Planning a gap year and wondering where to go? With so many amazing opportunities around the world, narrowing down the best gap year destinations can be tricky.
I’ve got 15 amazing gap year destinations in this post. They’re all pretty epic, and you’ll probably wish you could travel to them all.
But first thing’s first, consider what you want to get out of your experience. Are you looking to try the digital nomad life, volunteer for a conservation project, get solid career experience, or work at a hostel meeting people? Why you’re taking a year to travel will directly influence where you go.
As someone who has lived the digital nomad life, worked at a hostel via the Worldpackers service, and has scoured the planet in search of adventure, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to have a great gap year and where to go.
Table of Contents
- 15 Best Gap Year Destinations for 2022
- Gap Year FAQ
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15 Best Gap Year Destinations for 2022
#1 – Costa Rica
Straddling both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Costa Rica is perfect for those chasing pura vida, or the pure life. Characterized by sprawling rainforests, active volcanoes, and beaches that stretch on seemingly forever, this is the place to be if you’re looking to take a gap year rooted in biodiversity and conservation.
Some fun facts: 25% of Costa Rica is a protected area, it contains 5% of the planet’s biodiversity, it’s home to 112 volcanoes (5 of which are active), it features 12 microclimates, and it’s one of the leading countries in reducing carbon emissions.
Meanwhile, the capital city of San Jose is full of world-class museums, entertainment, and culinary adventures.
Some of the best Costa Rican gap year ideas include working at a surf camp, learning about permaculture and farming, or maintaining an eco-village.
👉 Pro Tip: In booking your gap year placement in Costa Rica, you gotta try Worldpackers. I’ve used them for finding hostel jobs and I love how many verified options they have. Be sure to enter promo code TRAVELLEMMING for $10 off your membership!
#2 – South Africa
Located at the southern tip of Africa, the country of South Africa is a great gap year destination if you’re interested in working on a farm (the country is famed for its vineyards in particular) or are looking to join a big game ecology effort.
The country is home to many different ecosystems and is known for beaches, mountains, lagoons, National Parks, and most populous cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban.
In particular, South Africa is home to Kruger National Park and safaris on which you can see the big five — elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions, and leopards.
👉 Looking for more year-off inspiration? We’ve listed out the best gap year ideas to make your time abroad count!
#3 – New Zealand
An island country located in the south pacific, New Zealand is characterized by two main pieces of land — the North Island and the South Island — and is a lush country full of mountains, quaint towns, forests, and glaciers.
Though popular among travelers looking to live the van life, New Zealand is great whether you’re a backpacker hopping around or if you want to get a steady gig and stay awhile in one place.
New Zealand is truly a country that makes it easy to hop on board for a gap year, as they have extensive working holiday visas that give you access to job boards and specialized work opportunities.
Popular gap year ideas in New Zealand include becoming a ski or snowboard instructor, working in hostels, and volunteering for NGOs.
#4 – United Kingdom
Located in northern Europe, The UK is an island nation made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Though not the most budget-friendly gap year destination on this list, you’ll have a blast exploring the capital city of London, checking out ancient ruins, and soaking up entertainment and history.
Planning a gap year in the United Kingdom can be done no matter what your long-term goals are, but by far the best way is to get a work visa through a legitimate program and attempt to find work in a field of your choice.
That said, you’ll find a ton of more casual opportunities on Worldpackers including kitchen work, hostel reception, and social media management.
💰 On a Budget? Europe can be pretty hit or miss when it comes to staying on a budget, we’ve rounded up our top cheap places to stay in Europe. Check it out!
#5 – Australia
One of the most popular gap year destinations for North Americans and Europeans, Australia is located in the South Pacific and is the world’s sixth-largest country.
Home to world-class cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, etc.), the Great Barrier Reef, adventure sports, and some of the best surfing in the world, Australia offers robust programs for young people looking to seek experiences abroad (including a working holiday visa program).
The most popular gap year experiences in Australia include working on farms, working at a surf camp, assisting on a marine conservation project, and working as a deckhand on a sailboat.
👉 Looking for more Australia Inspiration? Check out our Tasmania Road Trip Guide & Itinerary!
#6 – Thailand
Dreaming of lounging on islands, visiting temples, and eating your way through Bangkok?
Located in Southeast Asia, Thailand is one of the most popular places in the world for backpackers due to budget prices, diverse attractions, stunning scenery, an abundance of hostels, and tourism infrastructure.
Especially popular among digital nomads due to the freelancer visa (if you get approved you can stay for up to four years), some of Thailand’s most nomad-friendly destinations include Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Koh Lanta, and Koh Phangan.
Additionally, Worldpackers has a ton of Thailand opportunities including hostel work, animal sanctuaries, organic farming, teaching English, and party promoting. 👉 Just be sure to enter code TRAVELLEMMING for $10 off your membership!
#7 – Canada
Between artsy cities such as Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, the Rocky Mountains, bohemian west-coast villages, and boasting the largest coastline in the world, there is no shortage of places to visit and adventures to be had in Canada.
Especially popular among those interested in holing up as a ski or snowboard instructor over the winter (the mountains in Alberta and British Columbia are prime powder destinations), opportunities in Canada also include hostel reception, web development, and farming.
That said, if you plan to spend a gap year in North America, I do recommend paying attention to your backpacking budget. Even if you have your accommodations and food covered, Canada isn’t the most budget-friendly of destinations to get around or live in.
It’s definitely still worth it, just make sure you plan accordingly!
👉 Interested in Canada? Check out my best 16 Canada travel tips to know before you go.
#8 – USA
Speaking of great North American places to go, the United States of America is a mecca for entertainment buffs, beach lovers, and city slickers alike.
If you’re not from the USA (or even if you are and want to stick close to home), you’ll have a blast uncovering the spooky secrets of New Orleans, the hidden-gem pockets of New York City, and California’s many beaches.
While in the USA, you can either channel your inner Jack Kerouac and road trip across the country, picking up work here and there, or you can bunker down in one destination and explore it fully.
However, I will caution that, like Canada, the USA is vast and not the easiest to get around on a budget. Again, it’s absolutely still worth a gap year, but make sure you factor the cost and sheer amount of landmass into your plans.
#9 – France
One of Western Europe’s most visited countries, France isn’t exactly off the beaten trail, but it is famed for beautiful medieval towns, warm beaches, lush countryside, and posh cities. In particular, the capital city of Paris is a mecca for culture, fashion, entertainment, and art buffs.
I mention France here because, though it can be quite expensive on a backpacker’s budget, it is known for its Au Pair opportunities, in which you’d become a live-in nanny while learning a new language.
Other options include working on vineyards and farms, and housekeeping in luxe chateaus. Plus, if you read my guide to finding cheap places to stay in Europe, then you know that you can always use hostels, homestays, or any of the other tricks I go over to find affordable accommodation in France.
Plus, its handy location and robust travel infrastructure mean you can use your days off to visit a ton of other destinations in Europe. Score!
👉 Pro Tip: Before you head out on your trip, make sure you have luggage that can stand the test of time. Check out our comparison of the 7 best travel backpacks for more information!
#10 – India
Visiting the Taj Mahal at dawn, going on a food tour in Mumbai, photographing ever-striking Rajasthan, and soaking up the fantastic culture are just a few of the experiences you can have while traveling India.
The second-most populous country in the world, India is located in South Asia and is a prime destination for a gap year.
The cost of living is low, the transportation network is vast, and the tech scene is growing rapidly. Plus, if you’re staying in a major city, then reliable wifi is easy to access.
Popular gap year jobs in India include being a content creator, working as a yoga instructor, helping in a hostel, and teaching English.
#11 – Ireland
Want to spend your gap year drinking Guinness beer, reading Oscar Wilde, celebrating Saint Patrick, and exploring medieval castles? Then the Emerald Isle is for you!
A northern European country, Ireland is the ultimate gap year destination for those wanting an English-speaking country with a ton of unique culture.
During your trip to Ireland, be sure to experience the stunning Cliffs of Moher, catch some live music in Galway, go museum-hopping in Dublin, and drive the Wild Atlantic Way.
Popular gap-year experiences in Ireland include assisting on wellness retreats, working in bed & breakfasts, and landscaping. However, due to helpful gap year programs, I’ve had friends further their careers in Ireland in the pharmacy, photography, and business fields.
#12 – Peru
Featuring the Peruvian Amazon, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, the colorful city of Cusco, and the ever-enchanting city of Lima, Peru is an art and culture-filled country well suited to a life-changing gap year.
World-renowned for its archaeological sites and jungle lifestyle, Peru is one of the most affordable countries in South America to visit.
The country is very much on the map as far as culinary experiences go, and taking a gap year here will give you easy access to the rainforest, Andes mountains, and miles of desert-like coastline.
Popular gap year ideas for Peru include teaching English, teaching sports to kids, cooking, rescuing animals, and working at an eco-lodge.
#13 – Argentina
Home to renowned attractions such as Iguazu Falls, Perito Moreno Glacier, colorful Buenos Aires, and the world’s southernmost city of Ushuaia, Argentina is firmly planted on the gap year trail, with a ton of opportunities available.
If you’re looking to stay a while in Argentina, then consider the cities of Cordoba, Buenos Aires, or Salta. They are fun cities that have great wifi standards and are relatively affordable for Argentina.
Other gap year opportunities in Argentina include permaculture projects, farming, and teaching English.
#14 – Georgia
Straddling Europe and Asia, if Georgia isn’t on your radar as a top-notch gap year destination, then it absolutely should be.
Home to the Caucasus Mountains, Black Sea, and extremely liveable capital city of Tbilisi, Georgia is on the map as a digital nomad hub due to its affordability, visa program, great wifi, and unique cultural heritage.
Whether you’re building a business, working as a virtual assistant, or looking to start your own travel blog, consider putting Georgia firmly on your list of options.
🤓 Fun fact: It’s believed that winemaking originated in Georgia around 8,000 years ago.
#15 – Nepal
Located in South Asia, Nepal is known for being home to eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world (including Mount Everest), the Annapurna Sanctuary, the historic city of Kathmandu, and beautiful temples.
The country is multi-ethnic and multi-lingual and can be even more affordable than comparable countries in the region such as Thailand and Indonesia. Additionally, the internet in the larger cities has grown more reliable over the years as load-shedding practices become a thing of the past.
By far the most common gap year jobs in Nepal center around eco-villages, sustainability, and farming. Want to learn more about bee-keeping? Or how about growing mushrooms? There are Worldpackers opportunities for that!
👉 Want More Gap Year Ideas? Head on over to Worldpackers now to browse their many opportunities. Just be sure to enter code TRAVELLEMMING for $10 off your membership!
Gap Year FAQ
What should I do in my gap year?
Taking a gap year is a great opportunity to travel around the world, work as an Au Pair, build an online business, work at a hostel, volunteer for an ecology project, learn a new language, or work as a teacher.
What are the best gap year companies?
Worldpackers is one of the best gap year companies in the world, due to their constant job listings, customer service, and the plethora of informational articles they supply. You can read our detailed Worldpackers review for more information.
Are gap years worth it?
Taking a gap year is absolutely worth it. During your year off, you can learn more about yourself, find inspiration for your career, meet new people, and hone your resume.
Are students who take gap years more successful?
According to a study by the University of Sydney, students who take a gap year are more likely to have a higher grade point average and be more confident.
That’s it for my top 15 gap year destinations! If you want to keep reading more, check out my post on the best ideas for a gap year.
No matter where you choose for your gap year, you’re going to have an amazing adventure spending a year abroad.
Have fun on your gap year!