The TOP 10 reasons for going on a self guided walking holiday
We first fell in love with the mountains because of the winter. Powder days and chocolats chauds at lunch time were the order of the day when we set up camp in the Alps many moons ago. But as the old alpine saying goes: you come for the winter and you stay for the summer. Spring and summer time in the French Alps are glorious. The pace of life slows down relative to the hectic winter months, the outdoor activities are nearly endless and the weather is amazing with temperatures hovering around the mid to high 20s. When it does finally rain the downpour is usually accompanied by spectacular thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The walking in the Haute Savoie region is sensational. There is a real mix of gentle lake side strolls, forest navigations and high altitude glacier hikes. There really is something for everyone – from complete beginners through to hard core high altitude trekkers. Wherever you are in the Haute-Savoie there is always imposing Mont Blanc lurks in the background at a gigantic 4810m. So why would you want to go on a self-guided walking holiday in the first place? Check out our TOP 10 guide for why we think walking and hiking holidays are amazing:
No.1: The Scenery: We will start with an obvious one. Whether you are staying at a Tasty Ski Company chalet or hiking by yourself anywhere else in the world, the chances are you will stumble across views that you can’t find parking up your car at the side of the road. You often get out of what you put into a walking holiday. You may not feel like it half way up the 1000m+ ascent but when you get to the top of the summit and have a panoramic view of the surrounding area all to yourself you know it will be worth it. We recently had the pleasure of welcoming Dan Burton to stay at Ferme St Christophe in Samoens. Dan is an award winning photographer who has been named the National Geographic Traveller Grand Prize Winner. He was kind enough to let us use his snaps to show off what type of scenery we have in the French Alps.
No.2: Walking is for Everyone: You don’t need to be a 20-something fitness fanatic to enjoy a walking holiday. You can set your itinerary to your ability and take your time. Walking can be enjoyed for many years after you have packed away your squash racket and given your favourite ski jacket to your grandson. There are a number of excellent walking Apps on the market that allow you to plot a GPS route on your phone which will advise how difficult your proposed route is: whether it is suitable for beginners, intermediates, or experts. The Komoot App allows you to download these maps onto your phone meaning you can follow the route without sucking up your phone battery and 4G signal as it only uses GPS.
No.3: Tick off the list: If you like collecting things or are a big on setting goals then a self-guided walking holiday might be for you. There are an endless number of peaks and views that can be added to your bucket list. One of the most famous is ‘bagging a Munro’: a list of Scottish mountains over 3000ft (915m) which are named after Sir Hugh T Munro who surveyed and cataloged them in 1891. Bag all 282 peaks and you can call yourself a ‘compleatist’! In Morzine no serious hiker will leave the area without ticking off the ‘3 peaks of Morzine’: Pointe de Ressachaux, Pointe de Nantaux and Pointe de Nyon – all peaks towering above Morzine with fabulous views of the town and surrounding area.
No.4: Come home fitter – physically: Walking holidays offer a great way to exercise away from the gym. For us we think the best exercise is when it doesn’t feel like exercise. If you wear a fitness monitor then you will be amazed how many calories you will in a day on a self-guided walking trip.
No.5: Come home fitter – mentally: There is something really special about getting into the rhythm of a day hiking on the trails. We think that walking for long periods allows you to get into the ‘zone’ and there is something very therapeutic and meditative about it. Perhaps it’s something to do with being outside in the fresh air or something to do with the repetitive nature of walking that has parallels to a more traditional meditation practise. One of the goals of meditating is to tame the mind’s wandering. There are so many distractions in today’s world and most of the time our minds are jumping from one thing to the next, losing it’s focus. Meditation brings the mind back to the here and now and to a singular, calming focus. We think walking provides this calm, steady focus and we are confident you will return home from a self-guided walking trip feeling refreshed and just a little bit more peaceful.
No.6: You set the pace: On more traditional guided walking holidays you will normally have 1 guide for a group and everyone goes at the same pace. This can occasionally lead to problems if there are different fitness levels in the group or a certain group member really wants to see a certain site which is not on the original itinerary. There is also unfortunately the chance that group members don’t get along with each other but you are stuck together for the whole week! There are no such problems with self-guided walking holidays. You can go at your own pace and add on elements to your itinerary as you wish. Modern walking apps have incredible detail and most can run off just GPS which means it does not run down your phone battery. On our Tasty Ski self-guided walking holidays we supply both physical maps and routes along with a phone App. There are different options for different levels of fitness so you can choose the perfect option for you.
No.7: Spot the wildlife: There is no better way to see wildlife in their natural habitat than on a self-guided walk. You will be out in nature and there is just so much to see! In the French Alps there are some very distinct varieties of animals and birds rarely seen outside of the Haute-Savoie. In particular it is very likely you will see Ibex, Chamois and Marmots on the mountain trails. Ibex are large mountain goats with amazing curved horns, Chamois are the alpine representative of the antelope family, and Marmots are large ground squirrels generally only found above 1000m in altitude. Also if you are considering self-guided versus guided holiday options this is an important distinction. If you are in a group of 12 you will be making more noise on the walking trails which will make it more difficult to see the wildlife in their natural habitat.
No.8: A family activity: Walking is an activity that you can enjoy for your entire life. It is also an activity that that can be enjoyed by the whole family – children, parents, and of course the grand parents! Again exactly what you do will be defined by different ages and fitness levels but you can tailor your itinerary to reflect this. If you have a super keen walker in your group then look at the map or App and you can easily work out how to add on a few kms to your trail. We highly recommend introducing your children to walking and hiking from an early age because it is an activity they can enjoy for the rest of their lives.
No.9: Amazing value for money: Walking is cheap! If you are wearing the right gear and bring plenty of water and a packed lunch then there is not a whole lot else you need. If you start to explore multi day hikes or high altitude walks then you need to look at investing in specific walking boots, rucksacks, walking poles etc. However on shorter self-guided walking trips you don’t need a huge amount of equipment to be out on the trails for several hours. Walking is super egalitarian – if you make the effort to reach the peak then you can enjoy the view. It doesn’t matter how much or little money you have!
No.10: Meet people on the trails: Ok so we have waxed lyrical about how a self-guided walking trip is the best way to surround yourself by nature and get away from the hustle and bustle of reality. But walking adventures are also a great opportunity to meet like minded travellers from all corners of the globe. Famous hikes like the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Great Ocean Walk in Australia and the Pacific Crest Trail in America are all epic trips and everyone will have their own story to tell. Chances are you will make some great friends on your adventure. And if you don’t like someone who you meet – just keep on walking!
So hopefully we have got you a little bit excited about the prospect of a self-guided walking trip. We love everything about escaping into nature and enjoying time out on the trails. Walking and hiking really is life affirming and you will return feeling refreshed both mentally and physically. If you want to know more about Tasty Ski’s self guided walking holidays in both Morzine and Le Grand Massif please click here to go to our main walking page with details on dates, itineraries and prices.