How large will our group be?
Our group size is limited to 14 people, so groups are always cozy and intimate. Small groups create a fun, flexible dynamic that's just not possible with a larger number of people, so we strive to keep things small. Just as importantly, we also believe that when you make a commitment to take your vacation with Alpinehikers, we've made a commitment to you to lead the tour. You become our guest. There is no minimum size, and our tours will never be cancelled due to low enrollment (even 1 person is enough), so you can plan your vacation confidently.
What will our accommodations be like?
Whether you're hiking all day or traveling by train, our inns are more than just a place to sleep, they are an integral part of the experience and are among the highlights of our trip. We look for comfortable rooms, spectacular settings, friendly service, and a cozy and authentic atmosphere. The inns we've selected are generally small and family-run, and they all feel good to come home to after an exerting day of hiking. Our inns set high standards for themselves, and everywhere we stop you will find utmost cleanliness and comfort. You honestly won't find better accommodations anywhere. Alpinehikers tours are marked by excellent accommodations at reasonable prices, and you'll agree the intimacy and ambiance of these inns adds immeasurably to the quality of our tours. Our inns are listed on the detailed tour itineraries, and we invite you to compare with other options.
On our inn-to-inn hiking tours, Bernese Oberland Traverse, Hiker's Haute Route, Engadine Traverse and Tour du Mont Blanc, we stay in a combination of distinctive village hotels, mountain huts, and quiet country inns. Country inns (Berghaus in German) are a tradition in the mountains, many dating back to the 1800's. They can be described as simple alpine B&B's, set in remote and beautiful locations. Each one is unique - its atmosphere shaped by the house, the location, and the personality of the owner - and they all share unforgettable character and charm. They have private rooms, and bathrooms and showers are shared. Country inns are a great place to meet other hikers and locals alike, and will likely turn out to provide some of your favorite memories of the tour.
Our inn-to-inn combo tours, Bernese Oberland Highlights, and Dolomites Val Gardena Traverse combine short 2-4 day inn-to-inn stretches with dayhikes from comfortable village hotels. They offer more opportunities for relaxation at very comfortable 3 and 4-star hotels in the villages while including adventurous stretches to remote huts and inns.
On our village-based tours, the Secret Valais Valleys, Jungfrau, Matterhorn, and combined Jungfrau + Matterhorn tours, we stay in very comfortable 3 to 4-star hotels, and take dayhikes each day. These also tend to be small, family-run, and filled with traditional alpine-style ambiance. Many of our hotels are known locally for their excellent cuisine, and the comfort level is very high. You will always have your own bathroom, and will be pampered by the highest standards of service and comfort.
Our most luxurious tour, The Grand Tour is a village-based tour that takes you to three classic hiking destinations in Switzerland. You'll stay in absolute luxury, in the best 4 and 5-star hotels these regions have to offer. The hotels are unforgettable, the spas are impeccable, the cuisine is world-class, and - combined with some of the best hiking on this planet - both are truly memorable splurges for a hiking trip in Switzerland!
What about our meals?
You'll be exercising all day, pleasantly tired, and ravenously hungry! So we'll treat ourselves to some fabulous meals. Our meals are carefully prepared, beautifully presented, and wonderfully satisfying. We might enjoy classic cheese fondue or raclette one night, and the best local specialties the region has to offer the next. With just a few exceptions (noted on the tour itineraries), all meals are included in the price of our hiking tours. We'll start with a rich continental breakfast each morning at our inn, and finish with a multi-course feast in our hotel or a local restaurant every night. For lunch we like to get creative. We prepare a picnic lunch each day, and we take a lot of pride in our hearty picnics, making lunch something to look forward to as well!
What kind of condition should I be in for one of these tours?
A good level of physical fitness is required to enjoy hiking in the Alps. With that said, the Alps and their wonderful infrastructure provide us with a lot of flexibility. Everywhere we go there will be plenty of beautiful places to stop and rest, and most segments can be made longer or shorter by using the trains and lifts that crisscross the countryside. With small groups, and 2 guides (tours of 8 or fewer may have only 1 guide), we can easily tailor our hikes to fit the fitness level and desires of our hikers. Remember though, this is very steep, mountainous terrain - the trails are consistently steeper than most people expect - and flat walks are few and far between. Prior aerobic conditioning is very important and will greatly enhance your trip. Everybody enjoys their trip more if they arrive in shape.
On the inn-to-inn tours, we will be crossing high alpine passes and sometimes staying far away from public transportation. If you are not already in good condition, for you own happiness and safety, and for the smooth procession of the tour, you should start a program of walking and conditioning before joining the tour. Please ask if you have any questions regarding the appropriate tour for you.
What's included in the tour price?
Guided tour prices are per person and include lodging, all breakfasts, all lunches, most dinners, baggage transport between inns (if applicable), ground transport during the tour, selected entrance fees, gratuities and taxes, and daily guided hikes. Unlike some tour companies, we don't expect you to pay for cablecars, busses or trains we take during the course of our hikes, tip the hotel and restaurant staff (we do that), or provide your own meals.
The only things the tour price does not include are drinks with your dinners, personal items, extras charged to your room (like minibar or phone calls), transportation to and from our meeting and departure points, tips for your guides, or insurance of any kind.
I'm traveling alone... can I book a single room?
The published prices are per person based on double occupancy. Singles are very welcome on our tours, and we do have a limited number of single rooms, available on a first-come basis, with a single supplement fee. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room with another hiker, we will do everything we can to match you up with another traveller of the same sex. If that is not possible, however, the single supplement will apply. The single supplement is due with the balance of your tour. Please note that on our inn-to-inn tours, we sometimes stay in huts or lodges with shared rooms, and single rooms are not available for those nights.
We can also accommodate families with children who wish to share a room.
I'd like to bring a group of friends... do you offer group discounts?
Group discounts are always a possibility, even with a group of just 5-6 people, for either our self-guided tours, our scheduled guided tours, or a private trip. Please ask if you are coming with a group.
What about kids?
Switzerland is a huge playground for children, and they are very welcome on our tours. Many of our guided tours, especially the village-based tours and inn-to-inn combo tours, are particularly suited to families. Self-guided tours are a great option for families as well, and we can plan short walks, family-friendly hotels, and a wide array of activities that will be memorable for kids of all ages!
Can you help us get to our meeting point?
Most of our guided tours do not include travel to and from our meeting and departure points (note the Grand Tour already includes a rail pass for airport arrival and departure). For those who need it, we offer a Swiss Card rail pass at subsidized prices. The Swiss Card gives you get free travel on your first and last days, plus 50% discounts on any other travel in Switzerland for a month. It's often less than the cost of a round-trip train ticket to most destinations in Switzerland. Extra travel days and 1st-class passes are also available. Order before June 1st for free shipping to the US, otherwise shipping is $18 per order.
The Swiss Card is a great pass for most all of our Switzerland tours, or if you're planning any extra travel in Switzerland outside of the tour. It will not be useful for members of the Mont Blanc or Dolomites tours, which are mainly outside of Switzerland. Please ask if you have questions about your particular situation and we can help you choose the right pass for your tour.
How about our plane tickets and our extra time in Europe?
The tour price does not include the cost of air travel to Europe. If you're flying from the US, you will need to leave a day early for arrival the next morning in Europe. For your return flight, plan to depart Europe the day after your tour ends, to allow for travel time to the airport. Most people will need to spend a night in their departure city when the tour ends and fly home the next day. If you would like help with this night, we have great choices for 3 and 4-star hotels in Zurich, Geneva and Lucerne. Ask about adding a final night when you're signing up. The hotels we've chosen are some of the best we've found in these cities. They're well-run, affordable, and in great locations. We book these last nights with breakfast only. They're not guided, and you'll be able to explore on your own for dinner before flying home.
We are also happy to help with pre- and post-tour plans. Although Switzerland is our specialty, we have years of experience with other European destinations as well, and can research and arrange independent travel to nearby countries such as Italy, France, Germany and Austria. We can book hotels and railpasses, and help come up with an overall plan that makes the most sense for your European travels.
If you would like help with airline tickets, please contact Yves or Monika Leuenberger of Avenues of the World Travel. Originally from Switzerland, and now based in Flagstaff, Yves and Monika are knowledgeable, helpful travel specialists with years of European experience. Tell them your itinerary with Alpinehikers. They are familiar with our tours and can help you find the right flight, or book travel to other parts of Europe that you would like to visit during your vacation.
How much luggage are we allowed?
One piece of luggage per person will be transported between our inns on our inn-to-inn tours. Additional pieces may be brought for an addtional charge (varies by tour). Extra luggage should not be necessary though - please try to travel light. Many hotels in Europe, especially on our inn-to-inn tours, have many floors but no elevators, and when we travel between villages by train, we will carry our own bags on the journey. So try to keep your luggage down to an easily managable level.
What will the weather be like?
We get this question a lot, and in short, there's no way to really know. In the mountains, weather varies a lot by altitude and can (and does) change rapidly throughout the day. Typical highs during a warm stretch might be in the 80's, rarely warmer, but it can get cold at any time, and it even snows down the 5000' a couple times each summer! There's no predictable difference between the weather in June, July and August, and you should come prepared for anything. September is normally a little cooler, but still with similar patterns. You'll want shorts, t-shirts, sun hat, and other sun protection for sunny weather of course, but also a warm fleece or jacket, rain gear, perhaps gloves and a warm hat just in case.
The best approach is to expect some mixed weather, don't worry about it, and don't try to guess. The weather websites are usually more misleading than useful, focusing only on if there's any rain at all in the region during the day, and usually not accurately telling you where their weather station is. They can be very misleading. And nobody can tell you what it's going to do 4-5 days from now. A normal day might start clear, for instance, and have some clouds building as the morning goes on. Maybe it's in the upper 60's, and we start out hiking uphill from our hotel. Great hiking weather. By lunch there are some clouds and the sun is coming and going, and it's still very nice, but now we're up at 8000' and the wind is picking up. You'll want to put on your fleece as we stop to eat and enjoy the views. By the time we get back to the hotel, it might be sprinkling a little, rain coats come out, and then at dinnertime (when we're inside) it rains pretty hard for 30 minutes, clearing again after dinner.
Of course, often it's sunny for days on end, and sometimes it rains all day as well, but a day like I've just described is pretty common. You'll need a variety of clothes for that day - sun gear, fleece, rain gear. If you look at weather.com, all you'll see is rain, but really we just had a gorgeous day in the Alps. Just come prepared for a variety of experiences.
Isn't Europe expensive right now?
The published prices at the time you sign up are guaranteed for this year, regardless of enrollment or currency fluctuations, so lock up your trip early and you don't need to worry about prices or exchange rates. Group discounts and reduced prices for children are available. We also offer a 10% discount to returning hikers and on the second of two tours taken in one season.
At Alpinehikers, we are committed to offering first-class tours at reasonable prices. We do a lot of things behind the scenes to keep costs down - we keep our staff minimal, design our own brochure, use our own pictures, and answer our own phone, among many other things. What we will never do is skimp on the tours themselves or on your experience. The result is a combination of quality and price that I think is unmatched in Switzerland.
What if our dates don't match, or we don't want a group trip?
Much of our business consists of privately arranged tours, with or without a guide. If you wish to take one of our existing tours as a self-guided option or build a customized tour to the Swiss Alps, give us a call or email to discuss your options. We can work with you individually to create a trip uniquely suited to your needs, from simple inns to 5-star comfort, hiking tours to scenic train tours. If you like to go at your own pace or can't join a scheduled tour, this may be for you. We also arrange itineraries for non-hikers in both city and mountain areas of Switzerland.
Our self-guided tours are both flexible and affordable. Self-guided versions of our scheduled guided tours generally cost about 2/3 the price of a guided tour. We include maps, prepaid hotel reservations (with breakfast and dinner), daily route descriptions, a Swiss transfer ticket or other appropriate train pass, a suggested packing list, instructions for independently sending baggage ahead, and other tips and suggestions to make your trip run smoothly. Basically everything you need, without groups or a guide! You'll find much more info on our Self-guided tours page.
You may also want to consider a private guided tour. We can arrange a guide and a customized itinerary for your group just about anywhere in the Alps, for ultimate flexibility in your itinerary and departure date. For groups of just 5 or more, prices are very similar to our regular guided tours, and private guides can be arranged for just one or two people as well. Please see our Private Guided tours section and contact us if you have a group and are interested in hiring a private guide.
If you prefer to join one of our guided group tours, but can't quite make the full tour dates, please email or call to ask about options. For most of our tours, it's quite possible to do partial trips, joining partway or leaving early. We have tours running most of the time during the summer, and are happy to work with you to find an experience that fits your schedule.
My spouse doesn't hike... is there anything for them to do?
Absolutely, although some tours are definitely better for non-hikers than others. Our village-based Jungfrau + Matterhorn tour offers multiple activities and beautiful views for the non-hiker, and would be great choices if one person wants to hike while the other enjoys the scenery at a slower pace. Our luxury tour, The Grand Tour, also features superb hotel pools and spas. They are certainly encouraged to join the group.
Non-hikers should also consider our self-guided tour options. We offer a couple of self-guided tours, our 8, 11 and 13 day self-guided train tours, that are specifically designed as an introduction to Switzerland and require little or no hiking (although great hikes are always a possibility). Check out our Self-guided tours page for more information.
How do I get ready?
When you sign up, you'll receive a pre-trip packet with suggestions on what to bring and how to arrive at our meeting point. You can view our pretrip packet here. We've also created a page of suggested links for resources to help with plane tickets, rail passes, car rental, suggested reading, and travel and hiking gear. You'll find this on our Travel Gear page. They're all great resources, so check them out.
In order to get in shape for the tour, try to start exercising regularly before you come. Get out on weekends (preferably to hills), start a diet, don't skip the gym. The Alps are steep, and the better shape you're in when you arrive, the more enjoyable your tour will be. Even a little bit of prior training helps a lot!
How much of a deposit do you require?
A deposit of $500 per person is required to make your reservation, and will be applied toward your trip cost. Deposits can be paid by check or credit card. Full payment is due 60 days before the start of your tour, and can be paid by check or credit card. If final payment is not received by the due date, we reserve the right to treat your reservation as cancelled.
After your deposit is received, you will be sent a confirmation of your reservation along with a letter stating your remaining balance and due date. You will also receive a pre-trip packet with detailed information on the trip, directions for joining the tour, suggested clothing and equipment, and other tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip.
Reserve your spot as soon as you're ready to commit to the trip, as space is limited to 14 per tour.
How can I be sure the tour group will be there when I arrive?
This is a question we were asked a lot during our first few years. It's less common now, but is still a question on many people's minds. We are happy to provide email addresses of past travelers who can tell you about their experiences with Alpinehikers. We can also provide contact information for our hotels, so you can confirm our relationship with them.
Paying by credit card is another good way to protect yourself against fraud, and should give you assurance that you're dealing with a merchant that has a professional relationship with their merchant bank with strict oversight and accountability. In addition, there are many reasons to consider trip cancellation and travel insurance, and the policy we've linked to below also covers you in the event of financial default of the tour operator or airline, provided you sign up within 15 days of booking your trip. Always confirm what is covered and what isn't before buying your policy.
And keep in mind that our tours have no minimum size. If you sign up for the trip, we will guide it. For some reason (I'm not sure why), this is unusual in our industry, resulting in many people needing to make frantic backup plans when their tour is cancelled at the last minute. This will never happen with an Alpinehikers tour.
Is there a refund if I need to cancel?
Cancellations must be received in writing (mail, email, or fax), and are subject to the following fees per person.
Cancelling a trip is no fun, and it's also very expensive. Many of our clients have to cancel each year for various and unpredictable reasons. To protect yourself in the event that you have to cancel, trip cancellation and travel insurance is highly recommended. While we always try to be fair to our clients who can't come, we make substantial commitments (to hotels and guides, and by turning people away from sold-out tours) that can't always be reversed at the last minute. And of course you'll have flights and pre and post-trip plans to account for also. So don't forget this important part of your tour.
For US and Canadian residents, I suggest you compare Travel Guard plans and choose among Basic, Silver, Gold or Platinum coverage. Travel Guard has worked well for our tour members for years, and is not that expensive - generally between 3-9% of your tour cost, depending on your age, the cost of your trip, and what kind of plan you get. It's best to buy insurance within 15 days of your initial deposit, which gives you more comprehensive coverage, and the option to buy "cancel for any reason" coverage.
If you are forced to cancel a trip, you can talk to us about rescheduling, or carrying over a portion of your tour cost to a future tour and we'll do what we can to help. But every year we have clients who regret that they didn't get insurance, while nobody ever regrets that they did.
Can I get a printed brochure?
We currently do not have a printed brochure. I apologize for any inconvenience. I will be happy to print information from our website on various tours and mail that to you (the information online is much more up-to-date and comprehensive anyway). You can also view an online version of our 2009 printed brochure, which can give you an idea of the different itineraries we offer.
How do I sign up?
You can find easy directions on our Sign Up page. We accept personal checks or credit cards (Visa/MC/Amex) for deposits and tour balances, so you can feel confident about your vacation investment!
For info on our walking and hiking tours of the Swiss Alps,
call toll free: (888) 509-7810
or direct: (503) 459-3940
Or email: email@example.com
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