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How to Plan Your Next Self-Guided Alpine Walking Holidays

Everything you need to know for planning the perfect self-guided or guided hiking summer holiday in alpine environment


The majestic Alps, with their snow-capped peaks, rugged landscapes, and pristine wilderness, have long been a haven for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. Stretching across several countries, including France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, and Germany, the Alps offer diverse hiking and trekking opportunities for adventurers of all levels. From leisurely walks through alpine meadows to challenging multi-day expeditions, the Alps beckon those seeking to immerse themselves in nature's grandeur.

As a passionate hiker, I recently embarked on a walking holiday across the Alps, and the experience left an indelible mark on my soul. The sheer beauty of the towering mountains, the crisp air, and the sense of solitude amidst the vast wilderness create a genuinely transformative adventure. In this comprehensive guide, I aim to inspire and provide practical insights for planning your own alpine walking summer holidays, whether you choose to venture out on a self-guided hike or opt for the expertise of a certified guide.

How to prepare for a Self-Guided Alpine Hiking holiday

Embarking on a self-guided hike in an alpine environment offers the freedom to explore at your own pace and forge a deep connection with the mountains. You can start by researching the numerous hiking routes available and consider factors such as distance, elevation gain, difficulty, and the trail's natural beauty. Online resources, guidebooks, and local tourism offices can provide valuable information to help you choose the route that suits your preferences and hiking abilities. I suggest getting a GPS sports watch - you’ll find countless models on the market - and researching a good-looking, accessible itinerary. This won’t give you all the elements and answers: you’ll have to dig deep and consider all the factors that come into play in alpine environments - read altitude, change of weather, snowfields, shelters, and an escape route in case something happens. Let’s start with the essential skill a hiker - or trekker - should master before even thinking of hiking around the Alps: how to pack your backpack.

Packing Your Backpack

I’ve already been through this topic on this exact blog. If you want, you can read more about this topic by reading my previous article, How To Pack Your Rucksack For One-day And Multi-days Summer Hikes In Europe. That being said, packing the right gear is crucial for a successful and enjoyable alpine hike. Essentials include sturdy and comfortable hiking boots, layered clothing for varying weather conditions, a waterproof jacket, a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, a map, and a compass - no matter if you bought that expensive GPS sports watch I mentioned before - a first aid kit, and sufficient food and water supplies. Additionally, consider packing a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, and camping stove if you plan to camp along the way. Remember to keep your backpack as light as possible to avoid unnecessary strain on your body.

A one-day self-guided hike doesn't require that much gear © Jan-Niclas Aberle

Finding Accommodation

Sleeping in a one-million stars hotel sometimes is worth the extra weight. Remember that you can't put up a campfire wherever you want. Get informed and follow the local rules and legislations © Frank Holleman

Accommodation options along alpine hiking routes range from mountain huts (known as "refugees" or "hütten" or “rifugi”) to guesthouses, inns, and campgrounds. Mountain huts are famous for hikers as they provide a cozy shelter, meals, and an opportunity to connect with fellow adventurers. Reservations are recommended during peak hiking season, and carrying cash is advisable as credit card facilities may be limited in remote areas. Research the available accommodation options along your chosen route and plan your itinerary accordingly. This choice will eventually impact the weight of your backpack and the estimated time of route completion since you will carry less weight, pay for more comfort, and feel fresher the following day, ready to tackle the next portion of the walking trail.

Navigating the Trail

While hiking in the Alps, it's essential to have basic navigation skills to follow the trail and ensure your safety. A GPS sports watch won’t save your holiday or—your life. Familiarize yourself with topographic maps, look for reliable GPX tracks online and compare them with others, and study the route beforehand. Nowadays, you can study the area and the environment where you want to go hiking, from Google Earth to Fat Map, Strava, or AllTrails. You can write some notes about points of interest, different itineraries or trails, areas that may be hazardous, and so on. Signposts and trail markers are typically present along well-established hiking trails, but carrying a map and compass as a backup is always wise. Pay attention to weather conditions and be prepared to adjust your plans if necessary. How? Just start hiking with a plan B in your mind. You never know.

Always do your homework! Don't get caught unprepared during your alpine walking holiday © Frank Holleman

Planning a Guided Alpine Hiking holiday

On the other hand, embarking on a guided hike with a certified guide offers several advantages. Guides are knowledgeable about the local flora, fauna, and geology, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the alpine environment. They can also ensure your safety in challenging terrain and provide valuable insights into the cultural and historical aspects of the region. Mapo Tapo is a reputable hiking experiences provider that offers a wide range of multi-day or one-day guided hiking tours in the Alps, led by certified guides with extensive knowledge of the local landscapes. It's not over yet: you can also join a planned itinerary listed on their website and split the cost of the guided tour with other passionate hikers from all over the world, traveling alone but still ready to share adventure and costs with new friends.

Hiking Guides provides a variety of hiking experiences for all levels, catering to different fitness levels and interests. From introductory hikes for beginners to challenging expeditions for experienced hikers, there is something for everyone. The itineraries are thoughtfully curated, combining the best scenic routes, cultural highlights, and authentic local experiences. Whether you seek the tranquility of alpine meadows or the thrill of summiting a majestic peak, you can now quickly contact a Certified Hiking Guide who will happily match your desires and support you in reaching your goals.

One of the advantages of joining a guided hike is that some of the logistics and equipment are taken care of for you. However, it's still important to bring your items, including appropriate clothing, hiking boots, and a backpack with essential items such as water, snacks - if you need some inspiration, here are 30 Easy-to-Pack Lunch Ideas -, sunscreen, and a camera.

By joining a guided hike, you benefit from the expertise and experience of certified guides who are well-versed in the region's terrain, weather patterns, and potential hazards. They are trained in first aid and carry safety equipment to ensure your well-being throughout the hike. The presence of a guide also allows you to focus on the journey and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Alps without worrying about navigation or logistics.

Pros and Cons of Self-Guided vs. Guided Hikes 

Self-guided hikes and guided hikes each have their unique advantages and considerations. Self-guided hikes offer flexibility, independence, and the opportunity for personal exploration. You can set your own pace, choose your itinerary, and immerse yourself in solitude. However, self-guided hikes require meticulous planning, navigation skills, and gear carrying.

On the other hand, guided hikes provide a structured experience led by certified guides who offer expertise, safety, and local knowledge. With a guided hike, you can focus on the journey and enjoy the companionship of fellow hikers. However, guided hikes may have a fixed itinerary, less flexibility in pace and route, and the cost of guide services.

Choosing between a self-guided or guided hike in the Alps depends on your preferences, hiking experience, and comfort level with planning and navigation. Choose to hike solo - or self-guided - for a more immersive experience, or book a hiking trip with a certified guide if you want to share your experience with new friends, split the costs, and spend less time on logistics and preparation.


My recent walking holiday across the Alps was an adventure that exceeded all my expectations. Every step was filled with wonder and excitement, from the awe-inspiring mountain vistas to the thrilling sense of accomplishment after conquering challenging peaks. The thunderstorms that rolled through the valleys added an element of drama to the experience, reminding me of the raw power of nature.

But beyond the natural beauty, what truly made this journey unforgettable were the friendships forged along the trails. I met fellow hikers worldwide, sharing stories, laughter, and moments of pure joy. The camaraderie among hikers was infectious, creating a sense of community and solidarity that added depth and meaning to the adventure.

In conclusion, whether you choose a self-guided hike or opt for the expertise of a certified guide, the Alps offer an abundance of hiking opportunities that will leave you breathless with wonder. From the planning stages to the exhilarating moments on the trails, every aspect of an alpine walking summer holiday is an opportunity for growth, exploration, and connection with nature. So, lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and embark on a journey that will nourish your soul and ignite a lifelong passion for the mountains. The Alps are waiting to be discovered, and the memories you create will be cherished forever.

Cover photo © Tim Tiedemann