I love group travel. There, I said it. While I am also an innate solo traveler, I had some of my best trips with a group. It started a few years ago when I really wanted to go to Morocco. Quite frankly, I was a bit scared to go on my own. Years later, I feel so at home there that I am laughing about this notion now, but back then it was real. How would I manage in a country where I spoke none of the languages? Was there public transport? Would I be harassed as a western girl in a Muslim country? Questions and worries like these are quite normal for many first time and solo travelers, but instead of the alternative, not going at all, I recommend a group tour instead.
Luckily the times when group trips meant
a herd of lemmings a mass of tourists following a guide with a little flag are long gone. Today there are so many more choices for all budgets, interests, and activity levels. Many operators offer boutique itineraries to really get you off the beaten track and show you the true soul of a country in a smaller group setting.
Whether you never wanted to fly solo, simply want a group trip for your travel premier or get on track in a far-flung corner of the world, we have put together the 10 best group adventures for you.
1. A sporty adventure with Cascada
Relax and energize, reconnect with nature, and see some of the most stunning sceneries South America got – that is what Cascada is all about. Starting out as a Chilean kayaking company they are now offering eco-friendly trips in Patagonia, Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. Unique, active itineraries will surely get your heart rate going, this is no walk in the park! Luckily you are accompanied by local guides who know the flora and fauna and make sure you don’t get lost while being awed by these awe-inspiring landscapes.
Keen to get going? Combine two of their amazing trips, the Epic Atacama – Multi Sport Adventure and the Epic Patagonia – Multi Sport Adventure, for the Ultimate Chilean Multi Sport Adventure. You will not only test your physical limits by foot, bike, kayak, and horse but also get to enjoy some of the most stunning vistas and landscapes.
Start in the Death & Moon Valley, see the salt flats of the Atacama, and enjoy an amazing sunrise overlooking the El Tatio Geysers. Stay a night in Santiago de Chile before you make your way to Torres del Paine, better known as trekker’s paradise. Here you will hike, kayak on the Grey Glacier, and discover Patagonia on foot.
While eco travel is still a new concept to South America, it comes natural to Cascada’s founders, best shown in their amazing, sustainable EcoCamp Patagonia. Here you get to relax and unwind after days of exploring and enjoy another site of Chile: wine and food!
For: Nature Lovers, Eco-travelers, Activity Junkies
Find sporty adventures here.
2. Go off shore with Intrepid
Intrepid likes to do things a little differently and take you to far flung corners all over the world. Offering travel styles to suit all ages and budgets, they go by the motto ‘real life experiences’. On each trip, you will get to meet locals, see how they live and have some of the most authentic experiences possible.
Now they have included two new additions to their sailing trips: Cuba and Myanmar. Both countries have only recently opened their doors to tourism and are quickly becoming an adventure traveler’s paradise.
In Myanmar, you will sail around the isolated Myeik Archipelago where stunning turquoise water and serenity awaits. 800 islands offer rainforest, limestone cliffs, white beaches, mangroves and provide a stunning backdrop for true explorers. From one deserted island on to the next – this is island hopping at its best.
A similar paradise though with a distinctly Latin American flavor awaits you on Intrepid’s sailing trip through Cuba. From Havana to the Canarreos Archipelago, you will discover places where time stands still. Sandy shores and some of the best marine life invite for Robinson Crusoe-like exploration and, of course, lots of snorkeling. Catch your own fish, MYOM (make your own mojito) and learn the art of doing absolutely nothing.
Whichever way the wind blows, make sure to get to these amazing destinations soon while they are still off the radar for most.
For: Sunseekers, Mermaids, Dora the Explorers
Set sail with their sailing adventures here.
3. Discover Turkey with Travel Talk
Travel Talk knows that a trip is not only about a destination but also about the experiences you have on the way. With that in mind, their budget friendly trips offer you a glimpse into the Middle East, Mediterranean, and European regions. On your travels, you will get to know the country’s culture and heritage with the help of your local guide. You do to not only experience sightseeing highlights but get a glimpse that goes well beyond what the everyday tourists sees.
One of their specialty destination is Turkey, a country that offers the perfect background for a trip that has it all: history & culture, adventure & fun, relaxation & great food.
Start your journey in amazing Istanbul, a city that had its fair share of turbulences over the centuries with an enticing mix of east meets west. From here travel to the ancient city of Troy, take a hot air balloon ride over the bizarre landscape of Cappadocia or visit the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus – one of the original Seven Wonders of the World.
Once you are done with the history lesson, take another authentic glimpse into Turkish life. Visit the beautiful beaches and turtles in Iztuzu, roam the bazaars (pack light!) and afterward get yourself squeaky cleaned at the hammam. No Turkey trip would be complete without eating to your heart’s content. That is best done over shared mezze platters, kebabs, and baklava with a side of travel stories from your new friends.
For: Small Wallets, Foodies, Culture Geeks
Check out their various Turkey trips and itineraries here.
4. Hill tribe hiking with Asian Oasis
While Thailand’s south is famous for its beaches, head to the north if you are looking for some stunning mountain scenery. Combine hiking in the mountains around Chiang Mai with seeing the local hill tribe villages on a tour with Asian Oasis. All tours offer experiences for active nature lovers and the culturally interested with a focus on sustainable tourism.
With your local guide, you will make your way uphill and downhill through bamboo forests and over little streams. Eat a picnic lunch with a rewarding view over the mountains and know you are only leaving footprints behind: food is wrapped in banana leaves and no recycling needed!
Once a day’s
work hike is done you spend the night at one of their community-based lodges, Lisu and Khum Lanna, or at the Lahu village outpost. Accommodation ranges from rustic to luxurious, but you will always get an authentic experience of hill tribe life. Learn how to cook your own delicious northern Thai food, get your sore muscles taken care of with a massage, and visit the villagers. Rise and shine early to see the local market and get an authentic breakfast over a hot cuppa. Afterward, say thanks for an awesome trip at a temple by feeding the holy catfish.
For: Eco-travelers, Culture Geeks, Activity Junkies
You can book a variety of active and cultural experiences here.
5. Cruise the night away with Sailing.hr
Who hasn’t dreamt about their very own sailing yacht and to live the glitzy high life in a bikini? Sailing.hr makes that dream come true without you having to be a millionaire or get a skipper license.
Take your best friends or book yourself a cabin and let your skipper set sail on your behalf. Venture around the beautiful coastline of Croatia and around some of its island like Hvar Island, voted by travelers one of the most stunning islands in the world.
Days are spent overlooking the Mediterranean while getting a tan or learning some sailing skills yourself from your skipper. Shore excursions will take you to some of the historic ports of Split or Dubrovnik where you can experience some amazing Croatian food as well as dance the night away. Dancing you will because this is not any old ordinary yacht trip with an occasional party – you are the party! Whether the sun comes up or goes down it is always a good time for your very own yacht celebration. Take a drink, put on your most disco bikini and get your groove on, in or out of the water. In the evening, you will join forces with the other Sailing.hr yachts to make it a night to remember.
For: Sunseekers, Mermaids, Party Animals
You can book your private yacht or a cabin space if you are a solo traveler here.
6. Be a traveler, not a tourist with El Camino
El Camino’s slogan “Be a traveler, not a tourist” says it all. With this boutique operator, you will get the most off the beaten path experiences possible. Currently, only four destinations are on offer: Mexico City, Colombia, Nicaragua, Trinidad & Tobago, but each comes with an A+ itinerary you will find nowhere else.
Unique and individual are the words that come to mind and founders, Katalina and Marianna, want for each trip to be an authentic cultural experience. On an El Camino trip, it is all about immersing yourself into new surroundings. Sounds a bit abstract? Think about a Mexican food market, a surf lesson by local experts, fresh ceviche and bonfires and you will get a pretty good idea what awaits you on a tour.
Almost needless to say, El Camino also places a huge emphasis on working with local communities and small businesses. That means you not only support those with your stay, but a percentage is also given to a local social entrepreneur. These individuals work on changing their country for the better and you will get to meet them – cultural exchange doesn’t get any closer!
For you don’t miss out on anything a photographer is documenting each day of your trip with you. So you can look up from your camera or phone screen and actually enjoy the view right in front of you, unfiltered!
For: Dora the Explorers, Sunseekers, Culture Geeks
Check itineraries and dates for 2016 here.
7. Sample Vietnam with Peregrine Adventures
Want to be a tourist and a traveler? See the famous sights and have a look ‘behind the scenes’? That is what Peregrine Adventures strives to combine. Small group trips that will bring you the highlights of a country whether they are world famous or not. In addition, all trips are carbon neutral and since the group size is small, locally run businesses like boutique guesthouses are chosen over large hotel chains.
You can choose trips not only according to a region or a country but also by themes. One of their themes, naturally a favorite of mine is called ‘Gourmet’. There are a few countries where you go eat and do little else. Or at least, you could. For true food lovers, those countries are best explored with a food tour. One of the most beloved must-see/eat countries is Vietnam. Here Peregrine offers their Gourmet Explorer Vietnam, a trip will take you throughout this amazing country and reveal its soul through local food. You may start a day with breakfast pho from a street vendor and end with a candlelight gourmet dinner in Halong Bay. Visit floating markets, learn how to cook your own local delicacies and eat like a king in the imperial city Hue. Lucky for you, the Vietnamese cuisine is quite light – otherwise, you might very well have to deal with excess ‘baggage’ on your way home.
For: Culture Geeks, Dora the Explorers, Foodies
Book to eat here.
8. Make turtle friends with EcoTeach
Keen to take the concept of sustainable travel a bit further and actually make a difference? EcoTeach is the company for you! Established in 1994 by a teacher they offer educational tours in places like Costa Rica that support the local environment and communities. Conservation, ecology and community are keywords on their trips and you get to be hands-on involved.
Whether you are interested in helping out at the local school, plant trees or work with animals, a variety of programs are available depending on your interests. You will always get an authentic experience, sure to leave a lasting impression – both on you and the country!
One of my personal favorites is their Caribbean Sea Turtle Service Trip. Only seven sea turtle species remain and they are highly endangered due to various natural and human enemies. On Costa Rica, you will not only learn about turtle conservation but give a helping hand to the Leatherback turtles. At night, turtle mothers come to shore to lay their eggs. You will help tag them and transport eggs to the hatchery where they can grow up in a protected environment. During the day, you get to explore the other wildlife and the surrounding rainforest. Of course, there will be plenty of time to enjoy the white beaches and turquoise waves of the Caribbean Ocean and make friends with your fellow travelers. Another highlight of the trip: releasing baby turtles into the sea!
For: Eco-travelers, Dora the Explorers, Nature Lovers
Check out how to meet the hatchlings here.
9. Hop on India with GoMowgli
Okay, technically speaking GoMowgli is not a group tour operator, but then again, they somehow are. They are also a hop on hop off bus service, employer of the craziest and coolest guides (their words, not mine), and have managed to create a truly unique travel service with it all.
Want to go to India, but feel intimidated by this amazing country? Don’t worry I do too and GoMowgli seems to speak exactly to people like us: independent newbie India travelers who want a reliable, safe transport, local recommendations yet the flexibility to adhere to our own schedule.
Currently, they have three hop on hop off bus passes available for trips in South India: Karnataka, Kerala, and Goa. Take your time and chose your own pace, there will always be another bus to take you to the next stop on the itinerary. Upon arrival, stay as long as you like and idle, you decide when it is time to move on.
Once you have found a place you like, join any of their free activities or book optional experiences and city tours – always local and authentic. You only pay for your bus pass and everything else is optional, allowing for all budgets and travel styles. Need a hostel recommendation? No problem! Keen to find something by yourself? Of course! Once you are ready to move on, just book a spot on the next bus and hop on – organized independence at its best!
For: Small Wallets, Culture Geeks, Dora the Explorers
View and book tours and bus passes here.
10. Howl at the full moon with TruTravels
TruTravels was born to provide travel experiences by backpackers for backpackers. Starting with trips in Thailand, they now offer tours in Cambodia, Nepal, and Indonesia as well. While all comforts of a regular tour are included, this is more about traveling with new friends than a conventional travel group. To meet your new BFFs, use their very own App before the trip even starts.
In Thailand, they not only offer four different itineraries ranging from a week to a month travel, but also many top-up activities to customize your holiday. Choose adventure sports from diving to rock climbing or go volunteering with elephants and children, you will definitely find something to suit your mood.
Keen to combine country exploration with partying? Then the TruTravels Full Moon Experience might just be for you. You will get to see the highlights of Thailand by day and by night. During the first week, you will discover some cultural and nature highlights of Bangkok and Khao Sok before you and your new friends are off to Koh Phangan. Get ready for a few days of serious shenanigans like the Slip N Fly Party which mixes DJ action with giant waterslides, a day at Total Wipeout and a sunset pool party. Perfect warm up for the piece de resistance: the infamous full moon party!
For: Party Animals, Mermaids, Small Wallets
Book the Full Moon Experience here.
Have you done a group tour that you loved? We would love to hear your stories and recommendations in the comments!
* This post is brought to you in collaboration with some of the featured tour operators.