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: Hiking holiday in Ladakh, India
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, and use local businesses in order to leave behind a positive cultural exchange. Also in visiting cultural sites like Buddhist monasteries and temples, we benfit local communities by making donations, buying souvenirs or paying for entrance.
Water: Water is a really important issue with trekking 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. Lack of recycling is already a massive problem in India so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. You will be provided with boiled drinking water on trek but it is also advisable to bring purification tablets/liquid such as Biox Aqua to treat water. Burnable rubbish will be burnt on trek and we ask each trekker to keep a rubbish bag for non-burnable rubbish to take back to Delhi.
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 & Meals: We spend six nights in simple hotels in Deli and Leh and eight nights in full service camping. All accommodations used are staffed locally, which has a really positive effect on employment and economy in the areas where we stay. By camping for the majority of the trip, we also reduce our energy consumption and carbon footprint for the whole tour. On trek, meals include locally sourced ingredients, like porridge, eggs, bread, pasta, rice and potato with a mixture of Indian and Chinese styles. All groceries and other items used during treks are purchased from local shops and markets in Leh- where clients are encouraged to support local businesses and explore local delicacies on offer.
Community: Our Himalayan Community Support Projects have been helping people in the Markha Valley, Ladakh since the floods in 2006, when we helped people rebuild homes. Since then we have been involved with the local women’s groups and Youth Organisation for the Conservation and Preservation of the Hems National Park in building and running a successful Eco Café. The focus is using only locally made or organic produce and eliminating the plastic bottles littered around the Valley with the use of a UV water filter for trekkers. The Ladakhi women have been trained in needle and flat felting in order to make and sell felt snow leopards, ibex and blue sheep as souvenirs. This has had great economic, social and environmental benefit for the area.
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.