5 of the best destinations to consider for a gap year in 2024

A young traveller visiting the Duquesa Village, Manilva, Spain. Picture: Unsplash

A young traveller visiting the Duquesa Village, Manilva, Spain. Picture: Unsplash

Published Jan 15, 2024


South Africa’s highly anticipated matric results will be officially out on January 19. For the class of 2023, this represents the end of one road and the beginning of a new journey.

Some will be furthering their studies and some will be going into the world of work. For those not quite too sure which life path to take, there is also the possibility of taking a gap year to figure out what you really want.

A gap year is a period of time when learners take a break from their studies, usually after completing high school and during this time, engaging in a variety of educational and developmental activities, such as travelling, working, volunteering or taking courses.

A gap year is not limited to a year-long break and can range from several months to a few years.

According to research, learners who take a gap year tend to perform better academically than those who do not.

During a gap year, learners can become more self-aware, experience other cultures, view the world from different perspective, learn how to overcome challenges, learn how to socialise and make friends and network with individuals worldwide.

If this seems like something you look forward to doing, here is a list of top countries to consider for a gap year, according to gooverseas.com.

Best for volunteering: South Africa

Views of Camps Bay in Cape Town South Africa. Picture: Unsplash

For South African learners, you’re probably thinking why should I stay in the country and not go abroad? Well, consider it a staycation in on of South Africa's 9 provinces.

This option is great comfort for parents who want to keep a close eye on their young adults while they explore their new found freedom. If you want to give back, remember charity begins at home.

According to gooverseas.com, South Africa is a fantastic gap year destination for adventure seekers, animal conservation volunteers and foodies alike.

“The low cost of living and diverse landscape makes South Africa a destination with something for everyone. Many gap year programs in South Africa allow travellers to experience world-renowned vineyards, a sprawling eco-tourism industry, and adventure travel.

“There are also many volunteering opportunities in South Africa that allow travellers to give back during their time visiting,” according to the website.

For a culturally immersive experience: India

Views of the Taj Mahal. Picture: Unsplash

India will provide a culturally immersive experience whether you want to teach English, volunteer with local NGOs, work on the front lines of climate issues, study spirituality and religion or just travel.

The country has a low cost of living allowing young travellers to maximise their time abroad while travelling throughout the country and visiting its many iconic temples and landscapes.

“In addition to the culture, architecture, and spiritual history, India has a diverse climate and environment. India is one of five 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,” said go overseas.com.

For an unforgettable adventure: Costa Rica

La Isla Tortuga, a wildlife eco have in Costa Rica. Picture: Unsplash

According to gooverseas.com, Costa Rica is a highly wish-listed country for gap year travel and the Central American country with the most gap year programmes.

“Naturally, many gap year opportunities in Costa Rica revolve around wildlife, conservation, and the environment.

“There are conservation centres and programmes all over the country, but it’s a good idea to ensure that those you visit are appropriately credentialed and not just using ‘eco-friendly’ as a fashionable buzzword,” said the travelsite.

Costa Rica is famous for being one of the most biodiverse places globally. Its forests, mountains, and coastal areas are home to a vast array of animals, birds and fish, many of which are endemic to the country.

The beautiful beaches are ideal to surf, and there are countless other outdoor adventures to enjoy, including white-water rafting, horse trekking and ziplining.

Best for language immersion: Spain

Explore Old Town, Calp, Spain. Picture: Unsplash

Spain is known as an affordable gap year option for those looking to travel in Europe. Gooverseas.com said that many gap year programmes in Spain focus on art, music and language, and there is a strong demand for volunteers to help with conservation efforts around Spain's beautiful beaches.

“Spain is one of the most popular gap year destinations in all of Europe, with Barcelona consistently being ranked among the top cities on earth.

“Language immersion is extremely popular for English speakers looking to learn or improve their Spanish-speaking skills.

“Additionally, Spain is home to many important cultural sites, a vibrant nightlife, and a world-renowned culinary scene,” said the travel site.

Great for teaching English: Thailand

Explore Phra Nang Beach, Krabi, Thailand. Picture: Unsplash

Thailand is a beautiful country full of culture, sights, and sounds and it’s one of the most popular countries to travel to in Southeast Asia, and it has something for everyone. From beaches, temples, cities, and jungles, Thailand has it all.

“If you want to learn about Thai culture while also taking advantage of what Thailand offers, then this is the perfect destination for you! You will gain insight into local life by interacting with locals and learning their language,” said gooverseas.com.

The travel site that assists young travellers in choosing a destination also said that you can also take part in volunteering projects, such as helping out at an orphanage or teaching English at a local school as the country is experiencing a boom in tourism and education and teaching English in Thailand has grown in popularity.