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, travelling 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 holiday, 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 travellers’ 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 holiday 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?
Travellers 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 holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
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 travellers 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 travellers!”
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 travellers 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: Puglia and Basilicata walking holiday in Italy
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a trekking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants, and use shops to purchase traditional gifts and crafts.
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 the week in 3 small hotels with renovated traditional buildings that give a real taste of typical Apullian architecture. In Ostuni we stay in a Masseria (traditional farmhouse) and in Matera we are based in cave-like rooms in the heart of the historic Sassi district. All of the accommodation we have selected is run by local people, which is good for the community. Where meals are provided, local and organic ingredients are used wherever possible. There will be a range of delicious Italian food on offer over the trip and guides encourage clients to use the large range of local restaurants and cafes at dinner. Regional specialties include Orecchiette served with a sauce of turnip-tops or fresh tomato and sheep's ricotta-cheese, aubergine and parmesan bake, roasted peppers, fresh seafood, burrata (soft mozzarella and cream cheese), mozzarella and Caciocavallo sheep's cheese.
Local Craft and Culture: There are many opportunities for culture integrated into this trip and clients are encouraged to engage with locals as much as possible in order to get a true impression of their customs and history. In Alberobello and Matera we organise a regional wine and cheese tasting- which is exceptional in this area and goes towards supporting local production. We also visit a number of religious and historical sites along our route like the archaeological park of S. M. Agnano, Matera’s Rock Churches Park and the optional excursion to the Baroque city of Lecce, which is home to over 40 churches, palaces and a Roman amphitheatre. By making donations and using businesses which surround these sites, we are ensuring that the community benefits from our tourism.
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 Puglia and Basilicata walking holiday in Italy
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 holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday 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 12 Jun 2014 by Checkie Wood
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Each place we walked allowed us to absorb the feeling, the history and the culture of the country. It was great having a leader to look after us as we couldn't speak a word of the local language and knew nothing. We went to one beautiful, wild beach where a pine forest fringed the sand - it went on for miles and no one else was there - and the swimming was glorious! And the gorge was awe-inspiring .....
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Be careful ordering your meal on your nights out - you only need ONE dish - not three! Make sure you have walking boots or shoes with a good grip, a light, breathable rain coat and a good back-pack. If you are single, the rooms are too small to share - take the single supplement - well worth your while. If you are vegetarian, be prepared for no vegetables! The markets are full of them but the restaurants dont serve them!
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
YES - very good
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
I really enjoyed it - nice way to get to absorb the vibe of a country and quite nicely low key