21 of the Best Gap Year Destinations

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Gap years are a great way to explore new countries and experience other cultures. At a range of locations across the globe, these 21 destination ideas offer something for everyone no matter how they want to spend their year abroad. Take a look below for the ultimate gap year inspiration. 


This product was recommended by Joe Flanagan from 90s Fashion World

I would highly recommend visiting Iceland. The reason? It doesn’t discriminate against your wallet. The country is full of beautiful landscapes, wildlife and nature and offers the money can’t buy opportunity to see the northern lights. It’s not your standard gap year destination but that’s why I love it – and you will too.


This product was recommended by Nate O’Brien from OBR Media

Visiting Panama during my gap year was one of the best decisions of my life. Like many young adults, I found myself on a tight budget. My money stretched much further in Panama. Bocas del Toro is a dreamy beach destination a short bus ride away from Panama city, Panama. The country uses the U.S. dollar system, so no need to try to convert numbers in your head if you are an American! I found that Bocas del Toro has something for everyone. You can party at night at the many hostels in the region, or relax on the serene beach as you look over the Carribean sea.


This product was recommended by Mia Clarke from InvertPro

I’m biased because I spent a couple of gap years here, but I always recommend Scotland for a gap year. It’s a natural choice as the language is English, there are few customs that would strike an American as being foreign, and the landscape is spectacular. It’s a historically-rich country, and is also close to Europe for short trips.


This product was recommended by Meggie Francisco from Meggie Francisco Destination Events

There’s nothing quite like Italy. From the bustling city of Rome, to the bohemian farmlands of Puglia and the glamorous Amalfi coast, the entire country has a wealth of style and history. Because Italy boasts such a rich history, it’s a travel destination where you can relax and learn at the same time. On your gap year in Italy, experience la dolce far niente, or the sweet art of doing nothing, while sitting on a bench in a centuries-old piazza. Next, taste freshly made orecchiette pasta in Matera, the world’s second-oldest continuously inhabited town behind Petro, Jordan. Before you go, cruise along the harrowing roads of Positano, reliving the lives of countless past movie stars. Along the way, you’ll learn about the beautiful and often tragic history that built Italy’s deep and passionate culture.


This product was recommended by Joe Flanagan from 90s Fashion World

Why not head to Ecuador. It’s a country that’s often overlooked but offers everything. They know how to party but have a beautiful landscape boasting lakes and forest for you to unwind and if you really want to push the boat out head to the Galapagos. It’s still pricey but is far cheaper to book on a boat when you’re there. Oh and it’s bang on the equator with a landmark to prove you’re in the middle of the world. Pretty cool.


This product was recommended by Dave Hoch from BigCupofCoffee

I highly recommend people consider Colombia as a place to travel for their gap year. The country is rich in culture and heritage and is relatively inexpensive. With the FARC peace agreement, the country has turned into the go-to destination for travel and tourism of South America. From tropical beaches in the north to mountains in the south, Colombia has everything you would want in a place to visit. The neutral and slow-speaking Spanish means it’s the quintessential place to visit to learn and practice Spanish. Lastly, the country has friendly visa rules for foreigners and visitors.

New Zealand

This product was recommended by Mikaela Ferguson from Voyageur Tripper

New Zealand is the perfect destination to visit during a gap year.

  • New Zealand is incredibly safe. The locals are friendly, the services (including emergency healthcare) are excellent and affordable. It’s an English speaking country so it’s perfect for backpackers from the United States and Canada.
  • New Zealand is a popular destination for young backpackers, so it is easy to meet new people and make friends anywhere in the country. New Zealand also has an extensive network of high quality and safe hostels, which make it easy to meet new people safely and on a budget.
  • Many of the best activities in New Zealand are free or inexpensive, like visiting its world class beaches, day hiking or multi-day tramping. Some activities are more expensive, but worth a little investment (heli-hiking, swimming with wild dolphins, kayaking with baby seals).
  • There are many opportunities for part time work (i.e. picking kiwis on a far, helping out at a hostel) if you are low on funds. There are options for working holiday visas for young people.
  • It’s (reasonably) close to Australia and Southeast Asia. Backpackers on a gap year could easily spend six months in SE Asia, three months in Australia and then three months in NZ.


This product was recommended by Jamela from Jamela On The Go

The beautiful country of Guatemala is a hidden gem that I feel compelled to share with all of you. As a college student/solo traveler, I traveled around in Guatemala for three months during my summer break in 2018, and I absolutely loved it! Here are the three reasons why I think Guatemala would be a great place to spend your gap year.

1. You Can Rent A One-Bedroom Apt For $300 USD Compared to how much rent is in the United States or other parts of the world. Living in Guatemala is extremely affordable. During your gap year, you might have a limited travel budget to spend. And in order to stretch out your time abroad, saving money on living costs is quite important.

2. Breathtaking Instagram-Worthy Scenery Guatemala is easily one of the most diverse and scenic countries in the world. Packed with ancient Mayan ruins, spectacular volcanoes, and magnificent waterfalls, it’s hard to stop yourself from snapping photos everywhere you go. After spending time in Guatemala, and exploring Lake Atitlan, Semuc Champey, Rio Dulce… You’ll be amazed by how nature can change the way you see the world.

3. Cheap Spanish Lessons Everywhere Another reason why I love Guatemala is how cheap the Spanish Immersion lessons are. There are tons of Spanish schools in the country that offer up to 5 hours of one-on-one Spanish daily lessons for less than $150 a week (less than $6 an hour!) The best thing is, after coming back from your gap year, you will be fluent in Spanish! Which is a skill you can definitely add on your resume.

Ruta de Siete Lagos, Argentina

This product was recommended by Manisha Singh from The Sole Speaks

This place is unrealistically beautiful in the summers. With Lupins in bright colors lining the roads, lakes with stunning blue water. It’s safe, people are friendly, there is multitude of hiking options (many with free entrance). The quiet lifestyle allows one to truly take a break and breathe.


This product was recommended by Alex Miller from Upgraded Points

London is the international powerhouse of business and entertainment, and for anyone looking to experience culture, business, entertainment and new opportunities in one place, there’s no better place than London. London is a place where you can let yourself loose, but still get a daily, worldwide education, all within an atmosphere that bodes well for future success as you take a break for a year before heading back to school, or getting a real-world job.


This product was recommended by Alex Miller from Upgraded Points

If you’re looking for a different option that’s far away from the US, but still western, Sydney is a great spot. Because of the time zone difference, it really allows you to be self sufficient, and there is so much to explore in the South Pacific, Australia and New Zealand. If you’re a history or anthropology buff, the aboriginal culture will really be fascinating, and Australia is home to some of the world’s most remotest areas, and most beautiful costal cities. It is a great place to spend a gap year, since it’s so far from home and a great jumping off point for other travel.


This product was recommended by Harsh from An Indian’s Guide to India

India is a country with a rich history, diversity and many things to explore and discover. There is no doubt about it, India will change you and provide a huge learning experience about your life in general. There is everything from white sand beaches, deserts, jungles and the Himalayas. There are countless activities, including adventure sports, voluntouring, yoga and meditation courses, or sightseeing of some ancient UNESCO heritage sights.

Kerala, India

This product was recommended by Seema Thomas from University of the District of Columbia

My family is originally from this place that’s an anomaly. Affectionately known as God’s own paradise, it boasts of one of the highest literary rates in the India as well as phenomenal healthcare as evinced by their recent handling of Covid-19. For students looking outside the box, this place offers a deep dive into cooperatives, how to think about the collective, and beautiful landscapes (coasts to mountains).


This product was recommended by Seema Thomas from University of the District of Columbia

While most who travel go to South Africa to dive into the history of apartheid and see the vast landscapes, Mozambique offers a luciphone experience rich with its own history. It’s a welcoming place with many different communities.

South Africa

This product was recommended by Shaun Taylor from Moriti Safaris

This country is full of opportunity for people wanting to move around for a year, maybe make a little pocket money on the fly and enjoy themselves. There is so much to see and do and so many different cultures to spend time with and get to know. South Africans are very hospitable and friendly and a year spent traveling around one of the most beautiful countries in the world with a few new friends is certainly not the worst you could do with a year off. In between, the scenery and wildlife will certainly keep you company.


This product was recommended by Anzhela Vonarkh from TheWordPoint

Vietnam is among the top places to travel on a gap year, according to our statistics at TheWordPoint. We provide translation services and among our customers, there are many students who travel, especially to Vietnam. They choose this country for its paradise beaches, diving (one of the cheapest in the world, but perfectly organized), historical monuments and marvelous natural attractions. Vietnam is also perfect for active tourism and popular among hikers and backpackers. Phú Quốc is a Vietnamese island full of attractions – beaches, eco-tours, pear farms. It’s the best place to get acquainted with local life, culture, and traditional cuisine.


This product was recommended by Jenny Abouabaia from Clever Touch Marketing

It’s a very rich country when it comes to activities and places to go to all year around with much cheaper prices than other countries, you have diving and all sorts of water activities in both seas (Mediterranean and red sea), ancient massive monuments everywhere, mountain safaris and hiking, the list can go on really, so a year would be a proper amount of time to explore it all. Another reason is the weather, you can escape from the heat and go to the Mediterranean side in the summer and in winter you can go south where it’s very warm.


This product was recommended by Norhanie Pangulima from HerNorm

They have the most jaw-dropping sophisticated futuristic technology. It’ll be quite an experience. Also, it is said that they have the most disciplined citizens.


This product was recommended by Norhanie Pangulima from HerNorm

With its tropical rainforest climate, backpackers would visit the country whole year-round. It is a cheap destination for tourists and the beaches are totally breathtaking.

Chiang Mai

This product was recommended by Jarrod Prosper from Based Bachelor

If someone is looking for extreme night life, they might lean more towards Pattaya, but for any gap year, I would recommend Chiang Mai. It has the best in modernities, culture, isn’t too expensive, and there are plenty of things to do while there. Every day you can try something different. Take a trip to see the elephants, go to a Thai Boxing Match, go visit any of the beautiful scenic temples in the area to meditate, try any of the local cuisine. While Chiang Mai is a touristy location, it isn’t excessively so.

Another reason why you might want to visit is that there is a thriving community of world travelers who come through there. There is plenty of support for people visiting who may have trouble navigating so far from home. If you’re someone who works remotely, there are also plenty of coworking spaces popping up around town where you can sip coffee and get some work done. You can network, attend different speakers to pick up entrepreneurial tips, and so on. To top everything off, living in Thailand is relatively inexpensive compared to other countries.

Tel Aviv

This product was recommended by Leia Kalani from Tropical Topics

Tel Aviv is a fantastic place to travel on a gap year. There are a plethora of gap year programs that can be attended at several esteemed universities. The location is a hub for international students who want to learn in a gap year. Even for individuals who are in post-grad, there are a lot of one-year master’s programs available. The city is the perfect blend of young and lively with an excellent laid back chill scene. The beach is also an excellent bonus to any gap year experience. Not to mention it’s one of the safest cities to travel in, public transportation will take you anywhere in the country, and the food is amazing.

What do you think?

Written by Tan Sauteed


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