Gap Year

The 10 Best Gap Year Destinations for 2019

Olivia Christine Perez
Olivia Christine Perez

Traversing the globe as a writer and marketing consultant, Olivia writes for Go Overseas about topics including gap years and general travel advice.

Best Places to Plan Your Gap Year - Australia

You've decided: 2019 is the year you'll take that gap year. Maybe you're graduating from high school and want a year off before college. Maybe you're graduating from college and want a year off before launching your career. Maybe you're in the middle of your career and just need a break for a year to recharge and learn from the world. Whatever reason you're planning your gap year, it's an exciting time. The world is yours to explore!

As you try and narrow down where to go on your gap year, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. There are so many awesome countries to visit and you’ll soon realize a year doesn’t seem like enough time to see it all! Some countries are wildly popular gap year destinations for a good reason, and if those call out to you -- keep reading. (If, on the other hand, you're looking to get off the beaten path on your gap year, here's a list of up-and-coming gap year destinations we think you'll love. Why not visit some from both lists?!)

No need to worry; at Go Overseas we’ve reviewed and picked 10 of the best places to consider for your upcoming gap year -- and we think you’re going to love it. These destinations were selected based on their reviews, popularity on our website, search trends across the internet, and their range of activities and opportunities.

Here are the best places to go on your gap year in 2019:

Country Rank (2019) Change
Australia 1 New
Japan 2 New
Spain 3 New
China 4 New
USA 5 New
New Zealand 6 New
Germany 7 New
South Africa 8 New
India 9 New
England 10 New

As we've never done this list before, every destination is brand new. But don't worry, we plan to update this every year. If you decide to wait until 2020 to take your gap year, check back to see which new countries make the list, and where these countries are on next year's list!

Now, let's dive into each country to share why these are the most popular gap year destinations.

#1. Australia

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: Australia
Photo by Mckenzie H., Pacific Discovery Alum

Australia is one of the most popular places for students to spend a gap year. This English-speaking country down under is home to big cities, big surf, and expansive terrain. Though travelers find it to be more expensive than other developed countries, the USD to AUD exchange rate will be in your favor!

Hone your business and marketing skills, spend the year scouting the best beaches, or get in touch with your environmentalist side. You can even get a job through their working holiday visa. Just keep in mind their seasons are opposite ours.

Popular Gap Year Programs in Australia:

2. Japan

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: Japan
Photo by Joshua E., EA Ski & Snowboard Alum

Try something totally different in 2019 and head to Japan for your gap year. From ancient relics and sites to advanced technology and bustling cities, this small island in Asia perfectly weaves old-world tradition with modern life.

Enjoy a tea ceremony or spectacular views of Mount Fuji -- or visit markets and temples or snack on mochi. Whether you choose the lush green scenery, cultural experiences in small villages, fully take on street life, or all of the above -- you’ll find studying, volunteering, and exploring in Japan to be worthwhile.

Popular Gap Year Programs in Japan:

3. Spain

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: Spain
Photo by Abigail W., CIEE Gap Year Alum

Not only is Spain one of the most popular destinations to visit in the world, it is also a top country to spend a gap year. The culture is so rich across the region that you’ll find something special around every corner.

Artists, Spanish majors, and architect students will love spending a gap year in Spain thanks to its magnificent structures, art, dance, and music. Because of its economy, you’ll find it to be cheaper than its European counterparts -- but no less worthy. Don’t forget to sip Spanish wine and try Iberian ham.

Popular Gap Year Programs in Spain:

4. China

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: China
Photo by Paul B., Where There Be Dragons Alum

China makes our list of best places to go on your gap year in 2019 because of its extensive list of business and financial internships, as well as robust language courses. If you don’t plan to visit China to boost your academic or professional resume, you’ll still find the country to offer great philanthropic opportunities and exciting adventures.

Soak in the culture and deep-rooted ancient history, and explore the most populous country in the world. Choose your regions carefully, though: China’s climate can vary from desert to tropical to subarctic temperatures.

Popular Gap Year Programs in China:

5. USA

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: USA
Photo by Jon, Camp America Alum

Maybe during your gap year you’d like to stay stateside; take in the sights and experiences across the United States with a cross-country road trip or regional tour. Thanks to its size, this melting pot country has something for everyone.

Get closer to nature by visiting National Parks, give back by volunteering in disadvantaged communities and human rights campaigns, or boost your resume by joining an international leader in your career track. Whichever you choose, a United States gap year can easily be paired with immersive cultural experiences, delicious food, and amazing landscapes.

Popular Gap Year Programs in the United States:

6. New Zealand

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: New Zealand
Photo by Michel A., Pure Exploration Alum

Ask anyone who's been why they love New Zealand so much and they’ll rave about its friendly locals, jaw-dropping outdoor experiences, and laid back vibes. If that sounds like the best year ever to you, then you must add it to your gap year itinerary for 2019.

Though New Zealand is known for its leisure adventure travel and outdoor excursions, there are plenty of volunteer and internship opportunities there too. You can weave them together and volunteer outdoors, or be part of Kiwi city life and join a professional internship.

Popular Gap Year Programs in New Zealand:

7. Germany

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: Germany
Photo by Grace S., FU-BEST Alum

If a combination of fairytale villages and modern cities are your jam, you’ll love a gap year in Germany. In fact, even the language barrier doesn’t stop people around the world from choosing Germany as a top destination to explore in Europe (many Germans speak English too, making it easier to navigate).

Come for Oktoberfest and stay for their environmental initiatives, business opportunities, arts, and culture. You can perfect your German by staying with a host family, or intern at a leading German company.

Popular Gap Year Programs in Germany:

8. South Africa

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: South Africa
Photo by Lisa G., Operation Wallacea Alum

South Africa is a spectacular place to visit during your gap year, and one of the most popular countries to visit in Africa. Besides being home to amazing food and an abundance of vineyards, South Africa has vibrant cities and scenic outdoor destinations totally worth exploring.

Support their economy’s long-term growth (the second largest on the continent) with a community development internship that acknowledges income imbalance, or volunteer with programs that advocate for human rights or promote environmental and wildlife conservation.

Popular Gap Year Programs in South Africa:

9. India

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: India
Photo by Allie J., Youth International Alum

Travelers love India for a gap year because it is budget-friendly for travelers, culturally rich, and keeps you on your toes! If your gap year takes you to India in 2019, it will make for an exciting gap year for sure.

If the hustle of cities like Mumbai seem too busy, there are plenty of smaller towns and countryside villages to experience too. Travel to India to see iconic sites like the Taj Mahal, book an adventure tour through the mountains or desert, or volunteer with local programs that focus on community development.

Popular Gap Year Programs in India:

10. England

The Best Places to Go on Your Gap Year in 2019: England
Photo by Nicholas A., Global Experiences Alum

Take a gap year in England for a royal taste of life in the United Kingdom. Whether in London, the Cotswolds, the Lake District, or elsewhere -- you’ll surely have a memorable gap year.

Join a business or marketing internship in one of England’s many cities or take a local course. Volunteer at a national park or with the National Trust. Dine and road trip the country at your leisure -- your choice! You’ll love the estates, ruins, and storybook villages.

Popular Gap Year Programs in England:

See all gap year programs in England →

These are our top 10 best countries for taking a gap year... does that help narrow it down for you? Remember, there is no harm in visiting more than one destination, or adding a few up-and-coming gap year destinations to your itinerary too. In some situations, planning a multi-country gap year is even better! There is plenty to explore and learn about, so say goodbye to your comfort zone and have fun.