“An eight day, fully guided winter walking vacation in the French Pyrenees, based in a mountain lodge in Luchon, with five days of walking and snowshoeing.”
Snowshoeing in the Pyrenees | Bagnères-de-Luchon | Vallée d'Oueil | La Feniere | Pic du Gar | Pic d'Aubas | Aneto/Maladeta glacier | Plan de Montmajou | GR10 walking trail | More challenging optional addition of Aigues Tortes National Park
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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: Pyrenees winter walking vacation, France
Activity: We spend the week snowshoeing, which has very limited detrimental environmental impact. Tour guides have lived in the Luchonnais for 25 years or more and are keen to preserve their pristine surroundings by enforcing a ‘leave no trace policy’. This involves being vigilant with proper disposal of litter and being mindful of flora and fauna that we encounter. By promoting this behaviour, we encourage the growth of sustainable tourism in the area, which can benefit locals and wildlife alike. The optional activities provided (skiing and paragliding) are also gentle on the environment and support the local companies running the activities and their employees. On a more general level, our activity in the area also benefits local staff, shop owners, cafes, bars and restaurants.
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: Our accommodation for the week is a private lodge situated in the Vallée du Lys, just a stone's throw from the highest peaks that form the border. For the challenging grade departure, two of these nights at the private lodge are substituted for mountain refuge lodgings. All accommodation is locally staffed, which is of great advantage to the surrounding community in providing employment opportunities. The lodge is also environmentally conscious, ensuring that all waste is separated and recycled wherever possible. All provided meals are freshly prepared with locally sourced ingredients and accompanied by regional wine. One day in the week, there is also the opportunity for clients to eat out in Luchon. There are a number of traditional restaurants, cafes and brasseries serving authentic specialties like hearty soups, cassoulet, fondue and locally produced cheeses. Here, clients can support small businesses in the area whilst getting a dose of local culture.
Local Craft and Culture: Luchon has a regular farmers’ market where locally cured meats, regional cheese, fresh fruit, vegetables and honey can be bought. This is a great opportunity to observe local people doing business and buying produce. Having guides and accommodation staff local to the area is also a great help in accessing and interpreting culture.
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 Pyrenees winter walking vacation, France
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 14 Jan 2008 by Pippa Purser
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
The fantastic group of people that I shared my vacation with... like minded, laugh a minute, make your own fun people! Our free time was even spent as a group, in search of Lucheon's best sledging spots, we were not disappointed!
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Don't skimp on your outdoor gear... good gaiters are a 'must have' item and if you're lucky suncream and sunglasses!
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Our last group activity, on the way to the airport, was a stop off at the local recycling point, where we all chipped in distributing the week's recyclables into the roadside containers! Great stuff!
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Great walks, great food and great laughs, thank you and bon voyage to my fellow travelers!