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Guided vs. Self-Guided Walking & Cycling Holidays – Which is Best for Me?

Self-Guided Cycling in Cornwall

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.


Guided Walking Holidays - Guides



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.


Guided Walking Scotland Pub



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.


Self-Guided Walking Tuscany



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.


Self-Guided Walking Switzerland


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

Self-Guided Walking Scotland


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!
Self-Guided Cycling Scotland
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