One of the most exciting steps in planning your gap year is researching and choosing where you will go. Your gap year is likely the first major international trip that you're planning entirely by yourself. You decide where you'll live, what you'll do, and the life-changing experiences in which you'll partake. Whether you're a recent high school or college grad or a professional in need of a career break, here are 10 up and coming gap year destinations for 2021 and beyond.
It's important to note that the world is still grappling with the health, safety, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every country has its own set of restrictions and advisories to slow the spread and keep people safe. This list intends to inspire prospective gappers with the many possibilities they have when planning a gap year, but following health and safety guidelines is essential.
Some gappers are attracted to the most popular gap year destinations, hence their popularity. If breaking from convention appeals to you, these up and coming gap year destinations offer culturally immersive experiences that are sure to expand your perspective!
Summary of Up-and-Coming Gap Year Destinations for 2021:
Located in North America, Mexico has a range of gap year experiences for every curious traveler. As a bonus, you'll find sightseeing and eating on a budget to be easily achievable!
In truth, politics and fear-mongering continue to spread untrue narratives about the US’s southern neighbor. But gappers who see beauty beyond biases will find enchantment by turquoise seas, Aztec and Mayan ruins, marine wildlife, and welcoming communities.
Teach English to kids as a volunteer, or sign up for a language program yourself. Whatever you do, try not to get sucked into resort culture -- you'll miss immersive experiences! That said, a resort break or two won't incur any judgment from us.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Mexico:
A gap year in England will allow you to see more of what makes this UK country appear postcard-perfect.
Study fashion in London or music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Are you intrigued by Roman history? Take a tour of the extensive ruins. Have you ever wondered if Stonehenge is worth visiting? Compare it to over 1,000 other prehistoric stone circles in England.
Don't forget to make time for an afternoon tea! Pair it with visits to the many estates and abbeys in England, or wind down after a morning out in the Lake District.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in England:
India is an excellent gap year destination for travelers looking to teach English, volunteer with local NGOs, work on the front lines of climate issues, or study spirituality and religion.
In addition to the culture, architecture, and spiritual history, India has a diverse climate and environment. India is one of 5 countries sharing The Himalayas, the mountain range where Mt. Everest and the world's other highest peaks live. India is also home to many animal species ranging from elephants and rhinos to lions, tigers, and even snow leopards.
A gap year in India is an opportunity for immense personal growth by providing real-world impact through service, while experiencing beautiful cities, historic architecture, and stunning landscapes.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in India:
Spending your gap year in Israel is an opportunity to learn more about the origins of the western world and experience the country's vibrant art, community, and scenic landscapes.
Israel is known as the religious capital of the world, and there's no denying that Israel's holy sites are a must-visit, regardless of whether you're religious or merely interested in theology and archaeology. Spending time in the Occupied Palestinian Territory will help educate you on thousands of years of history in the region, and give you a fuller perspective on the two nations.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Israel:
Travelers who seek a balanced serving of city life, cultural immersion, and adventurous activities should consider traversing Peru during their gap year. This South American country offers an abundance of memorable day trips and multi-day treks, as well as opportunities to volunteer or intern in urban and rural communities.
Take your gap year to Peru's Andean villages, buggy through sand dunes, and enjoy the flavors of Peruvian ceviche, pisco, and lomo saltado. Whether you pass your time learning about Peru's history and culture or fighting for environmental justice, indigenous health, and human rights, it'll be a gap year well spent.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Peru:
From world-renowned vineyards to predators roaming freely in national parks, South Africa is a fantastic gap year destination for adventure seekers, animal conservation volunteers, and foodies alike.
Spend your time surfing, become a game ranger, or dedicate yourself to a year of service. South Africa has opportunities for gappers to do practically anything, including studying at world-class universities or gaining internship experience in Cape Town's growing economy.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in South Africa:
Germany is an appealing gap year destination for those looking for tradition, gorgeous scenery, and technology on the cutting edge of conservation and sustainability.
Germany is a magnet for tourists, offering everything from skiing in the Alps to the world-famous Oktoberfest. Gappers can study German in Berlin, teach English while living with a host family, or work on conservation projects. As one of the world's leading economies, Germany has appealing internship opportunities for travelers looking for professional improvement.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Germany:
For gappers looking to spend their year in an English speaking country, Scotland has much to offer. From the wilderness in the Highlands to the castles scattered throughout the country, Scotland blends a proud culture, natural beauty, and historic architecture.
Whether you decide to study under the direction of a Member of Parliament, intern in the Capital city of Edinburgh, or volunteer on a whale conservation project, Scotland offers both personal and professional growth opportunities and a friendly visa scheme for US and EU citizens.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Scotland:
Norway is known as an international leader in the fight for fairness and equality. A gap year in Norway is an opportunity to learn ancient folklore, enjoy traditional Scandinavian music, and work or volunteer in gorgeous Norwegian cities.
The land of the midnight sun is an excellent country to see the northern lights (during November through March, when the midnight sun is not out) or to cruise on a wharf through the world's second-largest fjord.
Gap year providers operating in Norway have multiple high school programs, making it an appealing destination for younger gappers.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Norway:
Located in Central Europe, Hungary is a county packed full of medieval castles and varied landscapes, including thermal caves and Europe’s largest natural grasslands. Additionally, Hungary is a budget-friendly option for travelers looking for an affordable gap year destination in Europe.
Budapest, the capital city of Hungary, is world-renowned for its culture and architecture. Don't just stay in Budapest during your gap year, though. This landlocked country boasts Central Europe's largest lake, a historic wine region, and UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Inspiring Gap Year Programs in Hungary:
Where Will You Go?
Whether you choose from this list of up and coming gap year destinations or from one of the dozens of other great options across the globe, a gap year is sure to contribute to your academic and personal growth and provide you with the experience of a lifetime.