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: Picos mountains walking vacation in Spain
Activity: Few vacations have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a walking 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. Your local guide knows the Picos so well that you will be able to take unmarked routes and avoid other groups entirely.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 shops to buy handicrafts.
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 spend the week at the small, family-run Hotel Torrecerrando, which is just three minutes from the centre of the rural village of Arenas De Cabrales. It is ideally situated for anyone wishing to visit the Picos de Europa National Park or the beautiful beaches and fishing ports of the ‘Costa Verde’. As well as being predominantly locally staffed, the ingredients used for meals come from the village and surrounding areas. Meals provided are plentiful and a great chance to get in touch with cuisine in the Picos. The area is famous for its gold-medal-winning blue cheese, Queso Cabrales, which is matured in some of the thousands of deep limestone caves that dot the hills. Lesser known, but equally appealing is the local lamb Cordero al la Menta and a wholesome bean stew, Fabada Asturiana. Fresh fish comes from the coast at Llanes and Ribadesella, half an hour's drive away.
Community: We support the community by using businesses in the village. Due to its location, our using local restaurants (at least one a week is scheduled), buying from local shops and using local transfers, is a very important source of income for many people here. Even profit made from buying locally produced souvenirs is significant for artisans in the village; handmade clogs, pottery and walking sticks are all on sale. Day 5 is free and often clients use this time to try an optional excursion, like caving, canoeing and canyoning. Again, this brings business and income to many companies in the region.
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.
Reviews of Picos mountains walking vacation in Spain
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.
I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 08 Jun 2014 by Alison Grant
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
The views from the high Picos; the varied, lush, green landscape; the amazing wildflowers…the walks were very diverse and a great introduction to a beautiful area led by an excellent and informative guide.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
The terrain and weather is variable - be prepared for a variety of conditions underfoot.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Yes, the hotel made an effort to source local food and it is small and family run. A group vacation is also pretty travel efficient.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
This vacation was great - the combination of a very friendly welcoming hotel with excellent food, the knowledgeable, engaging and good humoured guide and the variety of walks combined to make this one of the best vacations I have had in ages.