Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.
Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Cotopaxi climb and trekking vacation in Ecuador
Activity: Few vacations have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a trekking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants and to use markets to purchase traditional gifts and crafts. By paying entrance fees to Cotopaxi National Park, we are contributing to conservation and protection initiatives in this stunning natural environment.
Water: Water is a really important issue with trekking trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling is already a massive problem, so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. We can boil water on trek to facilitate this. We also avoid the use of plastic bags for packed lunches on our trip and opt for locally produced, non-plastic bags instead.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation and Meals: We will spend 9 nights in hotels, 3 nights full-service camping and 2 nights in basic mountain huts with shared facilities. All accommodation is locally owned and staffed, which is of great advantage to surrounding communities in providing alternative employment opportunities- especially in remote, mountainous regions. This also ensures that income earned is re-invested back into the area. Spending part of the trip in non-permanent, low energy accommodation also reduces our carbon footprint of this trip. Most meals are provided with ingredients sourced nearby and where free meals are concerned, clients are encouraged to try some of the locally run restaurants, cafes and markets in the area. A popular street food in mountainous regions is ‘hornado’, which consists of potatoes served with roasted pork. Or you might try a seafood ceviche with lemon and tomato.
Local Craft and Culture: Although we spend most of the time trekking, we have a great chance to explore Otavalo Saturday market. The market is always busy and is one of the most well known in the region. We become accustomed with the pristine traditional costumes of the indigenous people from surrounding villages; women wear embroidered blouses and long wool skirts whilst the men proudly parade their felt hats, navy blue ponchos and calf- length trousers. There are plenty of souvenirs to buy such as Panama hats, exquisite weaving and jewellery or you can relax at a café.
A Fair Deal: We work closely with our local operator and ensure that local guides are being employed and that in exchange for their expertise that they are paid and treated fairly. This way the local area benefits as income stays in the area and goes directly back into community businesses. These tours have been verified by the Rainforest Alliance, which means they have been vetted for ecological, social and economic benefits to the community. The leaders will give a briefing on responsible tourism issues to help you understand how you can help reduce your impact and maximise the benefits to the local people from your visit. Our chefs, sous chefs, camp staff, mule drivers and other transporters are also all locally hired.
Charity: Our local operators support conservation and social projects such as the Verde Milenio Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation in Ecuador. Verde Milenio run environmental education and research projects which contribute towards reforestation, classification of flora and fauna, veterinary control and rescue of native animals. They also donate regularly to a school in Tumbabiro village and help local Afro-Ecuadorian communities like La Victoria by supporting the pottery works which are the basis for their economy.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.