With a grin as wide as The Sogne Fjord in dashed the young reindeer across the winning line.
Victorious Vielggut and his jockey Mikkel scooped a tidy first prize of 2,000 Norwegian krone between them, carrots all round then.
The race in the Arctic city of Tromsø is a must watch on the calendar to mark Sami week.
Norway’s oldest culture is seeing a massive resurgence and 40 minutes outside the city and deep in the forest, a Sami family have smartly switched to tourism and explain their culture through reindeer feeding and sledging, followed by traditional foods, music and talk.
The reindeer race in the city centre allows herders from across the region to dress in Sami garb, clip on their skis and be pulled along at high speed on a snow padded course.
It’s a great way of bringing in the crowds to this far-flung spot, known as the Paris of the North and which also boasts a beautiful Arctic Church and troll, art polar and marine museums. Accommodation wise the central Thon Hotel is an ideal base.
But it’s the views which make the long journey worth it. Widerøe, the country’s major airline has daily flights from London and Aberdeen to its hub in Bergen and frequent onward connections across the country, especially the North, making it the fastest way to reach Tromsø.
A picture postcard harbour with an iconic bridge, majestic mountains and rising hills of houses, all particularly impressive at night, when the lights twinkle.
In this part of the world with short winter days, lights are the saviour and since the pandemic, householders have introduced illuminated hearts to keep spirits high.
It’s also the perfect place to go Northern Lights chasing, with eager watchers prepared to be teased in the hope of seeing the dancing creations.
Surrounded by water, a must is an early morning visit to the floating sauna, cooling yourself down in the icy waters and then out for the day with Northern Yachting where you can practise your Titanic pose, while enjoying the ever-changing mountains or spotting orcas and maybe a spot of fishing.
With such great outdoors, sustainability is key, and Norway leads the way in electric vehicles, green power and locally sourced food and drink.
A two and a half hour flight takes you to the mighty Bergen, once a centre of the Hanseatic League and now a UNESCO World Heritage and Gastronomy City who’s streets ooze class and culture.
The well placed Scandic Torget Hotel is the place to be, with the bustling fish market nestled between the fjords and city’s seven mountains. Here you can sample plates bursting with the sea’s finest, including the local delicacy, a very tasty fish cake, plukkfish and pressed cod and for enthusiasts, you can take a culinary tour and admire the city’s two Michelin starred restaurants and discover sustainable cooking, using only the finest local produce from the nearby sea and land.
Culturally, there is much to see, with Bryggen, a series of Hanseatic heritage commercial buildings now containing a first class history museum and the fabulous Kode Art Museum, the country’s second biggest, which includes paintings by Norway’s Edvard Munch and an interpretation of his work by Andy Warhol, among the must see. A Bergen visitor’s card will help cut the admission costs.
Art has made its way into the bars too, with Frescohallen, the former stock exchange beautifully renovated with the pictorial ceilings, a masterpiece of restoration. For the more adventurous, there is the Magic Ice Bar, where you can enjoy drinks served in ice goblets at sub-zero temperatures and admire some specially carved ice art.
An early morning dip at Nordnes Sjøbad, an outdoor swimming complex sees you brave the freezing sea, before warming up in the heated pool and sauna. And then it’s time to take the Fløibanen funicular, for access to hiking, spectacular views of the city and outdoor accommodation. There is also another cable car which takes you up to Mount Ulriken for more fantastic views and fine dining at the Skyskraperan Restaurant.
A 30 minute Widerøe flight from Bergen transports you from the city to the beautiful wilds of Norway and the old-fashioned Fjærland Fjordstove Hotel which must have some of the most spectacular views in the world.
Perched on the edge of The Sogne Fjord, the longest and deepest in Norway and with the impressive Jostedalsbreen Glacier, at its mouth, this is place is heaven. The hotel run by Inna Jorddal is stuff of your childhood, with a slow pace of life, good food and attention to detail hospitality.
The village of Fjærland is renowned for its book festival and shops crammed with novels, but it’s the outdoors which are the lure, with opportunities to join the larger-than-life Captain Thor from Balestrand Fjordangling to catch the dish of the day, cooked up later for dinner at Inna’s and join Jarle from Fjærland Guiding for some serious hiking or a shot on his floating sauna. The nearby Norwegian glacier museum and Ulltveit-Moe climate centre is a great place to brush up on your knowledge.
A great way to return back to Bergen and enjoy the views is via Flåm, famous for its light railway, affording breath-taking views and also for the Fretheim Hotel, which dates back to 1870 and has some wonderful historical rooms and is situated at the heart of the harbour and railway line.
Meals using local produce are created using old recipes with a modern twist and you can opt for a package to ensure your pocket is not hit too much when it comes to food and drink.
This beautiful part of the world has the advantage of being so different depending on the seasons, but with spectacular scenery, warm hearted locals, efficient transport links and superior dining and accommodation, it’s hard not to make some life lasting memories.
Wideroe flies daily from London and twice daily from Aberdeen (once on Saturdays) to its hub at Bergen, from where there are frequent connections to Tromsø and other towns and cities in Norway. Single fares to Bergen cost from just £62.
For more information on each region, you can check out the tourist board for Bergen here: www.visitbergen.com, for Tromsø here: www.visittromso.no, for North Norway here: www.nordnorge.com and for Fjord Norway here: www.fjordnorway.com.
Rebecca Hay is an experienced travel writer and member of The British Guild of Travel Writers. Follow her adventures with her family on Twitter and Instagram @emojiadventurer and on Facebook via EmojiAdventurers2.