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3 Adventure Travel Companies You (Probably) Haven’t Heard About

Vagabond, Ireland
Vagabond, Ireland

One of the best things about attending the Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS)  every year is that I get to meet people who run small adventure travel companies from all over the globe.

Now wait, this is not as absurd as it sounds. If you live in the United States, as I do, and you’re interested in adventure travel, you probably know about Backroads, Butterfield & Robinson, Duvine, Ciclismo Classico and The Wayfarers. And maybe O.A.R.S., Mountain Travel Sobek and R.O.W.

These are all estimable companies. But I’m talking about small companies that may operate in one region or even a single country. Run by locals who have top notch operations and can offer you a terrific trip at a terrific price. They not only speak the local dialect, they may well have grown up there. And they can provide you with an insider’s view of the countryside no matter what sport you’re attempting.

At last October’s ATWS in Lucerne, Switzerland, I met and spoke with dozens of such operators. Here are three that I thought were standouts:


Oxalis Adventures

I love Japan and I have always wanted to see more of the countryside on foot. Enter Oxalis Adventures., an English company with one foot in Japan (so to speak) that offers such walking tours. Their signature trip is the “Nakasendo Trail,” which is four days of walking on a 12 day trip that covers Tokyo, Kyoto and Nara. But for fitter types, they can take you off the beaten path on the “Kumano Ancient Trail,” a nine day trip with five days of moderate to strenuous walking on the sacred KiiPeninsula. The trip is priced from 2,145 UK pounds, (about $3,354) http://www.oxalis-adventures.com/



Vagabond offers small group adventure tours of Ireland. This is a world away from the “tour” of Ireland that your parents or grandparents did, the classic mad dash in a bus from Donegal to Waterford with time for tea in Dublin in between. Using specially designed Land Rivers, Vagabond does tours like the six day “The Edge of the World,” which visits the Dingle, Beara and Iveragh (Ring of Kerry) peninsulas, with hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and sea kayaking (additional charges for some of these activities). The price is E1039 (about $1,411).  They also offer a variety of other tours, including an eight day “Wild Irish Rover” tour that covers the southwest and west of Ireland and a seven day “North by Northwest” tour of the country. For those with limited vacation days – i.e. most Americans – the shorter tours are a godsend. http://vagabondtoursofireland.ie/vagabond/



SpiceRoads Cycle Tours

This company’s motto is “See Asia by Bicycle” and this strikes me as a great idea. “Riding Regal Rajasthan’ is a 12-day trip through one of India’s most colorful areas while “Cycling Sikkim’s Tea Trails” is a rugged trip for those who really want to explore one of Asia’s most remote countries. But no destination in Asia is hotter right now than Burma, so I’m intrigued by their “Burma Adventure,” a  14-day trip that goes to Bagan, Mandalay, and the shores of InleLake. Priced at $3,550, it would be an amazing way to see this extraordinary Asian kingdom up close.



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  1. February 6, 2013 at 10:31 am — Reply

    Hello Everett

    Great article, THANK you for highlighting these smaller outfitters… so refreshing.


  2. February 6, 2013 at 11:18 am — Reply

    Thanks for sharing Shannon!

  3. February 6, 2013 at 11:52 am — Reply

    Everett – this is great information – so interesting and valuable and not readily available. Love it. Thank you. Janet Rodgers

    • February 7, 2013 at 12:35 pm — Reply

      Thanks Janet

  4. clare
    February 11, 2013 at 3:05 pm — Reply

    My husband and I took the Vagabond Tour for an 8 day trip. It was amazing and fun. We had great and knowledgeable tour guides and excellent accomodations. I highly recommend Vagabond!!

  5. Mary Ann
    February 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm — Reply

    My husband and I have had the pleasure of two tours with Vagabond, and tell everyone we know who is even thinking of visiting Ireland to Go Vagabond! The trips are small groups and very intimate, the drivers fun and knowledgeable, and we were able to do things no tour bus operator could pull off. From rowing a small boat out to an ancient ring fort on a small island, to Black Cab tours of Belfast where you’ll hear the real story of Northern Ireland, there is no better way to get to know this enchanting island.

  6. February 11, 2013 at 5:03 pm — Reply

    For our twentieth wedding anniversary, we went on a six day tour with Vagabond Tours. We kayaked, hiked, boated, rode horses, ate and drank and had our dream vacation. Vagabond was a true pleasure, very professional and friendly. Go off the beaten path with Vagabond!

  7. Jo Anne
    February 11, 2013 at 6:07 pm — Reply

    In case your readers think that Vagabond is only for those who want to kayak and surf…we took the Driftwood option and saw just as much beauty and had just as much fun as the more adventurous. We traveled in a comfortable van, walked as much or as little as we wanted and drank just as much Guinness! Great time in a beautiful country with a super guide and fantastic group of fellow travelers.

    • Carol
      March 1, 2013 at 10:46 pm — Reply

      I noticed that only breakfast is included for meals and that a lot of things seem to be extra. How much extra do you feel you spent over the tour price? It does look like a great alternative to a large group tour. We have traveled with OAT (limit of 16) and they have been great but they do not do a tour of Ireland. I also believe the Driftwood is for us over the Vagabond. Just wondering what the overall cost is per person. I am not a penny wise pound foolish person and believe you get what you pay for. Just want to make sure.

      • March 3, 2013 at 1:12 pm — Reply

        Hi Carol. It’s hard to determine exactly what the extra costs might be for meals, and they would be dependent upon the itinerary that you chose. I’d drop Vagabond/Driftwood an email and I’m sure they can give you a ballpark figure. info@vagabond.ie

  8. March 19, 2014 at 7:01 am — Reply

    Yes! Finally something about kraków.

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