If you have just finished school, or are finishing in the next year, you're probably starting to think about your gap year and where in the world you would like to spend it. And, with so many beautiful places across the globe – that have incredible cultures, landscapes and tourist attractions – it's going to be a hard decision to make. To help you figure out where you want to spend your year abroad, we have put together a list of interesting, exciting and spectacular countries to get you started.
If you prefer to go with the flow and are planning to spend your gap year relaxing instead of sight-seeing, Fiji is the perfect place for you. A tropical paradise with the most pristine beaches you will ever lay eyes on, as well as coconut trees as far as your eyes can see, Fiji will appeal to those travellers interested in diving, as it is known for some of the most beautiful diving spots in the world, and is an activity that should not be missed. Fiji's capital city, Suva, is worth a visit for the more active travellers, as there are numerous volcanic islands to explore, as well as a number of marine conservation projects for those who would like to volunteer during their stay.
Okay, so I know that this is a continent and not a country, but it is incredibly hard to pick just one amazing destination in Europe when there are so many unique, beautiful and easily accessible countries that you could visit by simply hopping on a train or catching a short (and reasonably priced) flight. Europe is a great place for travellers who would prefer to see more than one place throughout their gap year, as there are a variety of countries – including Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and more – situated close enough together to visit by taking an overnight train or short flight, each offering travellers a unique and unforgettable experience.
As possibly one of the most popular gap year destination to date, Thailand has so much to offer those who set their sights on making it their gap year destination of choice. You can travel from its tropical paradise islands which are home to beautiful beaches and epic parties, to Bangkok, the exciting capital that is full of life. It's relatively easy to get around, which is one of the most appealing factors of this beautiful spot, and has an abundance of great (and safe) hostels to choose from, where you will meet like-minded travellers that could turn in to life-long friends. There is plenty to do and see in this wondrous place, including visiting the Golden Triangle (where Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet) to spending the day at one of Thailand's famous floating markets where you can pick up all sorts of goodies at great prices both for yourself and to take as gifts for your family and friends back home.
With its combination of savannahs, breath-taking landscapes, beautiful coastlines and bustling cities, South Africa is the place to visit if you want to go on a wildlife safari where you can see a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat at game reserves such as the Kruger National Park, spend your days lazing on golden beaches in Cape Town (which is easy to get around with its reliable bus system), and enjoy the entertaining nightlife on offer when the sun goes down in Johannesburg. For those who would like to get their adrenaline pumping in the water, there is numerous ways to stay cool, including kayaking, cage-diving with sharks, surfing, and white-water rafting, and for those interested in sport, there are a number of volunteer programmes in South Africa where sport is taught to children in underprivileged areas.
As a relatively cheap destination to visit and one that is easy to navigate, it is no wonder Vietnam is becoming a popular destination for those looking for a less 'touristy' country to visit. Vietnam offers visitors a mixture of lively, bustling cities, beautiful beaches and green rice paddies (which are found in the more rural parts of the country). This gap year destination is perfect for those who want to unwind, go on a rail or bus network adventure, put their TEFL certificate to good use, and enjoy delicious street food.
On the other side of the world sits Australia, and although it's pretty far from, basically, everywhere, it's a great destination for those wanting to spend the majority of their time outdoors, who seek thrills and adventure, or for those who would like to embark on a working holiday to get in some much-needed work experience (as well as make some money while there).
An incredibly diverse place, India offers those wanting to spend their gap year experiencing an array of exciting opportunities, including riding camels in the desert, catching a tan on Goa's immaculate beaches and the chance to explore numerous temples and palaces – including the great Taj Mahal – that will give you insight into the local's culture and history. India is also home to many national parks where you can see tigers and elephants, as well as opportunities to go hiking and trekking through the Himalayas. If you're wondering about what modes of transport are suitable to get around the cities, hopping in a tuk-tuk is the cheapest and easiest way to get around. For those, again, who would like to put some of their time to use volunteering, you can do so in an orphanage, teach in a school, or even take part in a community building project. Regardless of the type of volunteering you choose to do, one this is for sure – it will be rewarding and life-changing.
The UAE comprise of seven countries – Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Jujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain – and is the ideal place for those who want to explore, live, and potentially work in one of the most exciting and innovative countries in the world. There are a variety of activities to take part in – for example, riding a camel through the desert, spending your day at one of their waterparks and skiing indoors at Ski Dubai – as well as going to famous brunches in Dubai and taking the elevator to the top of the world's tallest building. It is also the perfect country for those studying, or thinking about studying, architecture, with many opportunities to work or intern as architectural companies. Dubai has an amazing transport system which makes it easy to get around, and there are plenty of properties in Dubai and the surrounding cities that are affordable to live in for the year, too.
These are just eight beautiful locations to spend your well-earned gap year, with so many more you could choose from. In order to pick the right place for you, be sure to think about the experiences you would like to encounter, the types of place you want to spend the next year living in, and the kinds of people you would like to meet and surround yourself with. By giving it some serious and in-depth thought and research, you will be sure not to regret your decision and spend your gap year excited about every new day.