Top ten gap year destinations

written by Lottie Gross

updated 26.03.2019

It's that fateful A-level results day again, when hundreds of thousands of hard-working students will be taking one last trip back to school to discover the outcome of those arduous and intense exams they took at the beginning of the summer. Essentially, two years of hard work will all culminate in one single letter today, and while many will be hoping they got the grade for their first choice university, others will start looking for adventure as they begin a gap year.

As reported by members of the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), there has been an increase in bookings over the last 12 months, as interest in taking a gap year returns among school-leavers this year. According to ABTA, these are the top ten gap year destinations:

10. Fiji

This idyllic island is a picture perfect combination of blue lagoons and exquisite beaches. Use our Rough Guide to Fiji for the best travel advice on your trip.

9. New Zealand

Consistently on bucket lists for travellers around the world, New Zealand has something for everyone, from its sweeping beaches to the snow-topped mountains. Climb a glacier or relax in a hot pool, surrounded by bush and gaze at the myriad of stars above. Plan your trip to New Zealand here.

8. India

India, sprawling from the snow-topped peaks of the Himalayas to the thick green landscapes of Kerala, entices gap year students year on year and it's hardly surprising. Another incredibly diverse country, you can ride camels into the desert, lounge on beaches in the south and explore beautiful temples and palaces. Use our destination page to plan your Indian adventure.


Orchha © Nataiki/Shutterstock

7. Brazil

Bigger than the US (excluding Alaska), Brazil is often described as a continent, not a country. It has all the scenic and cultural variety you could wish for in a great gap year destination, not to mention the sprawling Amazon – the world's largest river system. Covering over half of the country, the Amazon offers an abundance of wildlife and thick green rainforest that plays home to some of the world's most remote tribes. Plan your trip to Brazil here.

6. Vietnam

With extensive rail and bus networks, the ease of navigating in Vietnam is a major positive for any gap year student – find itineraries, inspiration and essential information on Vietnam here.

5. Peru

Exotic jungles, coastal deserts, the breathtaking Andes mountains and the infamous Inca Trail – Peru is a top backpacking destination. There is an immense wealth of sights, from the fascinating ancient ruins and archeological gems, to buzzing nightlife in the big cities. Make use of those A-level Spanish skills and explore Peru here.

4. South Africa

The allure of elephants and lions in Kruger National Park is enough to draw in any backpacker on a gap year. South Africa has a diverse landscape with big cities and wide plains teeming with wildlife, making it one of Africa's premier safari destinations. With a good infrastructure it's easy to get around here, ensuring you can see everything from the vibrant Cape Town to the rural Zulu villages. Use our online South Africa destination guide to plan your trip.

3. USA

Skyscrapers, road trips, cowboys and surfers – America is a diverse and eclectic mix of people and places. Find inspiration for a gap year trip to America here.

2. Australia

Ever wondered what Christmas on the beach is like? You can find out in Australia, the second most popular country for gap years. Australia is a huge mass of over seven million square kilometres, so it naturally has a an entire gap-year's-worth of entertainment. Check info on working holiday visas here and explore Australia on our destination page.

1. Thailand

With sixteen million foreigners flying into Thailand each year, there's no wonder it's top of the list for gap year students – it's a pretty special place. From the tropical paradise islands – with idyllic beaches and epic parties – to the buzzing capital Bangkok, Thailand has plenty to offer: you can learn to dive, become a boxing champion or just relax on one of the many white, sandy beaches. Travel and accommodation is cheap if you know where to look and there's a whole population of backpackers all year round to meet and make friends. Find itinerary ideas, things not to miss and all the information you need to get going in Thailand here.

Have you got plans for an adventure around the world this year? Or have you been on your gap year before and got some cool suggestions for those new travellers? Tweet us using the hashtag #greatgapyear for your ideas and suggestions for a great gap year destination.

Find hostels for your gap year trip here, and don't forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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