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: Highlights of Nicaragua holiday
Conservation: Our local tour operators make financial contributions towards the ‘Pure Earth Project’, working together on community-based, environmental and social projects in the local community of Salinas Grandes-a remote fishing village located an hour from the city of León. Last year, the project worked on reforesting areas of Isla Juan Venado Reserve with mangrove trees. They also employ local people to patrol the beaches of the Isla Juan Venado Reserve to collect the eggs of endangered nesting Olive Ridley, Pacific Black and Leatherback sea turtles and safely transplant the eggs to a hatchery managed by community staff.
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: You will spend 10 nights in a variety of colonial and modern properties. All accommodations operate with sustainable practises, such as using signs to discourage water and energy waste and having daily linen washing as an option rather than a given. Accommodation is locally staffed, which has a positive effect on employment levels in the region. This also means that most income generated stays within the local community’s economy. Where meals are provided (all breakfasts, 6 lunches and 3 dinners), food will be locally sourced wherever possible. Clients are encouraged to use local cafes, restaurants, markets and street vendors as much as possible when they have free mealtimes. Nicaraguan cuisine tends to be dominated by meat (principally beef) accompanied with rice and beans- a staple dish known as gallo pinto and found throughout the country.
Local Craft and Culture: We visit San Juan De Oriente, which is famous for its tradition of pottery making. We visit the home and workshop of one the town’s greatest potters to learn about and watch the process of traditional pottery making and we each have the opportunity to try it for ourselves and buy products here. This is a great way to support traditional craftsmanship and to provide local people with an avenue of income. Granada is also highly regarded for its traditional craftsmanship and manufacturing of local products. One of the highlights of the trip will be visiting a chocolate factory, learning about the history of cocoa and how to make your very own chocolate bar. Another way to get in touch with local culture and support small handicraft businesses is to explore markets- e.g. Mayasa market, which offers a large variety of foods from around the country and handmade souvenirs.
A Fair Deal: We work closely with our local operator and ensure that all of our guides are local and that in exchange for their expertise that they are paid and treated fairly. The leaders will give a briefing on responsible tourism issues to help you understand how you can help reduce your impact and maximise the benefits to the local community from your visit.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 15 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.