Small Group Tours

“I’ve been able to travel extensively these past 30 years and like a great Conductor, who can reveal the essence of a symphony, “The Art of Living Tours,” by Marieke Brugman, achieves that same magic wherever you go with her. You are a guest, not just a tourist, as she reveals places, tastes and sights only a true lover of that culture can offer. It is why I’ve done so many of her excursions (South Africa, Normandy, Spain, Turkey and India several times) and had the privilege of discovering the breath and soul of the places she offers to her intimate groups”.
Kenneth Payne

GUIDED JOURNEYS

Art of Living’s guided journeys are never larger than twelve guests and sometimes as intimate as six participants. They are usually a mix of solo travellers and couples, and solo travellers are warmly welcomed.

Our trips peel back the surface layers, so you enjoy the unexpected, have your curiosity ignited, your senses and sensibilities nourished, your memories cherished, your personal freedoms respected, your expectations excelled.

If joining as a single traveller you are accorded a similar standard as couples and always treated as a valued guest. Whilst it is still the case that hotels around the world charge almost the same for a room for singles or double, we both try to ensure singles have the same standard of rooms as couples and the supplement being charged is passed on at cost. We never add to this.

COMFORT:

We always travel in very comfortable transport – either air/conditioned SUV type vehicles or mini luxury coaches if there are less than nine guests, and small buses if there are more. We often use a vehicle larger than our needs, so as to afford everyone a window seat and a little extra space. Water, snacks and hand wash are always carried on board for passengers’ use. Luggage is always handled by our drivers, or their assistants and hotel porters, so it is only in airports that you need deal with your own bags.

It is sometimes the case that travellers might be worried about their individual needs and sense of freedom being curtailed in a group. However, with over twenty years experience, we can assure you that this has never been the case. If you need to skip a meal, or want to take a rest or have your heart set on seeing something that is not included, we do our utmost to both fulfill your wishes and make sure you are comfortable.

On the most positive side, our experience has also taught us the many advantages of travelling in a small group:
All the details are taken care of. You need feel no anxiety about how you will reach the next place, if a flight has been delayed, the quality of your hotel room, the choice of dining – indeed you are so relieved of all this minutiae, because it has all been personally vetted, it actually liberates you to be fully immersed in each and every experience.

Once our guests, even the most independent amongst them have appreciated these hassle free arrangements, they book over and over again because their joy in travel has been reaffirmed.

It is most likely you will meet travellers motivated by similar interests and sensibilities – the conversations will be stimulating, and new and often lasting friendships made. The sense of congeniality is heightened as AoL creates evening soirees and pre-prandial cocktail parties that allow people to reflect and share their days’ insights. We believe life has to be fun.

Whilst it may be more expensive to join a small group, this will be outweighed by the inclusion of things that might be additional or prohibitive for a private traveller, – more intimate access to guides, no surprising extras, special performances or private entrees, all meals and entrance fees, a sense of rarity and privilege away from the maddening tourist crowds. On most of our tours we also take care of day-to-day tipping – for hotel porterage, restaurants, local guides, though usually ask for a group contribution to a driver and or guide who may have accompanied us throughout a trip.

FITNESS + STAYING ACTIVE

When Marieke is leading a program, there is a daily offering of joining her in a gentle yoga session or an early morning walk.
Most tours require a reasonable level of fitness and mobility. Whilst there is the occasional day on any tour that requires a lengthy journey, most days you are required to be able to stand for some hours if visiting a monument or museum, walk a distance of a few kilometres, climb stairs, negotiate uneven surfaces and sometimes steep terrain, and carry luggage for short distances.
That is not to say that we won’t arrange assistance – e.g. provide a mule if the village trek will play havoc with your knees, arrange your room to be near an elevator if one is available, source a jeep to reunite you with guests who may have undertaken the walk into a remote location.
However, if you have any doubts about the suitability of our trips with regards to your general state of health, you must disclose this and give us the opportunity to assess if we think you can cope and not compromise the rest of the group.
We look forward to welcoming you on one of our magical journeys.

LATEST SMALL GROUP TOURS

  • small group tour
    11 or 14 Days
    Exotic Cultural and Culinary Tour India
    Exclusive Bespoke Tour
    This exceptional and exclusive 11 or 14-day tour has been designed and conceived by Marieke Brugman, a renowned chef and teacher in her earlier career as co-proprietor of the Howqua Dale Gourmet Retreat and Cooking School. The most obscure doors are opened to you, enab...
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  • small group tour
    18 DAYS
    October
    SACRED PASSAGE TO INDIA
    an Odyssey - off the beaten path and no ordinary journey
    This is the ultimate Indophile’s journey of the subcontinent, designed for traveller’s who wish to explore a deeper experience and understanding of the sub-continent’s extraordinary culture, history and belief systems. This kaleidoscopic sweep through India’s great dy...
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  • small group tour
    16 DAYS
    1-16 September 2018
    Womens Luxury Tour
    ‘a siren call to soul sisters’
    Mother India specially calls to women like a siren with her intoxicating colours, scents, sights, multiplicity of cultures and cuisines and ancient spiritual traditions.
This tour is ideal for women seeking the company of like-minded souls and those who feel a reluctance to trav...
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  • small group tour
    10 Days
    29 – 7 February January 2019
    Gujarat Tribals + Textiles
    off the beaten path’
    This is an exotic odyssey through Gujarat in Western India for adventurers, collectors and photographers. Art of Living has designed this tour for guests who will enjoy an imaginative itinerary, wish to share Marieke’s enthusiasm for roads less travelled and are eager to explore...
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  • small group tour
    9 Days
    21-29 January 2019
    Jaipur Literary Salon
    Jaipur Literature Festival
    As the largest FREE literary festival on earth, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival, directed by William Dalrymple brings together some of the greatest thinkers and writers from across South Asia and the world.
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  • private travel itinerary
    12 Days
    Mid May- Mid September
    Trekking in Paradise
    the Mystical Mountains of Kashmir
    This tour is an exuberant and rewarding journey that will nourish heart, mind, body, soul and all the senses.... It has been designed for confident walkers and adventurers wishing to escape all vestiges of congestion, tourism, modern stress and seeking an immersion in all the jo...
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  • small group tour
    15 Days
    12 – 26 August 2018 / 11-25 August 2019
    Pearls South India
    seductive south
    South India is a “soft-landing’ for first time visitors to the subcontinent. For travellers who have visited the more hectic north, you will be seduced by her languorous sensuousness. The landscape you journey through is beautiful and varied. The food is an endlessly varying fea...
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  • small group tour
    13 Days
    8 - 20 June 2018
    Sri Lanka:
    The Gems
    Sri Lanka, often described as a teardrop hanging off India’s southern coast and formerly colonised by the Portuguese, Dutch, and British, retains the staples of a colonial-era paradise—jungles, tea plantations, palm strewn beaches, colourful cities, ancient ruins and rock format...
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  • small group tour
    13 Days
    10 - 23 JANUARY 2019
    Royal Rajasthan
    Royal Tents and Exotic Estates
    Rajasthan is where to fall in love with India. 
Welcome to mystery, to enchantment, to unsurpassable beauty. 
To ravishing colour and light. To timelessness. 
To a kaleidoscope of cultures, religions and landscapes. 
To a richness of humanity. To exotic splendour. Where a thousa...
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TESTIMONIALS

Hi Dear Marieke, how often we have thought of you and our wonderful Rajasthan trip! Thank you so much for sharing all your wonderful knowledge of India, shared with such a heartfelt passion that it was impossible not to come away sharing a little of that passion!  That to me is an indication of a very well thought out and loved tour, so thank you for taking us on the journey with you!
How wonderful to meet Durga also, a beautiful character and a great addition to the experience. Thank you again Marieke,

Hi Marieke,
Oh yes, I am definitely back with a bang and trying desperately to keep some sort of ‘Karma’ about me… 
Where to begin….from our magical tented camp in Jodhpur that still sends shivers up my spine….to our picnic in the Aravlli hills with VB and his very elegant mum.
Our wonderful Indian food and desert fires at night. One of my most treasured feelings of India will always be the memory of Durga each morning wearing his beautiful turban and genuine warm smile….. such a lovely, lovely man is our Durga and what a privilege to spend time with him in his homeland.
You really do complement each other beautifully.  It certainly was a special time and only hope it won’t be our last.
Please keep me in the loop for new tours as we would all love to do another group holiday together.
A big hug and kiss from Jono and I xxxxoooo

Dear Marieke ,
Thank you for the email and welcome home !
We really loved the Indian adventure Marieke and Durga style and felt we did experience so much more with the tented camps that were a favourite and all  the superbly chosen hotels  sharing some of the essence of India.. Every detail was thought about and the cuisine delicious. I have now stocked the pantry with The Very Best Basmati and have already attempted to make Indian dishes for the family, although not quite the Thali yet . I did love my yoga class with you on the rooftop at Deogarth and particularly loved the small town and our lovely Kashmiri boys at the turban shop. We loved our proud aristocratic Rajput Durga with a wonderful art of storytelling and a great sense of humour. You will be pleased to know that Brad and I are back to yoga once a week and Yin is our new experience .Brad is glued to Indian Summer and I am loving Nine Lives and am able to understand so much more regarding Hindu Jain and Muslim religion with a lot to learn. Thank you for such a wonderful experience in India and we will be back .We already miss the busy street life and the smiling beautiful faces .
Lots Love Lisa and Brad xxx

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“Travel does what good novelists also do to the life of everyday, placing it like a picture in its frame or a gem in its setting, so that the intrinsic qualities are made more clear. Travel does this with the very stuff that everyday life is made of, giving to it the sharp contour and meaning of art.” –Freya Stark

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. James A Michener

People say that what we are all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. Joseph Campbell

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart. ~Helen Keller

As you journey through life, choose your destinations well, but do not hurry there. Avoid the shortcuts… wander the back roads… enjoy the scenery. And remember that the true worth of your travels lies not in the destination but in who you come to be along the way. Anon.

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page. Saint Augustine