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 cycling vacation
Water: Water is a really important issue with cycling 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 use the fresh water springs beside the road to re-fill a singular container. These springs are clean and are a wonderful resource for reducing waste.
Activity: Few vacations have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a cycling trip. Leaders ensure that clients stick to agreed path in order to minimise our impact. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints (or tyre tracks!) although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants, use markets to purchase traditional gifts and crafts and get a real impression of the country.
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.
Local Crafts and Culture: Under Edvar Hoxha Albania became a self-sustaining country due to its isolation to the world. However due to the lush fertile valleys, fresh mountain springs and Mediterranean climate, they are still very much a subsistence culture and show very little signs of changing. Guests know that most things are produced locally and are encouraged to purchase crafts and produce locally everywhere they go.
Accommodation and Meals: We try to ensure that we use locally run accommodation serving locally sourced produce as much as possible. In Germenj we stay in Sotira Farm that is nestled in a tranquil valley, with fresh water running down from the mountains. It is also a self-sustainable trout farm, so you may find dinner to be fresh from the stream. In Benje we stay in a guesthouse that is only a few kilometres from the thermal springs and Ottoman bridge. Run by a local family dinner will often be taken out on the veranda where you will be served their own homegrown produce. Where meals are not supplied, your local guide can recommend a number of good restaurants in the area. Meat dishes are often goat or lamb, with fish dishes ranging from trout to whitebait. Courses often come in mezze form complimented with a variety of succulent vegetables, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses, wines and of course, raki.
Charity: In Gjirokaster, a UNESCO designated city also known as the city of 1000 steps, we help each year with a direct financial contribution to maintenance. The buildings and structures in Gjirokaster are largely made from very old stone and so the locals in particular have trouble with damage to their roofs. As collapsed roofs are very costly to restore and UNESCO do not allow a cheaper alternative, we help annually with a monetary donation to ensure the locals do not suffer and that the re-building is in-keeping with the rest of the city.
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.