($150/£75) per person. We advocate this only for climbers who thrive on rough adventures in the savage outdoors.
The glacier is part of the Saltfjellet-Svartisen Nasjonalpark, stretching over a landmass of 2,015 sq. km (746 sq. miles). The park takes in the ice field of Svartisen, along with various moorlands that reach as far east as the Swedish border.
Information about hiking trails in the park can be obtained from the tourist office in Mo i Rana . The trails can be approached from Rte. 77, which heads east off the E6 to the Swedish frontier.
Norway's best-known "show cave," Gronligrøtta (tel. 75-13-25-86) lies in the hamlet of Grønli, 26km (16 miles) northwest of Mo. The only cave with electric lights in Scandinavia, it'll illuminate your way as you take the half-hour tour into the cave, which has an underground river. As a curiosity, you can see a mammoth granite block ripped off by a glacier and dumped into the cave by the sheer force of the onrushing waters. Visits cost NOK100 ($20/£10) for adults, NOK50 ($10/£5) for children 15 and under. The cave can be toured hourly and daily from mid-June to mid-August from 10am to 7pm.
En Route to Bodø
North of Mo i Rana (80km/50 miles) toward the Arctic Circle, you'll come to the Polarsirkelsenteret, on E6. It offers a multiscreen show depicting the highlights of Norway. Many people send cards and letters from here with a special postmark from the Arctic Circle. There are also a cafeteria and gift shop on the grounds. The center is at N-8242 Polarsirkelen (tel. 75-12-96-96; www.polarsirkelsenteret.no). It's open in May and June daily from 9am to 6pm, July to September daily 8am to 10pm; admission is NOK70 ($14/£7).
Continue north to Fauske and then follow Rte. 80 west along the Skjerstadfjord. Depending on weather conditions, you should reach Bodø in under an hour.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.