Solo walking holidays in Europe

Several dozen speckled faces peer over the hill’s crest, considering. I’d taken a seat on Edburton Hill, one of the many high points of the South Downs. Distracted by figuring out which footpath to take back home – foggy valley or sea-view track? – it took me a moment to notice that I was being watched by a 70-strong flock of ewes.

Apparently judging me harmless, one of the sheep skips forward and the rest follow, flowing around me as though I was a strange rock formation. A few get close enough to snuffle at my lunch bag before pushing onwards along the South Downs Way, their feet wearing the chalk into deep paths that have characterised the South Downs for a 1,000 years.

It’s a theme that I’ve found when hiking alone: life goes on around you. An eagle will barely bother to look up from its perch over a trout stream as you watch on. The wild boars will continue crunching their cherry stones in the woods next to you. When you walk respectfully, adhering to your host country’s equivalent of the Countryside Code, you make about as much impact as a fox trotting along the footpaths.

Even better: you make a positive impact that keeps those scenes rolling on. Your presence in rural restaurants, farm shops, pubs and B&Bs ensures that the owners can keep doing what they do.

Small group soloists

But there’s a twist in the tale: some of our best solo walking holidays in Europe are in fact small group holidays. They often have a theme, so you’ll be among a group of people who share a common interest – whether that’s snowshoeing, learning to speak Spanish while on the trails, going on wildlife walks with conservationists, or finishing the day with cooking or yoga.
Lucy Woollons, from our Spanish Pyrenees specialists Aragon Active, says: “People come on our holidays because they’re interested in particular things… By the first or second night you hear them all chatting away about all the places they’ve travelled to, so they’ll automatically get on because they’ve got that common factor… It’s not as though there’s one solo traveller in a group of 15 and they’re feeling a bit left out. It’s quite a tight-knit group.”
Lucy’s partner, Simon, agrees: “What surprises me is the number of guests who have remained in contact with other guests that they’ve made friends with on our holiday. I’ve found that really satisfying... And that’s because they feel a sense of community almost from the word go.”

En famille & bonhomie

For some travellers, asking for a table for one is easy. It’s exciting, even – you’re always more approachable as a solo diner. Your hosts will give you a window seat and come by for a chat. Other diners will lean over and ask you what you think of their village and recommend what to order.

Other travellers can find the prospect of that a little intimidating. Travelling as part of a small group will give you the option of eating as a group if you want to. “We don’t tend to send people off to eat at a restaurant,” says Lucy. “Whether we’re eating out or we’re catering here, people are treated as a group so there’s never any danger of someone being left out. If they want their own space, we’ll give them their own space, but they never have to worry about eating alone… And even the couples look forward to meeting new people. They’re always open… Everyone’s coming hoping to make friends.”
If they want their own space, we’ll give them their own space, but they never have to worry about eating alone.
Our partners Le Moulin du Chemin run walking holidays from an old mill house in Western France. Their single occupancy rooms are as comfy as doubles, with en-suite bathrooms and double beds. Peter Roche, your host, says: “Solo guests need not feel lonely… Each evening all guests are invited to aperitives at 7pm. As well as being a further opportunity to meet the other guests and hosts, it is an occasion to taste and compare the interesting wines of the region.”

Hosts work hard to be inclusive. According to Peter, meals are “en famille” and with “great bonhomie”. They encourage guests to change seats at the table each evening, so that you get to know the whole group. That sense of community extends when you set out on your hikes, too.
Due to the scarcity of people in the region, many local inhabitants relish the opportunity of conversation with strangers.
“Few tourists have yet discovered this region of France as a walking venue and the local population is sparse,” says Peter. “Due to the scarcity of people in the region, many local inhabitants relish the opportunity of conversation with strangers. Our walkers are seen by members of the community as a part of the local culture – we have been providing holidays from the same premises for more than 25 years.”

Language and walking holidays base themselves in language schools that have often been part of the woodwork for years. You won’t be striking out onto your hikes, fumbling through your newly learned Spanish, alone.

Ana Garcia Rodriguez founded Peak Me, and runs our most popular European hiking holiday for solo travellers. She says: “Hardly any English is spoken here, so you get plenty of opportunities to practise everywhere: in the shops and bars. It’s a very small village, so everyone knows the school; everyone is very tolerant.”

Our top Europe walking Holiday

Amalfi Coast walking holiday, Italy

Amalfi Coast walking holiday, Italy

Walk in lemon groves and hillside villages

From £1579 to £2199 8 days inc UK flights
Small group travel:
2023: 18 Nov, 30 Dec
2024: 10 Feb, 17 Feb, 24 Feb, 2 Mar, 9 Mar, 16 Mar, 23 Mar, 30 Mar, 6 Apr, 13 Apr, 20 Apr, 27 Apr, 4 May, 11 May, 25 May, 1 Jun, 8 Jun, 15 Jun, 22 Jun, 29 Jun, 6 Jul, 13 Jul, 20 Jul, 27 Jul, 3 Aug, 10 Aug, 17 Aug, 24 Aug, 31 Aug, 14 Sep, 21 Sep, 28 Sep, 5 Oct, 12 Oct, 19 Oct, 26 Oct, 2 Nov, 9 Nov, 16 Nov, 21 Dec, 28 Dec
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Europe walking or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Real holiday homes

Locally run accommodation is the theme on solo walking holidays in Europe. You can spend the day happily in your own company, knowing that you’ll be welcomed like family when you finish your day’s hike.
Peter, from Le Moulin du Chemin, also recommends that solo travellers stay several nights in one accommodation: “Being at the same hotel for a number of days can be more amicable. You get to know the other members of the group better – and folk on holiday are relaxed and tend to be the easiest to get along with.”
Over in the Spanish Pyrenees, Lucy and Simon have housed travelling hikers in their renovated farmhouse for over a decade. With gorgeous guest rooms and a kitchen where you can learn how to cook Pyrenean recipes, it has the warmth of a family home.
“Our youngest daughter was born here and our oldest was six months old when we arrived,” says Lucy. “They love it: they’re part of the team, really. They help with entertainment, they help with guiding, they help with catering... And we’ve got the dog and three cats. Within five minutes of arrival, we can tell who the dog lovers are.”
Photo credits: [Page banner: Aneta Ivanova] [Small group soloists: Cynthia Magana] [En famille: Fresco Tours] [Real holiday homes: Cat Burston]