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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K G
K G
2024-03-11
I joined Valdis for Gauja national park tour and experience breathtaking views, beautiful cave, Plus the experience to see the inside of luge and skeleton track. It’s an unforgettable experience to see something outside the Riga! Highly recommended!!!
Carmen Daams
Carmen Daams
2023-09-22
I took the Kuldiga trip with Valdis. The experience was amazing. The entire day was great. He is a great guide, and knows a lot of interesting information. He would definitely make your whole experience even better. Kuldiga is such a captivating city, very unique with a very special style and soul. If you are visiting Latvia, don't hesitate to take this trip, it is a "must".
Stanley Wallerstein
Stanley Wallerstein
2023-08-29
Great Tour and great guide. Baltic Nature Travel is excellent.
Maria M Andrade
Maria M Andrade
2023-08-28
Valdis organized an absolutely wonderful 10 day trip to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania trip for my sister, a friend, and myself. He arranged all details including our private chofer and tour guide up the last detail. He went far and beyond when he knew I had an accident in Estonia. We met him Latvia and he make us feel welcome. He recommended the most amazing restaurants for us and he took care of my doctor needs where he was the interpreter. In every country we had the best guys one can possibly ask for. All hotels were walking distance from city centre. Thank you Valdis we will always remembered this trip!!!!
Sarah Daniels
Sarah Daniels
2023-08-21
Thank you, Valdis, for helping my family have a wonderful two week trip to the Baltics! Your advice and recommendations were very helpful, and our tour guides in 4 different cities were each outstanding! I highly recommend a vacation in the beautiful and fascinating Baltics, and I highly recommend using Valdis to help you plan it.
Rita Derencius
Rita Derencius
2023-08-09
Tours and tour guides, Tomas and Mindaugas, exceeded my expectations. We were able to curate our tour of Lithuania. The guides were extremely knowledgeable and adapted the tour based on our input. Valdis was responsive and easy to work with. Extremely happy we chose to have private tour guides. Best trip ever!
Deniz Demirors
Deniz Demirors
2023-08-08
Valdis did amazing job to organize us a 15 day, 14 night self drive adventure trip to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Thanks to his valuable advise before and immaculate documentation with names of the locations, guides etc we had a magical experience. We hiked, biked, walked, beached and off course drive all over in all 3 beautiful countries. We felt very safe. Everyone we met were very friendly. The car was delivered to our first hotel in Tallinn and picked up from last hotel in Vilnius. They were professional and kind people. We encountered few minor issues but Valdis resolved very promptly so our program was not impacted. We met him in Riga as he was our guide. Thanks to Valdis & his team of guides we had an unforgettable time and experience. Valdis is very gently, kind, hears his clients wishes and makes adjustments in his existing programs. Job well done Valdis. Thank you very much.
Catherine Herway
Catherine Herway
2023-06-24
These are the only places on earth where eastern and western architecture can now meet in harmony. The architecture tells a social history translated into excellent English on this tour! The hotels were clean, comfortable, and safe. The food was outstanding as well, I only wish I had more time!
Artur Iwański
Artur Iwański
2023-05-03
A very good and interesting guide. Customized trips - which is very useful. If you want to get to know Latvia (which is worth it!) there is no one better. Highly recommended.

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