Your Guide to the best Gap Year Destinations in 2017
If you spent 2016 dragging yourself out of bed each day for hours of tedious phone calls, wasted mornings in interminable traffic or excruciatingly long days of revision and school work, all while daydreaming of some fresh air or sunnier climes, then start getting travel inspired as one of these destinations is calling your name!
Nowadays a gap year is not just for those wanting to put-off their university studies and prolong the time until the ‘real work’ begins, but is simply for anyone yearning for a well-earned break.
South Africa: dramatic landscapes, an incredible history and, of course, the famed Big Five
Whether you’re the adrenaline-junkie, the budget backpacker, the sun-seeker, the party animal, or that one who just wants to see it all, South Africa is a dream for every manner of traveller!
There are countless reasons for South Africa to be at the forefront of any prospective traveller’s mind. It truly is one of the world’s most diverse countries in terms of landscapes, wildlife, culture and people. The country is possibly the ultimate destination for a gap year backpacker. Set up with an outstanding range of great traveller transportation such as the hop-on hop-off Baz Bus, and affordable hostels that span all across a country.
Cape Town is a particular must for 2017, complete with its iconic mountain backdrop, cinematic beaches and a remarkable history. This is all documented in places such as the District Six museum and the famous Robben Island where Mandela served his sentence of political imprisonment.
The city has a compelling art and design scene with new museums opening this year, an irresistible range of world-class cuisine and the magnificent winelands of Stellenbosch, Constantia, and Franschhoek. This will keep you well hydrated as you shop, sunbathe, scuba dive, hike and more.
For an opportunity to explore the world’s most epic continent, while giving back a little too, this Cape Town trip is perfect. It allows you to undertake conservation and community projects and then heads north to Namibia on an overland safari.
Oman: ever-cheerful locals, delicious dates and mystical deserts
While the Middle East is not a usual gap year destination, 2017 is the year to make it one!
While safety is an obvious concern out there, Oman has been named as one of the World’s safest places to travel. Having spent four years living there myself I never once felt vulnerable.
Full of relaxed, polite and friendly people, Oman is a place to enjoy the delights of Arabian culture without the worry of conflict. With more flights than ever before and an increasing backpacker trail, the Sultanate is fast extending its lead in terms of Arabian destinations.
While a slightly pricier gap year option, the rocky contours of Jebel Akhdar, beloved for its astounding views and spring blanket of velvety pink damask rose blossoms, along with the natural marvel of the Bimmah sinkhole and of course the Majarat Oman futuristic theme park set to debut this year, Oman really is worth every Rial!
Nepal: dazzling heights, endangered species and crumbling relics
Even natural disasters can’t keep Nepal down for long. The 2015 earthquake caused some heart-wrenching devastation, but much of the magnetism of the place remains.
While the country has all the skills required to restore monuments and infrastructure to its former glory, it is your support of local culture and people that will provide the income needed to rebuild and enable the nation to bounce back even stronger.
The mountainous region of the Sagamartha National Park, containing the World’s highest peak Everest, is the place to literally and mentally place yourself on top of the world. Containing some of the world’s most fragile ecosystems, Nepal is a hot eco-tourism destination.
Nepal has always been recognised as a magical place. Known for its critically endangered mountain wildlife, iconic and highly accessible Himalayan hiking and countless awe-inspiring temples. Caps on the tourist numbers, regular trekking path upkeep and management and educational programs for both locals and visitors are key to keeping the magic alive. Nepal is set to make the ultimate sustainable tourism destination.
As the video above shows, there really is nowhere else quite like Nepal. For the full gap year experience of adrenaline, conservation and total cultural immersion take a look at this 4 week Nepal trip.
Finland: cultural celebrations, quaint village-life and enchanting icy scenery
Closer to home for the Europeans, and therefore a little cheaper in terms of flights, make your memories in Finland. This year join in the numerous festivities going on.
After 800 years of Russia and Sweden fighting over the country, it finally gained independence in 1917. The Finns will celebrate their centenary with gusto in the form of feasts, concerts, exhibitions and even sauna evenings in every region!
Hosting the World Figure Skating Championships and the Nordic World Ski Championships give you two more reasons to place Finland at the top of your destination list. Just in case that isn’t enough of an incentive, Hossa’s new national park opens soon. Studded with pine forests, crisscrossed with rivers and home to the unique canyon lake Julma-Ölkky, 4000 year old Stone Age rock paintings and the majestic brown bears: a perfect encapsulation of the mystical scenery, flora and fauna the country has to offer.
Madagascar: unique wildlife, surreal sights and crystal-clear waters
Madagascar, the place where Alex the lion and his friends from New York’s Central Park Zoo discovered the real meaning of wild, is a dreamlike destination. I have recently arrived back to a depressingly cold, wet England after ten fantastic weeks there myself and so (in my opinion) it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list!
As the world’s fourth largest island, Madagascar is the true definition of unique. Over two-thirds of its plant life and 92% of its reptiles are endemic to the country and, of course, it is home to all the world’s lemurs.
With the threat of climate change and deforestation looming ever larger, this is one trip that shouldn’t be delayed. Airlink flights from Johannesburg to Nosy Be have expanded access to the northern stretches. Pristine beaches, rare untouched jungle and exquisite reefs teeming with sea-life (turtle sightings are unavoidable!) pepper the country’s remote northern islands.
Ankarana National Park’s Tsingy rock formations create moon-like landscapes, while Nosy Komba is ideal for lemur-spotting, and exploring Amber Mountain National Park’s waterfalls makes any trip complete.
For the full traveller experience, combining some volunteering with your adventures can reward you with a whole new perspective on a place. The Leap’s 10-week Madagascar volunteering trip is definitely worth a look if you desire an authentic insider’s experience!
Where will 2017 take you?
With travelling getting easier and all corners of the world becoming more accessible, 2017 is definitely the year to explore.
Let us know where your travelling plans are taking you this year in the comments below, we always love to hear of new and exciting destinations.