Many of our clients swore they would NEVER take a tour…and then they found Hand Crafted Travel.
Hand Crafted Travel specializes in connecting travelers with the people and places they are visiting. We do this by focusing on independent travel, and on small group guided tours — many of the guided tours we feature have 8 people or less, and none have more than 24.
For questions about any of the tours featured on this page, or for information about small group tours to other destinations, please contact us directly.
Hand Crafted Travel's owner, Bryan Smith, has been guiding his own small group tours in Europe for more than 20 years, so we know a little bit about what makes small groups so special.
Small group tours preserve the best aspects of independent travel — freedom, flexibility and contact with the local culture — while eliminating the hassles and hard work of traveling on your own.
Over the years we've run across a number of other tour companies that share our travel philosophy, and have carefully selected a few to feature on our site. They cover destinations that aren’t in our wheelhouse, and allow us to offer more departures each year than we can on our own.
Although the tours shown on this page are not led by Bryan, they still offer many of the advantages of our small group size.
Unlike big bus tours, there’s no rush to get people out the door and on the bus at the crack of dawn. Small group tours usually begin their day the way most independent travelers do: with a leisurely breakfast before heading out around 9:00 am (most museums and other sights don’t open before then anyway). With at least two or three days in most locations, you’ll have time to savor the unique character of each place before moving on.
First off — yes, your room will always have a private bathroom.
Secondly, we’ll take a half-timbered inn over a Holiday Inn™ any day. Small groups are able to use the kind of charming hotels that those big bus tourers can only dream about.
Whether it’s a woodsy chalet high in the Alps, an old olive mill that has been converted into an elegant B&B in the hills of Tuscany, or a boutique hotel in the heart of a big city, accommodations capture the spirit and character of each place.
Food is a very important part of any tour experience. It is a basic expression of the people and culture you’re visiting.
Breakfast in Europe is not, and should not be a hard roll and coffee (the “Continental” breakfast offered by many big tour companies). Most boutique hotels offer a buffet, with local varieties of breads, cheeses, eggs, fruit, cereal, yogurt, coffee and tea.
For included dinners, small groups are able to use local-style restaurants with a casual atmosphere, where the focus is on good service and excellent food. Unlike large groups, small groups of 10 or less don't need to pre-arrange a set meal for the entire group, so you'll usually have free choice from the restaurant’s normal menu.
The tour companies we feature concentrate on culture, art and history, but refuse to be stuffy and monotone when it comes to museums. With a passion for the people and stories behind the history, they bring the past to life, put it in context with world events at the time, and relate it to our modern world.
Small group tours tend to attract a fascinating, eclectic mix of couples and singles – people who are open-minded, flexible, and interested in learning. Many are well-traveled, though there are a fair number of first-timers as well.
Travel should not be a mad dash from one sight to another. After years of leading tours and talking to travelers, it’s clear to us that what people remember most about their trips are the people they meet, and the experiences they have along the way. Small group tours emphasize real places, real people and real history, by-passing tourist pseudo-sights that are famous just because they’re close to a freeway and able to handle large tour buses. You’ll still see the important sights, but you'll also go places that big tours, with their mammoth buses and steam roller schedules, simply can’t go.
A land of ancient cities, time-honored culinary customs, and ever-changing landscapes, Eastern Europe rewards those ready to explore. Discover the highlights of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland on a diverse tour of this beautifully varied region. Visit Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, make authentic Polish pierogi dumplings at a cookery class in historic Krakow, and enjoy an evening filled with a traditional Baroque performance.
Southern Italy beguiles every sense. Step back in time to the Roman Empire in the beautiful Bay of Naples. Tour ancient cities and marble temples, and explore pastel-hued villages on the Amalfi Coast. All while savoring exquisite regional delicacies. Take part in a traditional Campania cooking lesson on a working country estate, using fresh farm produce. Tour the age-old marble temples in UNESCO World Heritage-listed Paestum. Limoncello tasting in a lemon grove near sleepy Minori, a hidden treasure of the Amalfi Coast.
Step into a land of renowned artists and royal crusaders, hilltop monasteries, and valley castles. This tour takes us from France’s dramatic northern shores to châteaux-sprinkled countryside, breaking off to see WWII sites, explore centuries-old villages, and sample home-grown delicacies. Walk down the medieval Rue du Jerzual in Dinan, visit Beuvron-en-Auge, voted one of the most beautiful villages in the country, and sleep in the storybook surrounds of a grand French château.
East meets west, and past meets present. Spain and Portugal offer a heady mix of treasures, from Arabic palaces and Roman temples to Catholic cathedrals. We take it all in on a rural road trip, in search of hidden Iberia. Experience the historic charm of Córdoba, Granada, Baeza, Estremoz, and Ronda from old-town boutique hotels. Watch black Iberian pigs roam in the Sierra de Aracena, and taste famous Jamón ibérico. Spend the night in Seville and enjoy a traditional Flamenco show.
Savor creamy farm-produced burrata. Sip wine beneath grape-heavy vines. Sample fresh-from-the-ocean seafood. Inspired by the slow food movement, this tour introduces the culinary traditions, tucked away villages and breath-taking architecture in this sublime corner of Italy. Taste artisan cheeses at Caseificio Famiglia Olanda. Stop for lunch amid 18th century tenuta in a hilltop masseria. Step inside the cellar of Castel di Salve to discover wines crafted from Puglia’s indigenous grapes.
Discover cities that have shaped the world’s culture. Cook up an Italian feast in a Tuscan villa. Hunt for truffles in Piedmont. Relax in the tranquillity of Lake Orta, one of Italy’s hidden gems. Enjoy regional flavors and renowned wines, celebrated around the globe. Take in picture-perfect landscapes that will capture your imagination and stay in your heart. Exploring Italy is truly an experience to be savored.
Explore remote Alpine valleys and scale mountain slopes by railway on this unforgettable tour of Switzerland. Here you’ll gain an insight into local life and time-honored traditions, while enjoying some of Europe’s most sublime scenery and peaceful towns and cities. Uncover Switzerland’s best-kept secrets, including Chur. Discover the art of crafting Swiss chocolate. Learn the art of alphorn making in Eggiwil.
This adventure delves deep into Britain’s history and culture. Discover Britain’s literary greats at the Brontë Parsonage, Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm, and William Wordsworth home. Indulge your sweet tooth and become a dessert connoisseur at the world famous Pudding Club. Explore the scenic back roads of some of Britain’s most spectacular regions, including the Cotswolds, Snowdonia National Park, the Yorkshire Dales, and the Lake District.
From cosmopolitan Lisbon to Porto’s medieval cobblestone streets, Portugal is a country of glittering contrasts. The remote natural gem of the Douro Valley, Roman ruins, and world-famous pilgrimage sites are guaranteed to impress on this tour, which gives us a taste of the real Portugal, still basking in the glow of ancient customs. Cruise the Douro River in a traditional-styled, but electric powered rabelo boat. Explore the magnificent Coimbra University Library. Visit the magnificent UNESCO World Heritage-listed Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, and the Shrine of our Lady of Fatima in Batalha.
Earthy truffles. Exquisite wines. Take time to savor the finer things in life in South West France. As we seek out Bordeaux’s gastronomic gems and treasured vineyards, we’ll travel over soaring mountains and along the Atlantic coast, into enchanting castles and otherworldly caves. Taste fresh oysters, local sparkling wine, and world-famous Bordeaux reds. Sleep beneath turrets and towers with two nights in the romantic walled city of Carcassonne. Join the hunt for black truffles at a traditional truffle farm.
With cosmopolitan cities and ancient villages, rolling vineyards, and rugged mountains, Northern Spain is as unforgettable as it is eclectic. Experience the finest sights and tastes often missed by other travelers on a journey to the heart of this diverse region. Enjoy free time in Cadaques, a fishing town where Salvador Dali formed his surrealist vision, and discover the artist’s workshop, library and gardens. Visit the salt mines in Cardona. Experience Michelin-starred cuisine with a farewell dinner at an inventive restaurant in the Basque Country.
Towering mountains and enchanting lochs. Dramatic cliff-top castles and hideaway villages. Infamous battles and inexplicable legends. We journey up and down Scotland, from coastal cities to Hebridean Islands, seeking out one-of-a-kind landscapes, mesmerizing history and undeniable charm. Enjoy a private tour Scotland’s most enigmatic castles, an insightful whisky talk and tasting, and become an islander with two nights on the stunning Isle of Skye and the striking Isle of Mull.
From windswept moors and wild coastlines to historic cities and picture-perfect fishing villages, the county of Cornwall is sure to impress. Discover the maritime heritage, rural beauty and culinary pride of western England. Savor lunch at Rick Stein’s signature ‘The Seafood Restaurant’ in Padstow. Get the inside story on Cornwall’s largest private estate on a private guided tour. Enjoy a two-night stay in Falmouth, a historic port town set on one of the world’s largest natural harbors.
Golden-roofed towns and pristine national parks. Tranquil islands lapped by turquoise waters. Ancient sites and time-honored traditions. Our South Croatia tour takes in all this and more, inviting you to discover one of Europe’s most enticing destinations. Stay two nights in the enchanting, UNESCO World Heritage-listed city of Trogir. Explore historic Kotor in Montenegro, during a one-night stay. Stop off at the renowned Bibich Winery for a wine tasting accompanied by exceptional tapas. Feast on a delicious meal at a local agritourism farm in Dubrovnik.
Snow-dusted mountains, deep green valleys, and an unforgettable coastline – we’ll go high and low on our journey in search of Wales’ most captivating sights. Walk the ancient lands of Celts and Romans and become immersed in this beguiling country’s contemporary culture. Indulge in a traditional afternoon tea served in glorious surrounds. Enjoy a private tour of the first Welsh book shop with the shop’s owner.
A rich tapestry of idyllic countryside and ancient towns, beautiful architecture and delectable food. On our Tuscany tour you’ll seek out world-renowned treasures and hidden gems, turn into a culinary connoisseur and fall head over heels for this exquisite Italian region. Take in UNESCO World Heritage sites – from the Cinque Terre to Siena. Unlock the secrets of Tuscan cuisine with wine tastings and an exclusive cookery class. Stay in a country house in the Tuscan Hills.
Glasses glinting with bubbles and rich red wines. Windows that open out on soaring mountains, charming villages and fragrant fields of flowers. Join us on a voyage through quintessential France. Taste your way through famed wine-growing regions such as Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy. Soak up the peace of Grande Chartreuse Monastery, set in a remote valley of the French Alps – and sip the monks’ famous green liquor. Explore grand Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the inspiration for the Palace of Versailles.
To travel Britain is to travel through a land with rich history and tradition, metropolitan cities and quaint villages, rolling green hills and jagged coastlines, just to name a few. Explore this diverse land on this tour which has been specially designed to include Royal connections from the historic streets of Edinburgh to the excitement of London, one breath-taking step at a time. See Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of the Queen. Visit Kensington Palace, the home of Queen Victoria, and Princess Diana. Visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, the former royal yacht of the British monarch.
From north to south – step into Ireland’s colorful past, starting with the legendary Giant’s Causeway and Belfast’s Titanic history. Rugged peninsulas, village gems, and sweeping views of the Wicklow Mountains create a dramatic setting for your Emerald Isle adventure. Discover Northern Ireland's dramatic history in an escorted Black Cab tour of Belfast’s unique street art and political murals. Drive along Ireland’s back roads through extraordinary natural scenery, including the lunar-like landscape of the Burren, Marvel at the mysterious Giant’s Causeway.
Explore the south of France, from the sun-splashed Riviera to ancient hill-top villages. Take the back roads from the elegant resort of Cannes to quaint towns such as Saint-Rémy-de Provence. Have a Provençal lunch and accompanying wines in a private vineyard. Visit the Roman theatre of Orange.
Travel from plunging gorges to soaring mountains. Discover cliff-top fortresses and Riviera-style villages. Taste wines and fresh-pressed olive oils, among countless local specialities. This journey through Italy, Slovenia, and Northern Croatia captures the beautiful diversity of these unforgettable countries. Sample specialities of Croatia’s Peninsula, like the Buzut truffle. Explore the beauty of Plitvice National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed park. Enjoy a traditional mask decorating experience in Venice.
Centuries-old monasteries and Norman churches. Ancient Greek temples and bustling Italian markets. Sicily is a living museum, wrapped in superb scenery that ranges from sheer gorges and golden beaches to a remarkable volcano – and our tour lets you see it all. Experience a local cheese tasting in Sant’Angelo Muraxo with panoramic views. Hear about the rise of the mafia in Corleone, the town made famous from The Godfather film.
From historic Venice to soul-stirring alpine villages in Switzerland, join us on a memory-making adventure that takes in time honored traditions, local culture and even some remarkable railway journeys – all among some of the world’s most enchanting scenery. Learn the traditions of Italian regional cuisine with a cooking class. Experience two of the great alpine railway journeys: The Bernina Express and the Glacier Express. Participate in a traditional mask decorating class in Venice.
Follow the course of true love along Germany’s Romantic Road, where the snow-capped Bavarian Alps provide a dramatic backdrop to half-timbered chalets and fairytale castles. Or fall head over heels for Austria’s deep valleys and sparkling blue lakes – either way, you’re in for a treat. Visit a traditional ecological farm in Munich and taste local products. Take the road less travelled along the German Alpine Road. Raise a glass and enjoy a wine and local produce tasting in Wachau.