(Alta Via 1) Dolomite Formations on the Alta Via 1

About our walking holidays (FAQs)


Alpine Exploratory's walking holidays give you well researched routes, clever itineraries and a choice of self-guided or guided options. This page gives the lowdown on what they involve. We enjoy hearing from enquirers with any questions, so please contact us any time at info@alpineexploratory.com.

Views from the Aiguille du Midi cable car above Chamonix
Views from the Aiguille du Midi cable car above Chamonix

Self-guided or guided holidays

Our self-guided walking holidays are carefully organised trips that are ready to go. We book your accommodation and we send you routecards, maps and local information so that you can walk the routes as you wish. Breakfasts are usually included, plus on some holidays some dinners too. On many holidays we can transfer your bags between stops as an extra. Everything is planned in order to maximise your experience in the mountains.

Some holidays involve day walks from a valley base and include a selection of routecards to pick from each day. Other self-guided holidays follow a set trekking route and include just the routecards needed to complete the trek.

Our guided walking holidays give you the same as our self-guided holidays, except that instead of routecards and maps you have a leader to show the way. Your leader is there to guide you along the walks, to explain features of the local landscape, to ensure your safety and to solve any problems that arise. All of our leaders hold the International Mountain Leader award (IML). The IML is the standard qualification needed to lead walking and trekking groups in most Alpine countries.

As with the self-guided holidays, some of our guided holidays follow trekking routes, moving through the mountains each day and arriving at new accommodation each evening. Other guided holidays are based in one place and set out to explore the area on daywalks into the mountains and countryside.

Guided or self-guided? - how to choose between the two styles

What's included?

+ Your itinerary in detail including information on your accommodation
+ Accommodation in friendly places, whether hotels, mountain huts, B&Bs or guesthouses
+ Routecards - detailed, weatherproof and showing places to eat on the trail (self-guided holidays only)
+ Maps - the actual local maps, not printouts (self-guided holidays only)
+ An International Mountain Leader to show the way (guided holidays only)
+ Local information including local travel details, shops and practical advice
+ Local travel during the trip (guided holidays only)
+ An Emergency Card with local emergency contact details, for use in the event of an accident
+ A Language Card with useful phrases in the local language(s)

What's not included?

+ Travel to and from your start/end points
+ Insurance
+ Food and drink other than that stated - breakfasts are usually included
+ Baggage transfer - available on many holidays as an extra
+ Local travel during the trip (self-guided holidays)
+ Any extra equipment needed
+ National Park entry fees, permits and taxes (where applicable)
+ Extra activities such as local attractions

The holiday price is the only payment you make to Alpine Exploratory; during the holiday you pay your own local expenses such as meals that aren't included and any local transport needed. Please see each holiday page for the likely local expenses you will incur.

How to book

Booking is simple - please ask us any questions, send us your booking form, then let us make all the arrangements for your holiday.

For self-guided holidays the work involved in assembling an itinerary means that we're unable to check availability until we've received your booking form. We'll give you a good indication; and should your ideal schedule not be possible we'll have plenty of ways round it. Plus, we don't take any payments until we've made sure we can offer your trip and you're happy with what we've arranged.

One of the huts on the Tour du Mont Blanc
A hut on the Tour du Mont Blanc


Alpine Exploratory's ethos is to stay in friendly, good quality accommodation, with a useful location and a good welcome being key factors. If you would like to stay in a different type of accommodation to that advertised, we would be pleased to discuss the options with you and give you a price. We can usually arrange a few different grades of hotel, with your price varying accordingly.

Many of our holidays involve staying in mountain huts. Huts are like 'hostels in the mountains' and will typically provide a bunk and a good meal along with the chance to meet other walkers.

Some huts have individual bunk bed sleeping arrangements, while others have 'Alpine-style' sleeping platforms where guests line up in a row. This can be cosy, and can take a bit of getting used to, but is all part of the Alpine experience. In some huts we are also able to book private bunk rooms if you prefer - please ask and we'll advise.

Our trips are priced on the basis of two people sharing. Single accommodation is generally available on all nights except at the huts; hut accommodation is in mixed dormitories or small rooms. Each holiday page gives the relevant single supplement.

We book ensuite accommodation except in some of our older or more out of the way accommodation where only shared bathrooms are available. In some cases your accommodation will be classed as not being ensuite but you will nevertheless have private use of a separate bathroom. In huts, shared showers and toilets are of course the norm!

We welcome gay and lesbian couples. As with all our clients, whether couples, friends or families, when we book your schedule we make it clear to your accommodation how the group is composed and what type of rooms are wanted. This removes the potential for surprises when you come to stay. It works very well and you'll find friendly welcomes.

On our self-guided holidays in the Julian Alps, we reserve your bunks in the huts but leave it to you to pay the hut warden directly. For these trips the holiday price does not include the hut fees, and your joining notes explain how much local currency to take with you. For our guided trips in the Julian Alps, and for all other trips, your hut fees are included.

Unlimited enquiries

Feel free to ask as many questions as you like, both before and after booking. We know that there can be many details to consider when choosing a trek, and many options when planning it. It's an ongoing process and one that we enjoy in company with our clients. We'd never seek to limit the time we spend on this planning stage.



Our holidays typically include breakfasts, and also include an evening meal on any nights where there is little or no choice of places to eat out - for instance at a hut or in a small village. So for hut nights, accommodation is usually on a half-board or demi-pension basis. However, in the Julian Alps the norm at huts is to choose individual items a la carte, so in this area we don't include any hut meals.

Where an evening meal is not included at your accommodation there will be good options in the village or town (for example the many good restaurants of Courmayeur in Italy). On guided holidays the usual theme is for the group and leader to go out for a meal together.

For lunches and snacks, all our walking holidays offer chances to buy provisions, so you won't need to carry food for many days. Your routecards show where the shops, huts and cafes will be found. On some trips, for example the West Highland Way, a small amount of planning ahead is useful over remote sections of the route, but again our notes and routecards advise.

Routecards, maps and bus times - part of a typical information pack for a self-guided walking holiday in the Lake District
Routecards, maps - Lake District


Our self-guided info packs contain the local maps of the area you will be visiting - not photocopies or printouts from digital mapping programs. Our feedback suggests that this is a popular policy, because it gives clients the option to explore away from our routecards if they wish, as well as to identify peaks and other features of the landscape. At the end of your trip you then have the map to keep for future use.

We generally use 1:25,000 scale maps - the equivalent of the Ordnance Survey Explorer series in the UK. For some destinations the local 1:50,000 maps are the most suitable. Sometimes one map covers the whole area, but most often two or more maps are needed. For long-distance paths in the UK we generally prefer to use the whole sheets rather than the dedicated long and thin trail maps, but we have to balance this against the weight and cost of using all the sheets.

For trips outside the UK, we cannot promise that your maps will be of equivalent detail to the OS maps you might be used to. In some cases the maps will be just as good if not better, but in other cases the best available maps are only adequate. Our routecards aim to be more descriptive in any places where the maps are unclear or wrong.


Our routecards have earned praise from clients for their accuracy and for the quality of the walks. We certainly take care over both the initial planning and the directions on the ground. We use a format such that each routecard is self-contained and can be folded down to pocket size with the current section showing. They are also waterproof, so there's no need to carry them in your map case.

Please note that the routecards given on a self-guided holiday are suggestions only. You are free to follow your own routes; however, in doing so you would be operating outside the Alpine Exploratory holiday. On any walks, whether following a routecard or not, you are responsible for your own safety.

Trekking in Italy on the TMB
Trekking the Italian Alps

Guided days

It might be possible to hire a leader to join you on your self-guided holiday, for one or more days. This can add interest to your walking or trekking holiday by having the leader to help plan a route and to point out local features.

Equally, on your guided holiday you might fancy a day away from the main group, to follow a routecard under your own steam. Just let your leader know - our leaders, except for snowshoeing trips, have a stock of routecards with them for this very purpose.

Holiday grades

We grade our holidays on two separate scales, firstly for skill (Green, Blue, Red and Black) and secondly for fitness (1 to 4). For full details please see our page:

Walking grades


Our walking holidays can be taken on your own, as a couple, with a friend or with a group of family, friends, colleagues or club mates. Instead of being bundled round on a package tour, we want you to walk how you would normally walk!

For each self-guided party, one set of routecards, maps and local information and one Language Card will be provided. Everyone will be provided with an Emergency Card. For parties of 4 or more, arrangements are more flexible and we are happy to include extra sets of routecards and maps. We'll ask you what you prefer.

We keep our guided group sizes to at most 8 people, a much smaller group size than on most commercial walking holidays. This is in order to preserve flexibility and a sense of team spirit and in order to minimise the impact on the mountains. Large groups are also harder to manage in the event of an accident. Contact us if your group is larger than this, as we have options open to us; however, we never go walking with more than 8 clients per leader.

Your leader on a guided trip will be an International Mountain Leader. The leader will always look for opportunities to add an extra scenic element to your holiday, hopefully allowing you to see and do more than would normally be possible.

Groups - more on our groups service

Vegetarian or a special diet?

Vegetarians will have plenty of choice at breakfast, whether it is a continental or a cooked breakfast. In the UK we're often able to book specifically vegetarian-friendly accommodation. On your booking form there's a place to tell us about any dietary needs, then we'll advise further and make sure there are options for you.



It's crucial to come properly equipped for your walking holiday. Having good boots, waterproofs and other kit can greatly increase your enjoyment and safety. On booking we send you full notes on what to bring.

Equipment - the kit to bring on your walking holiday

When stocking up for your trip you might like to use our discount with Cotswold Outdoor, a chain of outdoor shops across the UK, or with our two local outdoor shops Castleberg Outdoors and Cave & Crag in Settle. After booking we send you details of these discounts, which can be used online as well as in the stores.

Accidents and bad weather

Some of our self-guided holidays follow routes that stay in a different place each night, such as the Tour du Mont Blanc. If for whatever reason you're unable to reach your next night's accommodation, there is no need to worry. Your routecards tell you the local bus or train routes needed to reach the next staging post. Almost all stages have these local travel options, but just in case, you'll also find details of local taxi companies in your joining notes. If you need to rebook your accommodation for the night, you're welcome to do so. Alternatively, contact us and we'll do all we can. Any extra expenses are payable by the client, but we try to keep these to a minimum.

In the case of an accident that prevents you from carrying on your route, please let us know as soon as possible. Your travel insurance should cover you for any extra hotel nights needed in the area - we're pleased to help you organise this accommodation, and you would pay for it yourself and reclaim it from your insurer. If you miss the start of your trip, perhaps because of a missed flight, the best thing is to join your trip a day into the route. Call us for advice. We're afraid that we can't guarantee to change your hotel bookings, due to space often being hard to find at short notice, especially in the high season in the Alps (July and August).

As an Alpine Exploratory client you are encouraged to contact us at any time with queries before, during and after your trip. We give clients an emergency contact number in addition to our normal contact details.


Please use our discount at Cotswold Outdoor, outdoor stores in the UK, before your trip.


Baggage transfer

On many holidays, including all those in the UK, we can transfer your bags between your hotels. This leaves you with just the basics to carry during your walks - your main luggage will be delivered to your next hotel during the day. This baggage transfer service is offered as an extra; please see each holiday page for more details.

We find that most clients prefer to carry their own kit. There's no need for a heavy pack - this is certainly not backpacking! A change of clothes, your washbag, a book and perhaps a pair of sandals is all that's needed in addition to your normal daywalk kit.

Some of our clients who are initially sceptical about carrying everything have come to enjoy the self-contained and satisfying trekking lifestyle.

A canine client on the West Highland Way in front of Buachaille Etive Mor
Canine client, West Highland Way


You are welcome to bring your dog on all of our self-guided walking holidays in the UK. We book dog-friendly accommodation and we give you notes about taking your dog on a walking holiday. Then simply follow your routecards, maps and local information to complete your holiday as you see fit.

There will be times during the walks when you will have to keep your dog on a lead. On most holidays there are no restrictions on the ground, but on some (primarily the West Highland Way) there might be sections of the route that are closed to dogs - in such cases we describe alternative routes. About stiles and walls, generally they are easy to negotiate or even have special holes for your dog. We aim to highlight particularly difficult sections in your notes, but it is worth practicing with your dog in local fields before your trip.

Unfortunately we cannot encourage you to take your dog overseas to our Alpine walking holidays - while in some cases there are no restrictions on dogs on the ground, the difficulties and stresses of taking dogs abroad make it unworkable. If you are already on the continent, of course, then that's a different matter!

Lastly, if you aren't so keen on dogs for whatever reason, please do not be put off our holidays that describe themselves as dog-friendly. Your accommodation won't be full of dog hair and you won't be followed by packs of hounds! For a normal party without dogs, we would just book our normal accommodation, which in most cases is not open to dogs. If you prefer, we can specify every night to be a dog-free zone. As always, just let us know your preferences and we will do our best to help.

Walking with dogs - more about the possibilities

Responsible Tourism

Looking after the mountain environment is key to Alpine Exploratory's trips. We aim to get to know the mountain landscape, because the more we know and like our surroundings, the better we can protect them. Our holidays promote responsible walking to minimise the impacts on the landscape, the wider environment and the local society.

Responsible travel - see our policies

Passports and visas

You will need a passport, valid for the duration of your stay. Some Alpine Exploratory holidays visit more than one country. UK passport holders do not currently need a visa to enter any of the countries visited by our holidays. Please see each holiday description for any further requirements. Please be aware that you are responsible for meeting any passport or visa requirements that may apply.

Descending from Rif Elisabetta on the Tour du Mont Blanc
Descending from a refuge

Medical precautions and vaccinations

We recommend that clients bring a basic first aid kit to deal with cuts, blisters, headaches and so on, and that any tetanus or other jabs are kept up to date. It is essential to bring adequate sun protection - sun cream, a hat and sunglasses. No vaccinations are currently compulsory for any country currently visited by Alpine Exploratory's holidays. Please see each holiday description for any further requirements; your joining notes give full details. Please be aware that you are responsible for meeting any medical or vaccination requirements that may apply.


Clients on self-guided holidays outside the UK are required to have insurance to cover themselves for helicopter search & rescue, medical expenses and repatriation. For holidays in the UK this is not necessary. We recommend, but it is not compulsory, that for all holidays you also have cover for personal liability, cancellation and your baggage and money. On booking we send you information about suitable policies. You might find that your annual multi-trip travel insurance provides enough cover. Please check that your policy covers you for the activities (walking or trekking) that you will be doing on your holiday. Note that for snowshoeing you might need to add winter sports cover. Don't hesitate to contact us if you're unsure about insurance - we'll be happy to advise.

Before your self-guided trip, we'll ask you for the name of your insurance company, their telephone number and your policy number, for our records in case of emergency. At the start of a guided holiday, your leader will ask to see proof of your insurance and unfortunately is unable to allow further participation in walks to any clients who are not suitably insured. This is because in the event of an accident the safety of everyone in the group can depend upon each member being able to be rescued. Your leader will note down your insurance company, their emergency contact number and your policy number, in case of an accident.

Will I turn into a sherpa?

No! Your pack can be quite light whether on daywalks or multi-day treks and even if you don't choose baggage transfer. On booking we give you detailed notes about what to bring, and we're always happy to advise.


Protection of your money

The law concerning package holidays is quite favourable towards the consumer. In particular, companies selling package holidays must protect the money paid by their clients. Companies may use one of three methods to do this: bonding, trusts or insurance. These methods all have the same effect of ensuring that in the event of the company becoming insolvent before the holiday is completed, the client can have a full refund. Alpine Exploratory has chosen to use a trust. This means that we pay clients' money into a trust account, where it stays until the holiday is over at which point we may ask the trustees to transfer the money to us.

Guided and Self-Guided Holidays - see them all

Find out about your rights

The relevant law for package holidays is The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. It's actually not too hard to read!

Alpine Exploratory
Alpine Exploratory is a system of knowledge on the best mountain trekking in our areas, giving clients superb holidays based on this exploration.
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