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Explore the World
One Step at a Time®

Expert, Local Guides

Experienced travelers know: the quality of your guide can make or break a tour. When it comes to connecting with a destination, nothing tops seeing it through the eyes of a local. Our trip leaders are eager to introduce you to the people, places, and traditions that make their home unique, whether that means chatting with an oyster farmer beside his beds in Croatia’s Mali Ston Bay or identifying wildflowers in Glacier National Park. As experts in diverse fields—from biology to world history to architecture—our guides are adept at sharing their insights. And since they’re with you 24/7, you’ll have ample opportunity to learn from them. As a result, you’ll enjoy a perspective on local life most visitors never know: the view from the inside.

Below are a few of the accomplished and accommodating guides you’ll meet on a Country Walkers Guided Walking Adventure.

Pol O'Colmain
Pól O’Colmain

A native of Great Blasket Island on the Dingle Peninsula, Pól got a taste for guiding while helping his family ferry visitors back and forth from the mainland. “People had all these questions about the island,” he says, “so I began taking them around…talking about the history, the literature, the flora and fauna.” He was quickly hooked. An artist, musician, poet, storyteller, and folklorist, Pól loves bringing his passions to bear on the trail. “They perfectly complement my love of nature, my homeland, my language, and culture.” So what are his favorite spots to reveal to guests? “Both the Burren and Connemara are so magnificent,” Pól says. “To walk in these places—filled with resonances of the past, quiet, empty, yet filled with life—is a gift.”

Travel with Pol:
Ireland: Connemara & Galway Bay >
Francesca Assandri
Francesca Assandri

A native of Genoa, with Piedmontese ancestry, Francesca’s profound knowledge of the region’s history, passion for nature, and enthusiasm for Italy delight guests. “I love people, love Italy, and love to talk!” she says. “My friends always joke about the number of words I can squeeze into a day.” You’ll be grateful for that talent when she’s revealing the geology of a region (her major in college), or sharing her family’s recipes for pesto, fish, or focaccia. “I always try to ‘transport’ my guests back in time,” she says. “I love talking about the ancient families and traditions of the small towns and castles, about the farmers and how they shaped the land.”

Travel with Francesca:
Italy: Piedmont >
Mark Kutolowski
Mark Kutolowski
United States

Having grown up exploring the woodlands of northern New England, Mark brings a special passion for naturalism to his trips with Country Walkers. “I’m fascinated by ecology,” he says, “and the ways in which people from earlier times lived in relationship with the land.” His zeal is easy to see: when he’s not highlighting the 150 wild plant species he’s tasted in the region, he’s sharing tidbits from the wilderness survival classes he teaches at Dartmouth College. His interests range to the profound as well. “I love walking through Vermont’s deep, cool hemlock forests, alongside a rocky stream bed,” he says. “That sound of the stream flowing over the rocks, the deep moss, the newly sprouted mushrooms—it really is like something out of a fairy tale!”

Travel with Mark:
Vermont: Fall Foliage >
Maine: Acadia National Park >
Juan Carlos
Juan Carlos Yañez Choquehuanca

Guiding runs in the family for Juan Carlos, who first became interested in the field while watching his father lead trips. “His passion triggered my own,” he says. “I just had to follow in his footsteps. The man became my mentor.” Trained in his mother city of Cusco, Juan Carlos enjoys sharing his vast knowledge and love for his ancestral culture, as is evident from his enthusiastic smile and warm sense of humor. Though Juan Carlos loves introducing guests to the mysteries of Machu Picchu—“such an enigmatic, mystical setting,” he says—he has a special passion for acquainting guests with the rural villages of the Patacancha region as well. As he puts it: “The cultural wealth of these people, who keep ancient Inca traditions alive for centuries, is spectacular.”

Travel with Juan Carlos:
Peru: Machu Picchu & the Sacred Valley >
Madeleine Bellcroft
Madeleine Bellcroft
New Zealand

Madeleine Bellcroft or “Maddy” is a woman of many talents and interests, having worked in the areas of culinary arts, conservation, and outdoor education before becoming a guide in her native New Zealand. She enjoys yoga, rock climbing, skiing, and kayaking and has endless stories to share as she has skied in Antarctica, taught English in Nepal, flown a helicopter, and cooked dinner for the King of Malaysia!

Travel with Maddy:
New Zealand: The South Island >