How It All Works

How It All Works

Our full program offers options for Walking, Trekking, Cycling, Mixed-Activity, Snow, Cultural & Wildlife adventures.  All tours are either Guided, group departures or Self-Guided, inn-to-inn and single center programs. Each one is a kind of life-changing adventure that introduces you to an interesting and unspoiled corner or the world.

Cultural trips are pure, simple adventures to explore some of the most iconic lands and civilizations on earth.  And nothing beats the thrill of being breathtakingly close to some of the world’s most incredible wildlife on one of our Wildlife Holidays or experiencing the transformed landscapes of glittering snowdrifts on a wide selection of winter tours ranging from skiing to dogsledding, tracking the Northern Lights or snowshoeing.

There are options for every fitness level too, from woodland rambles to challenging mountain and ridge walking and cycling for both the softies and the energetic.  All of our trips feature Activity Level guages as guides to the type of itinerary and level of challenge you can expect to encounter while traveling on our tours. The information below explains what each activity level means, so you can make sure you find the right trip for you.

 

Walking

 All walking tours are either Guided or Self-Guided

We travel the “undiscovered” corners of each region on our walking tours. On hotel-to-hotel walks, you’ll follow a linear or circular route staying at country inns or hotels following detailed route notes and maps. On center-based walks, you’ll stay in one hotel throughout and take walks out and back to the hotel, or use public transport (train, bus, cable car and so forth) to the start of the walk and return to the hotel. As long as you are reasonably active and in good health you will be able to find a walk to suit you. Our walking tours are not intended as an endurance contest, but rather a unique way to experience the countryside. The information below explains what each walking activity level means, so you can make sure you find the right trip for you.

On Guided walking tours, you walk in small groups, with like-minded, mostly professional, people. But no one is tied to a group itinerary, we do our best to find out about everyone’s special interests, and make sure that they have the opportunities to pursue them. Guided tours can be center-based (you stay in a single hotel throughout and take walks each day – sometimes getting to the best starting point by mini-van) or in those cases where the best walks can’t all be reached from a single center, we offer hotel-to-hotel tours. While on an inn to inn walk, our guides provide transport and move the bags and look after your every need and act as walking guides along the carefully chosen routes. Tours are rated according to the grading system indicated in the trip panel.

Our Self-Guided Walks let you discover the heart of your holiday region, in your own way and at your own pace. Self-Guided does not mean unsupported, though. Our local staff greet you at the train station or airport (depending on the itinerary) and take you by mini-van to the first hotel. You’ll attend a briefing session, where our reps will tell you all about the things to see and do, and help you map out a route if you have a special side trip you’d like to make. During the briefing session, you’ll also have a chance to meet any other travelers who are booked on the tour. Although the tours are not intended as a group experience, we find that people often make friends on our independent tours enjoy the opportunity to meet others – but if you aren’t so inclined, you’re free to travel at your own pace. There are rarely more than six or eight people on any independent walking tour, so you can be as sociable, or otherwise, as you choose.

On Self-guided tours, you move on between hotels every two days: we transport your luggage, so you don’t need to carry much more than your camera and a picnic lunch. In-between days are an opportunity for exploring locally, with the help of our detailed maps and notes. You can walk on the off days, or just opt for relaxation!

On Self-guided tours it is nice to know that our staff is only a phone call away if you have any problems!

In addition to our walking program, we offer a whole range of more specialized walking & trekking holidays. Walking and trekking are in our DNA. Our trekking leaders are some of the most experienced hikers on the planet today, and long-running relationships with our local partners in each country ensure we are always giving back to the communities we visit. We use local leaders where possible, staying in locally owned accommodation. Trek Europe’s undiscovered volcanic archipelago in the Azores or follow in the footsteps of the Peruvian Incas as you trek the classic Inca Trail. On our Summit Walking Adventures, combining the rewarding and fulfilling challenge of reaching a summit of a mountain with full support, planning and expert leaders.  Options include ascending Mt Triglav, Slovenia’s highest peak or climbing western Europe’s highest peak in France on the Mont Blanc ascent.

The best way to get a real feel for wildlife is on foot on one of our Wildlife Walking Tours. Remote trekking, wonderful wildlife, local lodges: on our wildlife walking tours you’ll get closer to nature than ever before. You’ll never forget the thrill of trying to be silent as you step over a rustling bush on the jungle floor, trying to catch a glimpse of a nearby creature. You can explore bear territories in Romania or walk the pristine wilderness of the Canadian Rockies, a paradise for photographers and wildlife enthusiasts, but most of all, a haven for walkers.

And lastly, not to be underrated, Snowshoe Walking tours offer the opportunity to explore a winter wonderland on two feet!

Cycling

All Cycling tours are either Guided or Self-Guided

Whether you’re new to cycling or in search of the ultimate challenge, Breakaway cycling trips are the way to go. All our rides are carefully designed with relaxing, low-traffic riding in mind and we offer both fully supported, group guided tours as well as self-guided tours with route notes, maps and luggage moving services included. The information below explains what each cycling activity level means, so you can make sure you find the right trip for you.

On Guided Cycling tours full vehicle support allows us to head straight to the best cycling routes, as well as giving you the flexibility to ride as and when you want to. And relatively smooth surfaces mean we can cover good distances, so joining one of our road cycling tours is a great way to discover an entire country and interact with the locals en route.

On Self-Guided Cycling tours, you travel at your own pace, following the routes we’ve designed and using our maps and detailed notes. We suggest routes using quiet country lanes and go by the places we think are most interesting. There are route options for avoiding hills, and suggestions for detours and off-road explorations. All Self-Guided cycling tours are graded (see below for tour gradings) starting off with just enough exercise to work up an appetite for the next great meal, with longer route options if you’re feeling energetic.

“Self-Guided” doesn’t mean unsupported, though. Our local staff greet you at the train station and take you by mini-van to the first hotel. You’ll attend a briefing session, where our reps will fit you out with your bike, tell you all about the things to see and do, and help you map out a route if you have a special side trip you’d like to make. During the briefing session, you’ll also have a chance to meet any other travelers who are booked on the tour. Although the tours are not intended as a group experience, we find that people often make friends on our independent tours enjoy the opportunity to meet others – but if you aren’t so inclined, you’re free to travel at your own pace. There are rarely more than six or eight people on any independent cycling tour, so you can be as sociable, or otherwise, as you choose.

On Self-Guided cycling tours, you move on between hotels every two days: we transport your luggage, so you don’t need to carry a lot in your panniers (provided). In-between days are an opportunity for exploring locally, with the help of our detailed maps and notes. You can cycle on the off days, or just opt for relaxation!

On Self-Guided tours our staff clean and carefully check every bike before it goes out, so we don’t expect many problems. If anything does go wrong, we’ll come out to your hotel and put it right. And our reps are only a phone call away if you have any problems! We also give you a puncture repair kit. Due hygiene and safety concerns, we do not provide cycling helmets. However, we strongly recommend that you bring your own cycling helmet.

Canoeing

All Canoeing & Multi-Activity tours are either guided or self-guided

The canoeing in France on the Dordogne river is safe, not demanding, and we give you a lesson on handling your canoe (or kayak) before you set off on this self-guided tour. There are no major weirs to carry your canoe round, and the flow of the water does much of the work for you.

On some of our multi-activity trips, we combine activities including white water rafting, canyoning and kayaking along with trekking, mountain biking and even zip-lining!

The information below explains what each activity level means, so you can make sure you find the right trip for you. Give our office a call for help in selecting the right tour for your interests and ability levels.

Snow

All Winter tours are either guided or self-guided

We offer an array of cross-country skiing holidays to suit a wide range of technical and physical levels. Many newcomers imagine that you need to be super-fit to cross-country ski. While fitness helps, a sense of balance and a reasonable amount of coordination are what really count in making the learning process a pleasure.

Walking through snow with the aid of snowshoes is an excellent way to travel through the winter landscape without needing the technical skills of a skier. Snowshoes work by distributing your weight over a larger area so that your feet don’t sink completely into the snow.  Or imagine mushing huskies on a dogsledding adventure across frozen lakes and sharing a bright-eyed smile with Sami reindeer herders…these are the memories that last forever.

Winter Cultural tours and Wildlife tours range from experiencing the Icehotel in Artic Sweden to discovering the Finnish Lapland and the elusive otherworldly glow of the aurora borealis – commonly known as the Northern Lights – described by some as the greatest light show on Earth!

The information below explains what each activity level means, so you can make sure you find the right trip for you. Give our office a call for help in selecting the right tour for your interests and ability levels.

Culture

All Cultural tours are guided

Unearth lost secrets and historical sites on one of Breakaways’ cultural tours. Our planet is covered with ancient archaeological sites created by civilizations relatively unbeknown to the majority of us. But a Breakaway archaeological adventure will unveil their hidden depths and mysteries, with our use of local guides offering the tours an intimate and knowledgeable distinction.

The natural world has the power to enchant, amaze and awe. Our planet is shaped by nature: from the grinding erosion of monumental glaciers and winds that sculpt strange rock formations, to the dense lush ecosystems of the tropics that allow innumerable species to flourish, our landscapes are formed by forces beyond human control – and to understand them, we need to see them. We’ll take you into the heart of the action; thunderous and mighty waterfalls, geysers erupting, a natural wonder tour will take you there.

Time it just right and a festival can make the difference between a fantastic trip and an ordinary one. Our festival tours are designed for a front-row seat for the festivities. And gourmet globetrotters should look no further, our Food & Drink trips will give you your destination on a plate, and a chance to get a real flavor of a country or region.  And for something out of this world – combine your adventure with an incredible astronomical phenomenon – a total solar Eclipse.  These are special, one-off departures never to be repeated, so don’t miss your chance!

The information below explains what each activity level means, so you can make sure you find the right trip for you. Give our office a call for help in selecting the right tour for your interests and ability levels.

Activity Levels

All our tours feature Activity Level gauges as guides to the type of itinerary and level of challenge you can expect to encounter while traveling on our tours. The information below explains what each activity level means, so you can make sure you find the right trip for you.

Our Walking & Trekking, Cycling, Snow and Family adventures have category-specific guidelines, whereas our other trips (Culture, Wildlife and Mixed-Activity such as Canoeing)are covered by our general activity levels.

If you are traveling with children, please call our office for more details on Family adventures and rating categories.

Walking & Trekking Activity Levels

When grading a trip, the following factors are considered, to help you find the comfort level that best suits you:

Length of trek and walking day

Trail conditions underfoot

Level of porterage and support

Average altitude, maximum altitude and average gain/loss per day

Likely prevailing weather conditions and temperature range

Remoteness of local services and general level of comfort

Activity Level: Leisurely Activity Level 1: Leisurely

Experience is not necessary; anyone fit and healthy enough to complete a weekend walk can manage a Leisurely, Level 1 departure. Walks are often optional. Trails are seldom flat, so expect a reasonable amount of ascent and descent. You would normally walk for two to five hours during the day and daily ascents will likely be around 300m to 500m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 600m.

Activity level 3: Moderate Activity Level 3: Moderate

These Moderate, Level 3 departures are either fairly easy medium-duration walks or harder, shorter walks. No experience is necessary, but good health and reasonable fitness are important. Some walking at higher altitude and occasional longer/harder days may be involved, but general underfoot conditions will be fair. A walking day is normally five to seven hours and daily ascents will likely be around 500m to 800m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 900m to 1000m.

Activity level 5: Challenging Activity Level 5: Challenging

Fitness is important at this grade, which compares to extended walking in mountainous terrain such as the Lakes or Snowdonia. High altitudes, climate and remoteness can also play a part. Previous trekking experience is desirable, but not vital if you are confident of your physical condition. Walking days are usually between six and eight hours, although they may be longer for passes or peaks. Daily ascents will likely be around 900m to 1000m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 1100m to 1200m.

Activity level 7: Tough Activity Level 7: Tough

At this level we recommend previous trekking experience, preferably at altitude. You need complete confidence in your ability to trek for many days over difficult terrain. Extremes of altitude and weather may be encountered, as may the use of ice axes and crampons. Stamina is essential as walking days last six to nine hours, or more on occasional days, and daily ascents will likely be around 900m to 1000m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 1100m to 1200m.

Activity level 9: Tough Activity Level 9: Tough+

A Level 9 tour combines all the elements of our Tough, Level 7 itineraries, but includes climbing a glaciated mountain peak. Specialist pieces of equipment like ice axes and crampons will be needed, and you should have experience of using them. Please check the trip notes carefully to ensure that your experience and equipment meets the demands of a Tough+ trip. When climbing, the peak days can be very long and you may be on your feet for 11 hours or more.

Split and optional grades

In order to provide a more accurate grading system, where a trip falls between two grades we use an intermediate or split grade – for example, Level 2 (Leisurely/Moderate). Occasionally there are optional ascents available en route; in this case, the optional grade will be highlighted below the dial.

Cycling Activity Levels

 Please remember that it is impossible to be absolutely precise about how hard a bike ride may be, as there are many contributory factors. The main benefit of grading is to provide you with an overall indicator to compare one cycling trip against another. We therefore look at the following:

Length of ride and length of cycling day

Level of vehicle support

Average altitude and height gain and loss

Temperature range and likely weather conditions

Road/trail conditions

Remoteness of services and general level of comfort

Clearly conditions for a particular cycling holiday may vary from one month to the next. It is not practical for us to give activity levels for each individual departure, but you may like to take this into account before choosing a specific departure date.

Vehicle support (only on guided cycling tours)

On the majority of our guided cycling trips, a support vehicle accompanies the riders. This carries tools and spares, refreshments, your luggage and even, on occasion, yourself. If there is a high level of vehicle support you can confidently book a certain grade in the knowledge that there is back-up should you get tired. Equally, this means that friends or couples of different fitness levels can still enjoy the same trip together.

Activity Level grading system (formerly Grades)

If you want to push yourself, we can provide the challenge, but most of our cycling holidays are exactly that – vacations. In response to customer feedback, we’ve introduced a new grading system to help you select the perfect trip.

The activity level dial offers an immediate illustration of just how challenging the trip will be. Ranging from Leisurely to Tough, the grading takes into account the daily cycling distances and terrain, as well as any technical riding skill required. We also consider the number of cycling days, as there can be a cumulative effect from tiredness on a longer trip, and the type of accommodation used, as this can also influence your day-to-day recovery. The activity levels are equivalent to our previous grading system, so if you’re used to B-grade cycling you’ll be perfectly at home on a Level 3 (Moderate) trip.

If you are in any doubt, please give us a call on 1-800-567-6286, or email us.

Activity Level: Leisurely Activity Level 1: Leisurely

If you can ride a bike and enjoy gentle exercise, these trips are an ideal introduction to a cycling holiday. No routes are entirely flat, so expect some short climbs and descents. Maximum daily height gain is approximately 250m and daily distances rarely exceed 50kms (32 miles) – any longer days are often optional.

Activity level 3: Moderate Activity Level 3: Moderate

Most people who enjoy a weekend riding at home will enjoy a Moderate trip. You need to be in good health and reasonably fit. Ideal for occasional cyclists, or as a more relaxed trip for fitter riders. Moderate off-road trips require no previous experience. Distances rarely exceed 70kms (43 miles) per day.

Activity level 5: Challenging Activity Level 5: Challenging

For any ride at this level, fitness is important. Challenging trips require confidence in your ability and physical condition. They are equivalent to an extended period of cycling at home. Previous mountain biking experience is essential for Challenging off-road trips, as they will involve some technical riding.

Activity level 7: Tough Activity Level 7: Tough

Previous experience of the cycling style or surface is a must, as these routes have long cycling days and tougher terrain on both on-road and off-road trips. You need complete confidence in your fitness and technical ability to cope with difficult or steep terrain, rough surfaces and longer distances. Ideal for those seeking a challenge!

Split grades

In order to provide more accuracy, where a trip falls between two grades we use an intermediate or ‘split’ grade – for example, Level 2 (Leisurely/Moderate).

General Activity Levels (for Canoeing and Culture)

All our itineraries have been graded to help you find the comfort level that best suits you:

Activity Level: Leisurely Activity Level 1: Leisurely

Designed for people who are in good health, enjoy the outdoors and want a relaxing trip packed with interest.

Activity level 3: Moderate Activity Level 3: Moderate

Requires a spirit of adventure and some fitness, as the trip may involve more activities or longer journeys.

Activity level 5: Challenging Activity Level 5: Challenging

Fitness is imperative at this level, as the environment may be more remote and challenging.

Activity level 7: Tough Activity Level 7: Tough

At this level, we recommend previous experience of the activity involved.

Split grades

In order to provide more accuracy, where a trip falls between two grades we use an intermediate or ‘split’ grade – for example, Level 2 (Leisurely/Moderate).

Snow Activity Levels

Information on snowshoeing activity levels and cross-country ski grades is below. All other trips, such as mixed-activity, Northern Lights or winter cultural trips, are set according to the general activity level descriptions as detailed above.

Our grading system works the same in the summer as the winter, as we take the terrain into account when calculating the grades. So, if you have enjoyed a Moderate Level 3 summer trip, choose a Moderate Level 3 winter trip.

Snowshoeing Activity Levels

Activity Level: Leisurely Activity Level 1

Easy activities requiring a little physical effort for a short length of time. Previous experience is not necessary at this level, anyone who is reasonably fit and healthy enough to complete a weekend walk will manage.

Activity level 3: Moderate Activity Level 3

Relatively full days, with four to five hours of snowshoeing, although occasional longer, harder days may be involved. Previous experience is not necessary, but you should be confident of your fitness level.

Activity level 5: Challenging Activity Level 5

Generally, four to six hours a day, with longer ascents and a faster pace in order to complete circular routes. There may be more challenging sections throughout the week and/or more basic accommodation in the evening. Previous experience of mountain snowshoeing and a good fitness level are required.

Cross-Country Skiing Grades

Breakaway offers cross-country skiing holidays to suit a wide range of technical and physical levels. This year we have improved on our old system to be more comparable to the activity levels we use on our snowshoeing, cycling, activity and trekking holidays. Skating technique requires a certain level of competence in classic cross-country skiing, so this retains the original system. The aim remains to create groups of similar ability and fitness. We believe a slightly different system is still required, due to the lessons we provide on our holidays. This sets our cross-country skiing tours apart, as we tend not to need to teach people how to ride a bike or walk! Our descriptions are below, however feel free to call and speak to an expert if you are unsure which grade or type of holiday will suit you best.

Grade 1 Beginners

Equivalent Activity Level: Leisurely/Moderate

A week for complete beginners. Inevitably we start with the basics, including how to stop using the snow plough technique and how to turn. You will be on skis for at least five to six hours a day, with a focus on tuition, getting comfortable on skis and building towards longer tours through the winter landscape. In some centers there may also be some easy off-track skiing. This involves heading off the pre-cut tracks, typically across frozen lakes or snow-covered pastures.

Grade 2 Improvers

Equivalent Activity Level: Moderate

These weeks are ideal for those who have enjoyed at least one Grade 1 holiday and grasped the basics. They offer tuition to refresh and improve technique and typically involve skiing a little further than in Grade 1 weeks, and over more varied terrain (i.e. more ups and downs), therefore requiring a slightly higher level of fitness. In some cases these weeks are acceptable for newcomers to cross-country skiing. Beginners on these weeks should be very fit and proficient in sports that develop balance (ice-skating, roller-skating or roller skiing) and will need to pick up the basic technique quickly. Please contact us if you wish to book a Grade 2 holiday but have not skied before.

Grade 3 Intermediates

Equivalent Activity Level: Intermediates

A Grade 3 week is ideal for those looking to push on, tackle some slightly steeper terrain and cover more ground each day. Typical groups will have a few weeks skiing behind them, be very comfortable with the basics and happy on longer day tours. There will still be tuition on these weeks, at the required level. Our race weeks – Engadin Ski Marathon CME (if doing classic style) and Finlandia Hiihto Ski Race CFX – are also set at this grade.

Grade 4 Advanced

Equivalent Activity Level: Moderate/Challenging

Choose this grade if you can tackle ‘ups and downs’ competently, can manage a controlled snow plough descent and want to ski at a lively pace. You should also be able to get up swiftly and easily by yourself after a fall. The mix of track and off-track skiing varies. Be prepared for long, steep ascents and descents, and for off-track skiing over variable snow. You need good fitness, stamina, and sound and controlled technique. Climbing skins will be needed on some days.

Grade 5 Challenging

Equivalent Activity Level: Challenging

Grade 5 is for experienced, very proficient skiers looking for long, steep ascents and descents, including off-track skiing over variable snow. Good fitness, stamina, and sound and controlled technique is required.

Skating Style Levels

The movement for skating is similar to ice skating or rollerblading. Skate skis are lightweight and shorter than classic skis, with increased ankle support provided in the boots. More physically demanding than classic style, once mastered most skiers find they can pick up speed and travel greater distances at a faster pace than those on classic skis. To join a skating tour it is essential to know how to snow plough (on either classic or downhill skis) and have good balance and fitness.

L1 – Beginners

Recommended for those who have tried classic cross-country skiing, mastered the basics (including the snowplough) and now wish to try the skating style. Generally a faster skiing motion than classic cross-country skiing, you will need to be of reasonable fitness and have confidence on the snow. While not skiing in tracks, you will be on prepared, gradually undulating slopes and cover approximately 10-15km a day.

L2 – Intermediates

Covering more challenging terrain, this level is for those who have already mastered the basics of the skating style and wish to improve their skating technique. Terrain covered will be slightly more challenging and you should expect to cover 15-20km per day. You will be taught techniques to help you increase your speed, perfect for those wishing to take on the challenge of a ski race.