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Randy and Diane from Canada joined Sherpa Expeditions for a guided walk in Switzerland's spectacular Bernese Oberland in August 2018. They loved it so much they've already booked their next trip with us - a self guided walk in the Italian Dolomites for 2019. We asked them to answer a few questions about their trip...
1. What is your travelling/walking/cycling history?
Personally, I enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities, although “foot power” is much more to my liking than “wheel power”. I am an avid walker/hiker in all four seasons at home (the Vancouver Canada area); I also enjoy snowshoeing and cramponing in the winter season. I enjoy multi-day trekking world-wide – I have trekked in Nepal; South America and Europe. I am also a mountain climber (within my skill set) and have climbed Kilimanjaro, Island Peak, Mt. Aconcaqua, Mt. Baker, among others. My wife, Diane, enjoys walking and trekking as well (but without the climbing) and we try to plan at least one joint trek a year. I have trekked with Sherpa twice (summer Haute Route and Bernese Oberland), with Diane along on the latter trip. We are already booked for a self guided Sherpa trip to the Dolomites for August 2019.
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
The Bernese Oberland trip (guided) we did in August 2018 was chosen for several reasons. We had two couples we wanted to trek with and chose a trek I knew something about (I had been to the Swiss Alps twice before and simply love Switzerland) and they would enjoy. We went guided to get together with a long-time Sherpa guide named John Millen, whom I had trekked with before (Haute Route in 2012) – John did his usual outstanding job and was extremely knowledgeable about all things Swiss in addition to setting a wonderfully positive tone to the group.
3. How did you prepare?
We (Diane and I) walk a lot back home, so we simply started walking further over the 2-3 months before the trek. As mentioned before, I am an avid hiker, so Diane and I started doing some “uphill” hiking over the same time frame and increased our vertical gain (over 1-2 hours) to around 1000 – 2000 ft. This preparation was more than enough for the Bernese Oberland. John Millen set a very nice pace for each day’s walk and no members of the group felt that they were out of their depth in terms of fitness level.
4. Your favourite destination?
This is a hard one – the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland is incredibly beautiful. We spent 2 nights each in Zermatt and Grindelwald and loved both towns. I had not been to Lauterbrunnen before and was enchanted by this mountain town and the views surrounding the town. The other members of our group (none of which had been to Switzerland before) were equally impressed with each of the towns we stayed in.
5. Best food and drink?
Again, it is hard to single out one restaurant or hotel for food/drink – I do not recall having a bad meal on the trip. The restaurant at the Hotel Silberhorn in Lauterbrunnen was particularly good. In Zermatt, we ate dinner one night at the basement bistro in the Hotel Monte Rosa – the traditional Swiss dish raclette was a treat mentioned by several people in our group. The included breakfasts at each hotel on the trek were excellent – such a wide variety of items offered and the coffee was to die for! Swiss wine is always a treat – as you may know, very little of the total production of Swiss wine makes it out of the country – both the whites and the reds are well crafted and complement Swiss food so well.
6. Biggest surprise?
While I had been once before, Diane had never been on the Jungfraujoch before – the day we chose was perfect, with not a cloud in the sky. It was such an incredible experience to stand out on the col between the Monc and the Jungfrau and be at 3466 m. in the Swiss Alps – the numerous pictures we took pale in comparison to the visual memories Diane and I have in our minds of this experience.
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
The hike on the first day (from Meiringen to Grindelwald) was long and the final push (to Grosse Scheidegg) was a challenge for the whole group. However, the incredible view from the pass, including a spectacular view of the north face of the Eiger and the White Spider, was well worth it. It is always difficult coming back to real world after a multi-day trek in the Alps.
Our Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls walk is available as a self guided trip for 2019. Departures start from 23 June. You can read about all of our trips to this region here.
TELL US YOUR STORY
If you've been inspired by Randy and Diane's story, we'd love you to share yours. Please email your Travellers' Tale to [email protected] along with photos from your trip. If you have any questions, just email them to the same address and we'll get back to you.
Or perhaps you'd like to write a review of your trip on Google or Facebook? Either way, we'd be very grateful for your feedback.
Have you been on a trip with Sherpa Expeditions over the past year? If the answer’s yes, then we’d love you to tell us, and the world, about your trip.
Here at Sherpa Expeditions we believe that our customers are at the heart of everything we do, and the best way to get a flavour of one of our trips is to read about the experience of someone who’s already travelled with us.
So before that holiday becomes a long-distant memory, we’d love you to write a short account of your trip. We’re not looking for a straightforward review of your experience like you'd write on a feedback form – we’d love you to include things like your reasons for booking on to a particular trip, your highlights, your lowlights and what sort of effect did the walk (or cycle) have on you, and your feet!
You could base your tale around the following questions:
1. What is your walking/cycling history?
2. Why did you choose to walk/cycle where you did?
3. How did you prepare?
4. What was your favourite destination?
5. Best food & drink?
6. Biggest surprise?
7. What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
Your contribution will be published in the Travellers’ Tales section of our blog, and you’ll receive £50 off the next trip you book with us.
Not a writer? No problem!
We’re not looking for Shakespearean perfection – what’s important is that your tale comes from your heart, using your own voice. And if you’d like, you can always send us rough notes and we’ll help to turn them into a rounded article.
We can also send you a list of ‘interview’ questions to help you shape your story – have a look at this recent one by Jan from Australia and you’ll get the idea.
Pictures paint a thousand words
Online blogs work best when there are some great photos alongside them, so please include your photos from the trip when you send us your story.
If you’d prefer to go down a more visual route, your tale could even take the form of a photo gallery with a caption accompanying each shot. Videos are great as well – we’re always looking for more video content so if you have anything suitable that you’re happy to share, please send it on to us.
write a review
If you'd rather leave a brief review instead of a full Travellers' Tale - you can write a review on Google or leave a recommendation on Facebook. Either way, we'd love to hear your feedback.
How to get involved
Please email [email protected] if you have something you’d like to send us, if you have any questions, or if you’d like us to send you a list of interview questions. We’re here to help, and we’re very happy to have a chat before you head to your keyboard.
On an escorted walking holiday, every day you will have our guide to make sure your holiday runs smoothly. As he or she leads the way and looks after all arrangements, all you need to do is take in the impressive scenery, enjoy the fresh local produce and put one foot in front of the other.
Enjoy the benefits of our experienced guides whose passions are to bring to life the flora, fauna and history of the region you explore. Immerse in local life of Switzerland, England, and Italy and join the company of kindred spirits on a guided small group trip. Our group sizes generally vary from 6 to 14 people.
We choose below five of the best guided trips in Europe and the UK to book in 2018.
Perfect Introduction to Swiss Mountain Walking
Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls
The iconic Matterhorn, famous for its four steep faces rising above the surrounding glaciers, was not climbed until 1865 when British climber Edward Whymper summited the peak. Since then, the walking scene has developed extensively, while the landscape fortunately is still as stunning as it was back then. This guided walk is a perfect introduction to trekking in the Swiss Alps as there are different trails we can take each day. Together with the group, our leader decides which routes we’ll follow to take in vistas of flower-strewn alpine meadows and vast glaciers that tumble from some of the highest peaks in the country (many over 4,000m!). Travel to the Swiss Alps’ two most postcard perfect regions: the peaks of the Eiger, Monch & Jungfrau overlook the valley towns of Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen, while the quintessential mountain-lover’s town of Zermatt lies just below the towering Matterhorn.
Guided departure in August (now fully booked)
Self guided departures daily between 23 June - 22 September
Show me everything about the Bernese Oberland and Reichenbach Falls Guided Walk >>
a UK Classic
Coast to Coast Guided Walks
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks” and widely considered nowadays as the most classic of all UK long distance trails, there are different ways to walk the 192 miles (309km) Coast to Coast trail.
For 2018, the longest version of the walk (18 days) is sold out and now also the 17-day version is sold out for 2018. For those walkers with less time in their hands, you can still choose from selected departure dates for the 15-day version of the Coast to Coast walk.
Guided departures for the 15-day trip are still available in June (now fully booked), July, August & September (limited)
Options for self guided departures range between 15-18 days and are daily between 16 May - 29 September
Show me everything about the Coast to Coast Guided Walks >>
A Quiet Alpine Classic
Wildstrubel Circuit Guided walk
As the name implies, this is a circular tour of the Wildstrubel mountain range. We take in both the German-speaking Bernese Oberland and a small part of the French speaking Valais. Starting from the municipality of Kandersteg that lies west from the Jungfrau massif, our guide will take you over a series of mountain passes. In a series of linear walks, we will pass the villages of Leukerbad, Crans, Lenk and Adelboden, before we together finish our circuit back in Kandersteg. This route is known as a quieter Alpine classic and includes two stages of the famous Alpine Pass Route. We grade this as a moderate to challenging walk.
Guided departure in July
Self guided departures daily between 14 July - 22 September
Show me everything about the Wildstrubel Circuit Guided Walk >>
Mountain Thrills in Italy
Guided Walking in the Dolomites
They may not be exceptionally high but the gigantic limestone peaks of Italy’s ‘pale mountains’ (or Dolomites) provide some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in the Alps. Join our guide as you walk the region that is dotted with flowering fields, green forests, idyllic mountain lakes, and vast high plateaus and natural parks. Thousands of trails wind their way between the characteristic jagged mountains, while high in the cliffs are tunnels and bunkers from WWI, when the mountains were the setting of fierce fighting.
Guided departure in September
Self guided departures daily between 15 June - 15 July & 15 August - 23 September
Show me everything about the Guided Walking in the Dolomites trip >>
Alps Beyond Tour du Mont Blanc
The Alpine Pass Route
The complete Alpine Pass Route extends from the Liechtenstein border to Lake Geneva in Switzerland; however, our two-week itinerary focuses on the central – and most spectacular – section. This is a programme for experienced walkers with much daily uphill and downhill hiking. Most of the passes are only open to walkers and are above 2,000m, the highest point of the trip is at Hohturli with 2,778m. One of our guides will lead you along an almost unbroken succession of magnificent rock and ice peaks, including the classic triptych of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Plus, you will have three free days for optional walks or taking in other attractions of this splendid part of Switzerland.
Guided departures in late July & early September (now fully booked)
Self guided departures daily between 9 July - 15 September
Show me everything about the Guided Alpine Pass Route >>
For more information and bookings please contact our team of travel experts in the London office by phone or email and it will be a pleasure to assist you more.
Eileen Allen (in the middle at the above picture) from the USA realised that she had a need to prove to herself that she could still handle a significant challenge during the year she turned 60. So after many years of hiking in the USA in places like California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Grand Canyon National Park, she embarked on a guided hiking trip in the legendary Swiss Alps.
Why did you choose to walk where you did?
“The Alpine Pass Route’s varied terrain, wonderful scenery, and welcome food for hikers, met all of my expectations, and then some more. I found the Swiss culture, including eating in cafes and huts, riding the various forms of public transportation, and routine activities such as shopping in the local grocery stores, very interesting as well."
How did you prepare?
“I like to hike on weekends in California’s Coast Range mountains and the Sierras. In 2014 I worked in Sacramento which is very flat and close to sea level elevation. I usually walked each weekday morning for about 1,5km from the Sacramento train station to my job near the State Capitol, and then retraced that walk in the afternoon. After I committed to the Alpine Pass Route trip, I added a lunch-time stair climbing routine on one or two days each week at a 16-storey building across the street from my job. The stairs were tedious, but listening to music helped, and the conditioning was invaluable in preparation for the elevation gain and loss in the Swiss Alps.”
Which was your favourite destination?
“The Hohturli Pass. The views from the pass on a clear morning were absolutely extraordinary, with the green Kiental/Golderli region from which we ascended on one side, and the intensely blue, large Oeschinsee Lake far below us on the other side. The second half of the Hohturli ascent was quite steep and somewhat arduous, so a bench near the top of the pass provided a very welcome spot for a brief rest.”
“The first surprise was that our hiking group consisted of seven strong, adventurous women from throughout the world. To my delight we had great camaraderie.”
What aspect of the trip did you find most challenging?
“The Bernese Oberland has very changeable summer weather, so we put on and took off raingear and clothing layers frequently. This was a minor inconvenience, which was easily offset by the scenery.”
What was the biggest surprise?
“The first surprise was that our hiking group consisted of seven strong, adventurous women from throughout the world. Our guide, John Millen, handled this group very well! To my delight we had great camaraderie. It was also a pleasant surprise to have humorous encounters over several days with a group of Dutch hikers whom we first met at the Rostockhutte on the way to the Sefinenfurke Pass.”
Best food and drink?
“My favourite meal was a lunch at the Bluemlis Alphutte just above the Hohturli Pass. I was somewhat depleted after the ascent to the pass, so the hut’s hot, tasty soup to which I added sausage slices, was wonderfully rejuvenating. I also loved the fruit kuchen, which we had during breaks from hiking at Rosenlaui and at the Rostockhutte. The restaurant at the Silberhorn Hotel in Lauterbrunnen stood out for great breakfast buffets, dinner salad bar, and delicious dinner specials. ”
Do you have any recommendations for other travellers considering this trip?
“Our guide, John Millen, and the Sherpa office staff were excellent. For fitness preparation, lots of walking combined with frequent stair climbing will get you ready for the ups and downs of the Alpine passes even if you can’t hike in the mountains often. Bring good rain-gear and make sure to test that while carrying a daypack.”
Find a detailed itinerary, departure dates and more information on the Alpine Pass Route walking holiday in Switzerland here. Also have a look at this full list of other Sherpa Expeditions walking tours in Switzerland.
Over the last few months we've had quite a few of you asking for a guided version of what is widely considered as the most classic of all UK long distance trails: the iconic Coast to Coast. As a response we're very proud to now be able to offer you the longest ever guided version of this British walking trail.
The new 18-day option, which is four days longer than the established, two-week route, is ideal for those hikers among you who prefer shorter walking days with more time to take in the surroundings and enjoy overnight stays at the traditional English villages.
This longer version of the idyllic Coast to Coast trail allows for a more ‘relaxed’ pace, featuring six days of less walking compared to the ‘standard’ 14-day walking trip that we already had. In addition, you can enjoy a number of new overnight stays at traditional B&Bs and cosy inns at the villages of Bampton, Orton, Danby Wiske, Clay Bank Top and Chop Gate.
Described by Alfred Wainwright as “one of the world’s great walks”, the Coast to Coast starts on the Irish Sea coast of Cumbria and crosses three National Parks before reaching the rocky coastline of the North York Moors. Tradition has it that, before starting the walk, you should dip your boots in the Irish Sea and take a pebble to deposit in the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay, when you have completed the trail.
You can get more information on guided or self-guided walking and cycling holidays in the Lake District here. For more details on this new UK walking trip you can give us a call at 0800 008 7741 or read more on the 18-Day Coast to Coast Guided Walk.
Guided vs. Self-Guided Walking & Cycling Holidays - Which is Best for Me?
Many of our clients enjoy travelling on a guided small group holiday, but a growing number of people are looking to travel on their own or with a small group of family and friends without a guide. With this growing trend Sherpa Expeditions has become a leader in self-guided walking and cycling holidays throughout the UK and Europe. But what’s all the fuss about? In this article we will look at the differences between guided small group holidays and self-guided holidays and hopefully help you choose which style is best for you.
The main differences between guided small group holidays and self-guided holidays can be summarised in terms of the guide (obviously), group, flexibility and support.
It’s no secret that the more you know about a destination, the more you will appreciate the experience of travelling there and the more knowledge/insight you will come away with. On a guided small group holiday your guide is able to share their passion for their job and the destinations you are travelling through to bring to life the flora, fauna and history.
So integral to the experience is this knowledge that on a self-guided holiday we have tried our best to bottle the knowledge of our most experienced guides into our detailed Route Notes so that you can learn about the destinations in your own time, be it in some downtime before you embark on your holiday or over a glass of wine after a day’s walk or cycle. Either way the onus is on you to read up on the carefully collated information we have on the region.
Depending on the trip you choose, on our guided small group holidays you will be sharing your experience with between 4 to 14 other like-minded individuals. It’s a great way to explore Europe’s untrodden treasures in the safety and camaraderie of a small group.
While most of our guided small group holidays have a great mix of single travellers, couples and friends, we find that they work particularly well for single travellers as they find it more comfortable travelling in the company of others and it can actually work out a bit cheaper as you are able to share your accommodation costs.
Self-guided holidays on the other hand allow you to enjoy a walking or cycling holiday in the company of your own friends or family. Many of our self-guided holidays can also be enjoyed if you are on your own, although there are some exceptions where the routes are more difficult or remote routes where we consider it potentially unsafe to walk alone. Many self-guided holidays will also require a Solo Traveller Supplement if you are travelling on your own as you will not be able to share the accommodations or luggage transfer costs with anyone. See our FAQs for more information.
While your guide on a guided small group holiday will always do their best to accommodate the different interests of the group, there will always need to be a compromise between an individual’s interest and that of the group. The pace/route of the walk can also be subject to change to cater for the weakest walkers/cyclists in the group. From an organisation point of view too we are limited in the amount of variation we can offer to the itinerary/inclusions of a guided small group holiday.
Self-guided holidays on the other hand offer complete freedom and independence to tailor your holiday to your interest and travel style. From the amount of activity each day, where you stop, and for how long or the hotels along your route, most aspects of our self-guided holidays can be tailored in some way. This flexibility also makes them an ideal choice for family holidays.
Things don’t always go to plan and on a guided small group holiday your experienced guide is trained in dealing with any issues or incidents that may come up along the way (including first aid). They will work together with our local operators and head office to make sure your holiday is a seemless as possible.
On our self-guided walking and cycling holidays 24-hour emergency support is only a phone call away. Emergency contact details are provided in each trip’s Route Notes and with the assistance of our very helpful accommodation and transport partners, we will do our best to keep any interruptions to your holiday to a minimum.
So what’s the same?
No matter which style of holiday you choose we still include the following elements, which we think are critical to any walking or cycling holiday:
- Comfortable accommodation with character.
- Luggage transfers
- Emergency support
Top Picks for your first Self-Guided Walking or Cycling Holiday
- Cinque Terre Villages - 6 Days
This centre-based walking holiday is ideal for first time self-guided walkers. Being centrally located you can choose the walks you do each day from the suggested walking routes and maps we provide. You can walk as little or as much as you like. If you prefer not to walk on any day and explore you can do that too.
- Exploring the Cotswolds - 5 Days
This trip will give you a taste of quintessential English countryside walking. A lovely introduction to walking in England that can lead to taking on one our most popular self- guided walks, the 18 Day Coast to Coast.
- Meiringen: Panoramas of the Swiss Alps – 5 or 8 days
Interested but a little daunted about walking the Alps? This centre based walk in the lovely town of Meiringen is a popular choice to experience the Alps. This is a great choice for families, couples and individuals to experience a range of walks from Introductory to Challenging.
- Lochs and Bens
For keen cyclists this trip is a great introduction to self-guided bike tours. With clear directions and travelling on low traffic side roads, you can enjoy the wonderful countryside and local Scottish hospitality. Just be carefully of enjoying too many whiskeys before getting back in the saddle!
- The Way of St. James
This is an iconic walking route across Europe. The section we walk in France is popular, well signposted and graded moderate to challenging as you change landscapes over 200km. The 12 day Way of St James will allow you to get your boots dirty on a long distance linear walk that will have you wanting more!