Guided hiking tours: private vs group

Text by Valdis Čeičs, photos by Solveiga Kaļva, www.solveigakalvaphotography.com

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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What travelers say about us

Barry Toward
Barry Toward
2022-09-18
We have just spent 9 days travelling through the Baltic countries with Valdis as our guide. Although the itinerary and accommodation had been pre-arranged Valdis supported our trip brilliantly, bringing to life the individual countries with city walking tours, nature trails and visits to other sites. He is great fun, extremely knowledgable and became an integral part of our small group. His contribution to our holiday played a key part in making it a great and enjoyable experience (and he recommends good places to eat!)
Sam Paliwal
Sam Paliwal
2022-09-02
If you are looking to go to the Baltic's on an active vacation, make sure to check out Baltic Nature Travel as your travel advisor. We recently finished a 10-day self-driving tour of the Baltic's and wanted to have an active trip whilst not missing out on all the cultural highlights of the region. Valdis, the owner of Baltic Nature Travel was very responsive and organized a trip that included kayaking, long distance bicycle riding, hiking in different forests, cooking activities, cultural highlights, hot-air balloon riding, etc-- all in a matter of 10 days and customized the trip to our liking. We were very satisfied with his responsiveness to our needs and his ability to stay ahead and plan various activities appropriately. Just to give you one example of Valdis's ability to think ahead: in one of the hotels, they have very limited parking. On his own initiative, Valdis made a to call to the hotel and reserved a parking spot for us for the one night that we were going to stay at that hotel. It helped out a lot, as we had to leave very early in the morning. There are other numerous examples where he was available to answer questions and help us as necessary, both before and during the trip. He is an excellent guide, calm and collected and his team of guides around the region were quite knowledgeable and fluent. The accommodation for the trip were quite good and and they can be easily adjusted based on your budget. I highly recommend his touring company for your Baltic travel experience and would like to add that as a person he's very likable and easy-going.
Lajos Nagy
Lajos Nagy
2022-07-23
A perfect series of daily hiking tours and town walkarounds. I especially was amused by the jungle-like forests and friendly conversations along the way. Everything was perfectly planned and organized, I definitely recommend, worth thousand-times more than simply visiting cities in a rush.
Tom Demandt
Tom Demandt
2022-05-30
We had an excellent day hike with our guide Valdis. He was very friendly, very service minded and knowledgeable. The hike through Gauja National Park was really beautiful. Heartily recommend for anyone looking for an active day trip outside Riga.
Sergey Zhuravlev
Sergey Zhuravlev
2022-02-28
I enjoyed the hiking tour in the Beberbeķi-Skulte regions of Riga. The route was mainly through the forest, so this is a great opportunity to get away from the city bustle and daily routine and to spend a few hours in nature. The tour guide Valdis is very friendly and he has a lot to tell about the area. I am looking forward to the next tour and recommend joining it.
Sa Si
Sa Si
2022-02-15
I had a wonderful hiking tour trough Kemeri National Park with Baltic Nature Travel. Valdis is a very well informed and nice guide! I would totally recommend a tour with him!
aarpr
aarpr
2022-01-24
Really nice activities and tours by Valdis. Highly recommended. Definetely I will repeat soon.
Eimear Friel
Eimear Friel
2022-01-18
Thoroughly enjoyed my hike with Valdis and Solveiga. It was exactly what I hoped for. Perfect for someone looking to explore more of Latvia but nto sure where to go!
Fiona Koe
Fiona Koe
2022-01-18
Awesome hike, beautiful scenery. Valdis was very friendly and knowledgeable. Will recommend

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