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: Cycling holiday in Colombia
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a cycling 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 (or tyre tracks!) and we take part in the weekly car-free event ‘Ciclovia’ in Bogota to support this progressive event. We use local bike hire and support a number of cultural sites along our journey, including Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, a coffee plantation and botanical gardens.During the free day, we offer an optional Trekking tour to Acaime Reserve, where clients can see hummingbirds. The entrance fee that is paid by the clients helps maintain and preserve this Natural Reserve.
Water: Water is a really important issue on 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 re-fill a singular bottle. We keep 20 litres in our support vehicle, which clients are welcome to use.
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 10 nights in hotels and 2 nights in ‘fincas’ (farmhouse properties). There is a varied selection of properties, including a charming old house within the historic La Candelaria district of Bogota, and a hotel in Chinchina surrounded by coffee plantations. The accommodation is locally staffed, providing people in surrounding communities with alternative employment opportunities. Many of the hotels have strong environmental policies regarding waste management and water usage, whilst Hotel Finca la Tata has also achieved the Colombian Environmental Stamp Certificate. Where meals are provided, local ingredients will be used as much as possible: local eggs, cheese, bread or arepas (corn pancakes) are served for breakfast; fresh trout, grilled meat and salad are popular at dinner. We take lunches at roadside cafes and family owned restaurants, which boosts the local economy.
Local Craft and Culture: We visit a Women’s Co-operative which manufactures clothing and other products in Anserma. Here the women give a presentation where they explain the process of their craft and at the end clients can purchase products here. This is a great form of additional income for the association and we pay the silk weavers a fair wage regardless of whether anyone buys anything. In Boquía, we also offer the chance to see a folkloric presentation performed by a local school. This benefits the children and encourages them to continue preserving local culture. Afterwards, clients can make donations if they wish and this is used to buy new instruments and traditional clothing etc.
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.