Mountaineering in the Andes: 5 Summits for Beginners

People often associate the Andes with the Aconcagua mountain (6,960 m) in Mendoza. The highest peak in America —and also the highest in the world, outside Asia— is a pretty challenging climbHowever you don’t need to climb Aconcagua to peak the Andes. What you do need is a good fitness level, good gear, a good guide, and picking the right mountain. That’s of course where we come in. If you are just starting out in the mountaineering world and want to tackle one of the stunning Andean summits, then we say you can. Below are our five picks for you to start!

All the guides that we recommend will be there to help you every step of the way in order to make your experience all the more safe and enjoyable. And when you reach the top you will definitely feel like a hero!

1.  Villarrica Volcano (2,847 m) in Chile
andes villarrica
Villarrica Volcano, Chile PH: Nicolás Palma Meyer

The Villarrica Volcano, still alive and kicking, is located in the Villarrica National Park in the Chilean Araucania region.  Also known by its Mapuche name, Rucapillan (strong spirit), it was regarded as a volcano related to nice dreams and good weather. Perfect for first timers who want to try mountaineering in the stunning Andes, and who want to take back home a picture of lava! The ascent of this 1400-meter peak takes approximately 5 hours which means that you can tackle the summit in either a one day Villarrica ascent, or a two day climbing excursion. Not only will you get a chance to put your mountaineering skills to practice, you will also get a chance to see both snow and lava coexist.

Best time of the year to climb the Villarrica? The warm months that span from November to April.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Villarrica.

2.  Lanin Volcano (3,747 m) in Argentina/Chile
Andes Lanin
Lanin Volcano in the Andes, PH: Luis Fabra

The Lanin Volcano (3776m) is accessed via Argentina but is located on the border with Chile, also in the Villarrica area. Because it is a higher peak, and the terrain involves walking through a forest, over volcanic rock and in deep snow, the ascent is a little longer than to the top of the Villarrica Volcano. Ascents usually take two days. For example you can try this 2-day Lanin climbing trip, or this 3776 meter ascent to the Lanin Volcano. Whichever you choose, you are bound to have a great guide that will help you make your mountaineering experience in the Andes unique as you climb up the beautiful Lanin!

Best time of the year to visit Lanin? The warm months between November and March, although winter ascents can be combined with skiing as well.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Lanin.

3. Nevado Pisco (5,752 m) in Peru
andes nevado pisco
Nevado Pisco, Peru. PH: Octavio Salazar Obregon

The Nevado Pisco mountain in Peru is part of the Cordillera Blanca, which translates to “white range”. As can be expected, this segment of the Andes is covered in ice and snow!  The Pisco, of course, is no exception, and at a height of 5753 meters, it proves an interesting challenge for those starting out and looking to work their way up!  Of course, it requires a few days of hiking and a good guide to get to the top of this exhilarating terrain.  This 3-day Nevado Pisco climb expedition is a great option, as is this Nevado Pisco climb with base camp. In both cases, the professional support of a trained mountain guide will make the climb enjoyable and safe even when it gets challenging. Plus, you will get the chance to explore some stunning landscapes that include waterfalls and glaciers! We also recommend that you consider some previous acclimatization time.  A good idea would be to try some short hikes from Huaraz before going for the Nevado Pisco.

Best time of the year for Nevado Pisco? April through September.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Pisco. 

4. Illiniza North (5,126 m) in Ecuador
Illiniza North in Ecuador, PH: Fernando Iza

A little further up the Andes are the stunning Ecuadorian Illiniza twins. Located near Quito, these two volcanoes attract mountaineers year round, with Illiniza North being the lowest and easiest of the two to climb. It is 5126 meters high and ascents usually take at least two days with an overnight stay at the lovely Nuevos Horizontes hut. Going with a good guide who can show you the ropes is ideal, especially since one part of the ascent involves some fun scrambling! On this 2-day guided trekking program you get some great tips for your ascent. Otherwise, this 2-day Illiniza challenge is the best option for beginners looking to take their mountaineering skills to the next level! Whichever way you decide to get to the summit, the Illinizas are sure to dazzle you.

Best time of the year for Illiniza? Year round, but dry months of December, January and February are best.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Illiniza.

5. Huayna Potosí (6088 m) in Bolivia
Andes, Huayna Potosí
Huayna Potosí, Bolivia. PH: Eduardo Mamani Quispe

Huayna Potosí is one of the jewels of the Cordillera Real region in the Bolivian Andes. At 6088 meters, it is the highest mountain on our list, and also the most challenging. Some people climb it in two days, we recommend doing it in three. In fact, we suggest you spend some time acclimatizing before your trip. A good idea would be to try out some day trips from La Paz or at least spend a few days there! Then you can set off on this Huayna Potosí 3-day ascent, for example, where you’ll also get the chance to practice some skills at a nearby glacier before the actual ascent. Otherwise, this Huayna Potosí excursion can be arranged to fit either a 2-day or 3-day schedule. Whichever your choice, trained mountain guides will make sure this mountaineering trip is worth every second of your time! The stunning views of the altiplano, Lake Titicaca, La Paz and more, are not to be missed.

Best time of the year to visit Huayna Potosí? May to September.

Check out our mountaineering trips in Huayna Potosí. 

Ready for a unique challenge to the top of one of the Andes summits? Start training, start planning, start packing, and get ready to run out of breath as the stunning landscapes take your breath away.

A guide to outdoor adventures in the mountains of Slovenia

Nestled between Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, and with a short coastline to the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia may easily fly under-the-radar when it comes to top European travel picks. However, this small country ―the very first Green Destination in the world as declared in 2016― boasts a surprising diversity of landscapes and is becoming the ultimate year-round destination for outdoor lovers.

From the stunning peaks in the Julian Alps to the fairy-tale glacial lakes and turquoise rivers around Bled, Slovenia has it all.

To help you plan your visit to this fascinating central-European country, we’ve come up with a broad selection of programmes from IFMGA-certified mountain guides. Take notes and get inspired!

SUMMER | SPRING
1. Hiking in Triglav National Park

 

Hiking in Slovenia
Hiking traverse in Triglav 7 Lakes Valley. ©Gregor Kofler

Triglav National Park is the only protected area in the country, covering most of the Julian Alps mountain range. In northwestern of Slovenia, on the border with Italy, the Julian Alps are a popular hiking and climbing area, with peaks over 2500 meters, beautiful green valleys, gorges and the famous Bohinj and Bled lakes.

At the heart of this National Park you’ll find Slovenia’s jewel: Mount Triglav (2864 m). Triglav is the highest peak in the country and also a powerful symbol that is even pictured on the national flag. Even though climbing Mount Triglav is the most popular mountaineering challenge in the country (you can find everything about the ascent here), there’s a lot more going on the area.

These scenic Slovenian mountains are the perfect destination for a hiking trip. There are many options, from short day trips for those traveling on a tight schedule, to multi-day hiking traverses. Long trips generally involve staying at a mountain hut and reaching the summit of Mount Triglav.

Explore the beautiful mountain landscapes of the Julian Alps! Check out all our options for hiking trips in Triglav National Park.

2. Rock climbing around Bled
Rock climbing in Mt Triglav
Climbing a route for beginners in the north face of Mount Triglav. ©Gregor Kofler

Slovenia is an outstanding destination for rock climbers. With three different mountain ranges spread across the country ―the Julian Alps, the Karavanke Mountains and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps― there’s a huge amount of walls to explore. Again, Mount Triglav takes most of the credit here, with its impressive North Face, a mythical 1000 m wall with hundreds of climbing routes.

Bled ―a mountain town 45 minutes away from Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital city― is a great starting point for a rock climbing trip, as it has an easy access to all the Slovenian mountains. In fact, some interesting crags can be found at only 5’ drive from town. There are climbing routes for all levels, from beginners to advanced climbers. Even children can take part! The best period for rock climbing in Slovenia goes from May to October.

Ready for an exciting mountain adventure? Check out all our options for rock climbing around Bled.

3. Via ferrata around Kranjska Gora

 

Slovenia via ferrata
A via ferrata in Mount Prisank: one of the most scenic in the Julian Alps. ©Gregor Kofler

Via ferratas (protected climbing routes) are becoming quite popular in Slovenia. Thanks to the use of steel cables, ladders and bridges, inexperienced climbers are able to reach high summits in a safe way and get to enjoy the mountains from a unique perspective.

From the town of Kranjska Gora ―close to the Austrian and Italian border― it’s possible to reach many via ferrata routes. There are different levels of difficulty, but usually children are allowed to take part. This makes via ferrata a great activity to share on a family trip! Our advice: always climb via ferratas in the company of a mountain guide: they will provide the necessary equipment and teach you the basics to progress in complete safety.

Sounds interesting? Check out all our options for via ferrata trips around Kranjska Gora.

4. Canyoning trips around Bled
Canyoning in Slovenia
Adventures full of adrenaline in the Slovenian rivers. ©Gregor Kofler

Slovenia has one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe: the Soca river. With emerald waters meandering through the mountains, scenic waterfalls and deep gorges, this river and its tributaries are the perfect setting for water sports, canyoning included.

If you’ve never heard about canyoning before, just picture a mix of jumping, scrambling, swimming and rappelling, all this is in a natural pool. There are different levels of difficulty, from canyoning trips oriented to beginners (where children from 8 years old can take part) to more extreme adventures for those seeking a real challenge.

Starting from Bled —and also from other locations, like Bovec— you can find different canyons to explore the Julian Alps’ rivers. Whether you are traveling with friends or family, this exciting and fun activity will certainly spice up your trip, adding a strong dose of adrenaline.

Enjoy an aquatic adventure in Slovenia! Check out all our options for canyoning trips around Bled.

WINTER
5. Winter mountaineering in the Julian Alps and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps
Winter alpine climbing in Slovenia
A winter alpine climbing course is a great chance to learn how to move safely in snow and ice. ©Tomaz Jakofcic

Summer and spring are the best seasons for a mountain trip in Slovenia. However, when the winter season arrives, the peaks are covered in snow and ice, providing an exciting alpine experience and adding an extra difficulty to regular ascents.

There are many options for winter mountaineering trips in the peaks of the Julian Alps and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, ranging from winter ascents to Mount Triglav to several-day courses. Some of the basic skills for winter mountaineering include the use of crampons and an ice axe, as well as orientation and avalanche training.

Ready to venture on a winter climbing traverse? Check out all our options for winter mountaineering trips in Slovenia.

6. Ski touring in Triglav National Park
Ski touring in Slovenia
Skiers on a hut-to-hut ski touring trip in Triglav National Park ©Mitja Sorn

During winter, the unspoiled terrains of the Julian Alps offer an off-the-beaten-tracks ski experience. Inside Triglav National Park lies Vogel, a small ski resort with amazing views of Lake Bohinj, providing great possibilities for off-piste skiing, with little infrastructure and less crowds.

Those seeking bigger adventure can join a hut-to-hut ski tour, or several-day ski touring trips traversing different areas inside Triglav National Park. There are different options for beginners and seasoned skiers.

Join a ski touring adventure with a local mountain guide and discover Slovenia’s hidden gems! Check out all our options for ski touring trips in Triglav National Park.

Beautiful mountain towns surrounded by alpine landscapes and exciting outdoor activities all-year-round put Slovenia right into every traveler’s bucket list. Contact a certified mountain guide and get ready to explore this amazing country!  

Top 5 off-the-beaten-track mountain destinations for the winter

Winter is coming in the Northern Hemisphere and ―for outdoor lovers― it’s an exciting time of the year to enjoy all kind of activities: from skiing on unspoiled terrain to ice climbing on amazing frozen waterfalls. So whether you’re a seasoned skier or climber, or you are planning an active family trip at a snowy location, we at Explore-Share may have just what you’re looking for. There are many under-the-radar destinations offering unique experiences away from the crowds.

Feeling adventurous? Check out our picks for the best off-the-beaten-track mountain destinations for this winter and get inspired!

1. POLAND

A climber going up an icefall in the High Tatras. ©Miki Knizka

This central-Europe country has a lot to offer to those seeking beautiful landscapes and a rich culture. Heading to the south, the border with Slovakia is home to the Tatras Mountains, the highest range in the Carpathians. Zakopane, a town next to the ‘Tatras National Park’, makes an excellent starting point for winter activities and is often regarded as ‘the winter capital of Poland’. Here’s our selection for a winter trip to Poland:

Ski touring in the High Tatras. Explore the Tatras while staying at a different mountain hut every day. Valleys, steep ridges, high mountain passes and wonderful views will be part of the trip.

How long: 5 days. | Level: Intermediate. You need to have some previous technical knowledge and experience. | Best time to go: February – March.

Ice climbing course in the High Tatras. Frozen waterfalls and gullies are the attractive setting for this ice climbing trip, ideal for adrenaline seekers! A certified mountain guide will teach you how to use crampons and an ice axe and ensure you make your first climbs safely. 

How long: 1 or several days. | Level: Intermediate. Suitable for beginners, though having some rock climbing experience may help. | Best time to go: December to February.

2. BULGARIA

Snowshoeing in Bulgaria’s Rila Lakes. ©Lyuben Grancharov

This mountainous country to the east of the Balkan Peninsula boasts an incredible variety of natural beauties and is considered one of the cheapest destinations in Europe. Sofia ―Bulgaria’s capital city, at the foot of the Vitosha massif― is the best place to set out on short trips around the country. Snowshoeing trips and ski touring trips are great options for the winter!

Hut-to-hut ski tour in the northern Pirin Mountains. This section of the Pirin Mountains (a mountain range in the southwest of Bulgaria) is one of most remote and less-visited. Together with a mountain guide, you’ll get the chance of skiing a wide variety of terrain, from powder snow to slush. Plus, you’ll stay at different high-altitude mountain hut each night. Pure mountain enjoyment!

How long: 3 days. | Level: Intermediate. It’s not necessary to be a seasoned skier (the trip doesn’t entail technical difficulties), although you should have a good physical condition. | Best time to go: March – April.

Snowshoe tour in Rila Lakes. The Seven Rila Lakes are some of the most stunning landscapes in Bulgaria. In this area, you’ll also find the highest mountains in the country. Snowshoeing is a great way of exploring these glacial lakes (some of them frozen) and its surroundings from a unique perspective.

How long: 1 day. | Level: Easy. It’s accessible to almost everyone! | Best time to go: January to April.

3. SLOVENIA
The impressive Mlacca gorge in Triglav National Park, an ice climbing playground. ©Luka Strazar

This beautiful small country in Eastern Europe is a haven for those who enjoy the outdoors. On the border with Italy, the Julian Alps offer endless activities for mountain lovers. While many people travel to Slovenia during summer to enjoy hiking and climbing, winter is also a great time for a ski touring or ice climbing trip. The scenery changes dramatically and turns into a frozen paradise. Bled ―a picturesque mountain town― is the ideal starting point for trips around Triglav National Park, where you’ll find Slovenia’s highest and most iconic peak: Mount Triglav. Here are our favorite trips for this winter:

Ski touring traverse in Triglav National Park. If you want to explore Slovenia’s only protected area on skis, this trip is for you! This amazing traverse will take you across the Julian Alps, from the town of Bohinj to the village of Mojstrana. Is there anything better than discovering the best spots with a local mountain guide? Hurry up and start booking your next trip!  

How long: 4 days (there are options for 3-day or 5-day trips as well). | Level: Intermediate. | Best time to go: January to April.

Ice climbing course for beginners in Mlacca gorge. Slovenia’s frozen waterfalls are an incredible setting for an ice climbing adventure. Looking for an adrenaline-filled activity? Take this course for beginners, learn the basic techniques with a certified mountain guide and get started! Mlacca gorge is a 40-meter high icefall, inside Triglav National Park.

How long: 1 or several days. | Level: Intermediate. | Best time to go: December to February.

4. JAPAN (RISHIRI ISLAND, HOKKAIDO)
Backcountry skiing in Rishiri Island, a unique experience. ©Toshiya Watanabe

Traveling to Japan in winter means magical landscapes, less crowds and world-famous powder snow! Hokkaido ―Japan’s northernmost island― is known as one of the best ski destinations in the world. However, you can travel even a little further to the north and visit the amazing Rishiri island. This small island with a volcano at its center (Mount Rishiri) provides an authentic Japanese experience and can be the setting for fun winter activities like ski touring and snowshoeing. You can get there by plane from Sapporo or take a ferry from Wakkanai (north of Hokkaido).

Backcountry skiing in Rishiri. Picture yourself skiing down  from the summit of Mount Rishiri, with the sea at your feet, enjoying amazing powder snow and with the whole deserted mountain just for you. What more could you possibly ask for? Well, there’s something more: delicious Japanese cuisine and an onsen to relax after the ski trip! 

Need more inspiration? Read this article of a backcountry ski experience in Rishiri. 

How long: 1 or several days (there are options of 3, 4 and 5 days). | Level: Intermediate. | Best time to go: January to March.

Snowshoe trekking at the foot of Mount Rishiri. Explore the unspoiled forest at the base of Mount Rishiri while walking on snowshoes! This is an easy and fun way of enjoying this Japanese Island. It’s a great plan for families, as children from 6 years old are allowed to join.

How long: 1 day. | Level: Easy. You don’t need any technical skills. | Best time to go: December to April.

5. NORWAY
A group enjoys a ski touring trip in the Lofoten Islands. © Seth Northern Alpine Guides

Norway is the ultimate destination for an otherworldly winter adventure, with many exciting options from ski touring trips to ice climbing. Glaciers, fjords and jagged peaks compose the extreme landscape of this country on the west-coast of the Scandinavian peninsula.  During the winter season, days are shorter and darker. One the highlights of traveling to Norway at this time of the year is watching the famous northern lights (also known as Aurora Borealis) in the north of the country. Here are some trips to inspire you:

Ski touring trip in Lofoten. Lying in the north of the country, the Lofoten Islands are a wild destination of snowy peaks and deep fjords stretching into the waters of the Norwegian Sea. Ski touring from the top of the mountains down to the ocean is an amazing experience that you will never forget

How long: 7 days. | Level: Intermediate. From first timers to experienced skiers, the trip can be adapted to your skills. | Best time to go:  February to May.

Ice climbing and northern lights tour in the Lyngen Alps. As we said, winter is the best time to watch the stunning Aurora Borealis and the Lyngen Alps ―in the north of the country― are the perfect location to live this magical experience! But besides that, winter in Norway is also great for ice climbing, as there are many fascinating icefalls to discover. So what about combining these two things into one mind-blowing trip? That’s what this is about!

How long: 1 or several days. | Level: Intermediate. There are ice climbing routes for beginners and advanced climbers. In both cases, you need to be in good physical condition. | Best time to go:  November to March.

Bonus: Ski touring at night in Finnmark. Finnmark is the northernmost region of continental Europe. For this unique ski touring trip, you’ll be based in Alta, a town known as ‘the city of northern nights’. During winter, most of the day is framed by a blue light, turning everything into a surreal experience. You’ll be skiing under that special light and once it gets completely dark, we’ll wear some headlamps and keep enjoying! 

How long: 7 days. | Level: Sustained. You need to be able to walk between 4-5 hours per day and have an advanced ski level. | Best time to go:  December to April.

Close to the Arctic: night ski touring in Finnmark. ©Fred Buttard

Already planning your next winter trip? Check out all our programmes from certified mountain guides around the globe and make your choice!