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: Patagonia walking vacation in Chile
Activity: Our guides enforce a strict 'Leave no trace' policy in National Parks, which involves ensuring that so litter is left behind and that flora and fauna are left undisturbed by our tours. We visit Valle de la Luna and Torres del Paine National Parks. In each case we pay entrance fees which then go towards supporting indigenous communities in surrounding areas and for conservation initiatives. Although much of this trip is spent exploring rock formations, glaciers, lagoons and geysers, we still make time to explore cities and small towns. By giving guided tours of these inhabited areas (Santiago and Valparaíso etc.) we are introducing we are introducing clients to aspects of Chilean culture and supporting the employment of a local guide.
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 use a variety of hotels for 8 nights of the trip and mountain refuges for 4 nights. All accommodation is locally staffed, which helps to keep money in the community. This is especially significant in the more remote areas which we encounter on the tour. We try to select accommodation with strong environmental policies, like the Refugio Torre Central in Torres del Paine, which uses renewable solar and wind power. They also have tight recycling regulations and a system which cleans and re-uses water from the showers and toilets. Most meals are provided in lunch boxes and consist of fresh, locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. Guides encourage guests to spread their commerce to a variety of local restaurants in the evenings as this is more authentic and helps the economy. Chile is well known for barbeques and wine but they also have several micro-breweries and some wonderful, local seafood.
Local Craft and Culture: There are several local craft and food markets on this tour which sell traditional handicrafts and regional delicacies- like in San Pedro de Atacama and Punta Arenas. These are great opportunities to support small vendors and get in insight into daily life for many locals. Handmade earthenware, painted pottery, brightly woven textiles and intricate jewellery are all common items. At the Central Market and Vega Central in Santiago it is possible to buy and eat an array of colourful, fresh local food- fruit, ice cream, empanadas, completes, shellfish and sopaipilla.
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.