“A week of guided walking in the Albanian Alps, staying in different accommodations along the way, your luggage transferred by horse.”
Tirana | Shkodër | Albanian Alps or Accursed Mountains | Theth National Park | Grunas Waterfall | Tropojë District | Valbonë Pass | Rosi Peak | White Circle | Rosi Peak | Berat UNESCO World Heritage Site | Krujë
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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: Albania walking vacation
Activity: Few vacations have such a low environmental impact as a walking trip. We are vigilant with litter disposal and avoid path erosion by sticking to routes which have been decided by guides. Although much of this trip is spent walking in very beautiful and isolated areas, we also make time for cultural activities. By visiting cultural sites like Berat’s Ethnographic Museum and the 17th century Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren, we are contributing to their upkeep. Our entrance fees go towards maintenance and often clients will buy souvenirs which benefit these establishments and local people.
Conservation: Although we work in very remote areas, where there are not many charities set up, we always support a local organisation called PPNEA (Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania). They are based in Rilindja Campsite in Valbona valley and are currently working on several conservation activities including the ‘Balkan Lynx Recovery Program’. This involves allowing this threatened species to recuperate by setting up monitoring systems and protected areas.
Waste Management: Waste management is a big problem in Albania and so we are very careful not to exacerbate this issue, operating with a ‘leave no trace policy.’ We encourage our suppliers and guides to minimise plastic waste in the mountainous areas by distributing paper bags for waste disposal. In Northern Albania, we can drink water fresh from the streams or taps, so we also encourage our clients to re-fill a bottle or canister to drink from. This prevents the needless buying of several plastic bottles.
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 four nights in alpine guesthouses and four nights in hotels. By using local accommodation, restaurants and shops, we are supporting the community hugely by boosting businesses in low season. Where meals are supplied, we endeavour to use local produce. Otherwise, your guide will be able to recommend places which sell authentic and delicious meals such as baked rice, casseroles, stuffed aubergine and jani meat (beef or lamb sauteed with onions, garlic and spices). The mountainous regions particularly benefit from our commerce due to their remote location so we try to stop at coffee shops run by farmers from their huts.
A Fair Deal: Our guides are all people who live and work in the areas in which we operate our tours. This gives extra support to the local economy and offers our clients a level of expertise which would be otherwise unattainable. For these trips we have also contracted part time farmers and horse owners to help with luggage transportation from one village to the next. We make sure to engage different farmers on a rota basis so that several individuals can benefit from additional income. These people are particularly skilled in that they have explored this terrain for many years and have extensive knowledge of the area.
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.