Guided hiking tours: private vs group

Text by Valdis Čeičs, photos by Solveiga Kaļva,

A hike led by a person who is familiar with the area, route, and sights and knows how to get to the site is what characterizes a guided hiking tour organized by a tour operator. In this article, I share some knowledge related to the guided hiking tours from my own experience working as a tour guide.

Social aspect

Hiking alone for some people might be the most terrifying activity, while for the others – the most meditative and calming process. During group hikes, people usually tend to form smaller groups. For solo travelers, a group tour could be a nice way to make new friendships, but it might turn out to be a very isolating or even annoying experience if the companionship is not very enjoyable. On a private tour there is no such a problem, and the traveler can enjoy the surroundings without any social distractions, the amount of conversations depends on the traveler and the guide.

Group dynamics

The pace is set by the tour guide, depending on the slowest participant. Every group has its own dynamics, it is especially noticeable in the groups over twenty people. More people -more needs have to be accommodated by the guide, which means – more pauses for checking the group. In private groups, the guide knows everyone’s level of fatigue by walking along and can stop only when it is necessary. This is the reason why people in the big groups are often dissatisfied with the hiking pace – the fittest wants to continue the hike, but the weakest want to have a rest.

Support on the track

Being into the wild brings a lot of joy, but sometimes it comes together with injuries, insect bites, or damaged equipment.  Usually, the guide can handle these situations as they are prepared for the unexpected. The advantage of big hiking groups – everyone has a little bit of everything, someone has a spare battery, someone has a mosquito repellent or sunscreen. Sharing is caring. A group of strangers can make a picnic together and share their snacks, drinks, and other stuff, but sharing in a private tour is more intimate and natural than in a big group of strangers.

Pros and cons of group and private hiking tours

The private tour is more expensive, but it means less hustle for you and more time with the guide to ask questions. Private tours also have extra inclusions, like pick-up from your location, a picnic and water. The group tour has lower fares, but more self-organizing needs to be done, for example, getting to the starting point. It is also more exhausting as you have to carry your own food supplies. From the positive side, you can bond with others in the group and make new friends. 

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