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: Winter walking and snowshoeing vacation in Bulgaria
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. 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 purchase traditional crafts. We also leave behind a positive impact by paying entrance fees to certain areas and sites which contribute to their upkeep e.g. the ‘Devil’s Throat’ cave at Trigrad Gorge, where Orpheus is claimed to have emerged from the Underworld after failing to reclaim his wife.
Water: Water is a really important issue with walking 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. We suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle.
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: You will spend most nights in Yagodina village, which is a traditional rural settlement, known for its self-sufficiency, hospitality and agricultural lifestyle. The hotel is family run and produces some of its own food. By using this smaller, but characterful accommodation, we are improving the employment and income opportunities in this remote community. They endeavour to supply cleints with fresh, locally grown produce and regional specialities, such as Yagodina yoghurt, thick pancakes called ‘katmi’, bean soup- ‘smilyanski fasul’ and ‘patanik’, which is a delicacy made from grated potatoes, onion, cheese and mint.
Local Craft & Culture: This trip really aims to celebrate and share the rural, agricultural lifestyle of the people in the Rodopi Mountains, which in other places has been overtaken by modern life. There are plenty of products in Yagodina which have been made by the villagers which are totally unique to that area, such as food, wine and handicrafts. We aim to support these traditional processes of manufacturing with our commerce. During the trip we also arrange for the local folk dance group to perform for our clients and teach them traditional songs and dances. Again, we pay the folk group a fair wage and they often receive tips from this as well, so we are really making a positive impact on local people.
Charity: We have established our own NGO in the Rodopi Mountains called 'Wild Rodopi', with the aim of researching and conserving the local wildlife and traditional rural heritage. Any clients interested in contributing to the work of this NGO are encouraged to contribute wildlife observations and photos which are then added to the database of local flora and fauna which can then assist local conservation projects.
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.