Small group walking travel guide

Small group walking travel guide

2 minute summary

Although walking can be a solitary experience, not everyone wants to go off exploring on their own. And joining a group of like-minded hikers takes the pressure off the organization front. All you have to do is walk, and the rest is all laid on for you. Small walking tours cater not only for people who are happier walking in numbers, but those who really want a shortcut to the cultural and natural highlights of a walking destination. Walking companies are experts at that. They know all the bridleways and byways, secret spots and idyllic views. And the cool thing is that, as a group, you get let in on all the secrets too.

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Logistics are in the bag Group leaders Cameraderie Family fun

Logistics are in the bag

For those who like to switch off their brain on vacation, and indeed before they go on vacation, small group walking vacations are bliss. You just need to turn up and walk. Your itineraries have been created based on years of experience by the tour operator, meals are sorted and your health and safety will be monitored by an expert group leader.

Group leaders

Imagine going into a bar in a remote rural location and asking who would be the best person to show you around. Well, that’s the sort of person who’ll meet you at the airport and share their knowledge and love of a place throughout. They are local people, well trained in remote trekking and, almost without exception, totally passionate about sharing their country’s natural beauty.


Particularly on some of the more challenging treks, it’s great to have a group of fellow walkers with you. First of all, the ‘ups’ seem easier when you have other hikers alongside and, when you start to lag, the camaraderie is always a boost. For trips in wild places you definitely want pals around the campfire or, for more cushy circuits, mates around a Merlot in the bar at the end of the day.

Family fun

Small group walking vacations are great for families, as you don’t have to worry about all the organization, including the all-important food stops for those active but hollow legs. You can take time to walk as a family without having the proverbial map reading domestics, and you can hang out with other likeminded families too, of course.


Big trekking experience Wild places Years of expertise No more lugging luggage

Big trekking experience

If you are going for one of the biggies like the Great Wall of China, Basecamp Everest or the Inca Trail, you can organize it yourself but it will take months. And a lot of good contacts. This is a trip of a lifetime for many, so traveling with a small group makes the big experience just so much easier, saving you time and money with the stress of all that decision making taken out of your hands. Leaving you to focus on getting fit for the trek.

Wild places

There are certain wild places which are nigh on impossible to reach without a group, unless you are David Attenborough, but even he has a team of advisors. Such as Madagascar, where parts of the island are so remote you might need to combine walking with kayaking in order to get to the otherwise inaccessible places. Or Patagonia which is so magnificent, it’s just rude not to share it.

Years of expertise

On a small group walking vacation, you are following in the footsteps of many experts. Responsible walking companies have spent years getting to know every hill and homestay, mountain and mountain guide, bars and backroads. They have seen what works and what doesn’t works, so that you get all the good bits.

No more lugging luggage

Most small group walking vacations take the ease out of luggage worries, as many have your bags transported from one accommodation to another, usually in a minibus or jeep. In some regions, such as Nepal and Peru, there are porters to help too, although this carries with it certain issues, which you can read about in our responsible tourism section.


The beaten track Camera crazy Old walking gear Racing to the top

The beaten track

For every packed peak, there is nearly always another empty one nearby. Same goes for national parks. 70 per cent of Japan, for example is mountainous, yet most people only want to fawn over Fuji. Switched on hikers are heading south to explore Kerala’s Western Ghats instead of the Himalayas, and worshippers of the Camino de Santiago are discovering heavenly spots along Portugal’s Serra de Monchique's ancient paths.

Camera crazy

You know the type, a selfie on every shore or asking everyone to pose for group photos at every headland or, worse, pushing to the front of the group to snap villagers going about their everyday lives in remote mountain spots. And usually without asking which is just embarrassing for other group members who broach the subject of taking someone’s photograph with a little more subtlety and respect.

Old walking gear

It’s all very well being attached to the hiking boots your dad wore, and his dad before that. Or that daypack you have had for years, and stitched up again and again. But sometimes it is OK just to let them go, enshrine them if needs be, and acknowledge the benefits of high tech waterproof and breathable walking gear. With the exception of a fine old handed down hipflask of course.

Racing to the top

The clue is in the name ‘Walking… Vacation’. They are not about getting to the top first, or rounding that distant headland before everyone else. They are for people who want to step into other natural landscapes, explore culture in remote places, and chill on the hills. Who needs the top? There’ll be plenty of highs along the way.

Small group walking vacations


Your small group walking vacation usually begins at airport or station, where you will be met by your leader or leaders for the week. And also your fellow travelers, if you haven’t met on the plane or train already. It is quite fun trying to work out who, on the plane, looks like they might be joining a group about to traipse up the Alps, Atlas or Andes. Small group tour sizes can range from two to 24 travelers, but the usual numbers are between four to sixteen people, although the average is about twelve.
From the airport you will be transported to your first accommodation and, in some locations, you might use public transport for this when that is considered more efficient. At Responsible Travel, we value authentic travel, cultural experiences and the chance to get off the beaten track. Large groups – more than 16– may not be able to use local transport, stay in smaller guesthouses, farmhouses or homestays, or eat in local restaurants. Which is why these vacations tend to stay clear of the coaches. Always check with your tour operator regarding the group size, as these do vary.
You will have been given a detailed itinerary before arrival, but usually the first evening is a good opportunity to hear more about this, meet your leaders properly and also your fellow travelers. Then just hand yourself over to your leaders for the next few days, enjoy the walking, exploration well off the beaten track, find your own pace, savour the landscapes, share some stories (and drinks usually) with fellow walkers, and just chill. On a hill. Which is brill.
Photo credits: [Tob box - Grand canyon: Grand Canyon National Park] [Logistics are in the bag: Erik Brockdorff] [Group leaders: Fresco Tours] [Cameraderie: Madeleine Holland] [family fun: Poul-Werner Dam] [Big trekking experience : Kyle Taylor] [Wild places : NH53] [No more lugging luggage: Bruce Tuten] [The beaten track: Sankara Subramanian] [Camera crazy : m01229] [Old walking gear: Centre for Sustainable Energy] [Racing to the top: Thomas Shahan]
Written by Catherine Mack
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