A gap year is meant to be a year of exploration and discovery, so the more you get the see the better! Keeping that in mind, choosing a gap year route that allows you to visit as many places as possible is crucial, as this is a time in your life that you won’t be able to repeat. While the ultimate gap year route is ultimately up to personal choice, the following route is definitely worth considering if you’re still in the process of working out where to go.
This legendary railway is on everyone’s travel bucket list. The classic route from Moscow to Beijing with stops in Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar is an unforgettable experience. In total, the journey takes anywhere from 2-3 weeks depending on how long you stop in Mongolia. ‘No-frills’ tickets are widely available and are very popular with backpackers and gap year students. The Trans-Siberian Railway is probably the best way to view the sweeping landscapes of Siberia. Popular stops along the route include Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is an amazing place to hike and explore. After Baikal, backpackers can stop for several days in Ulaanbaatar, staying in a traditional Mongolian yurt and learning about the Mongolian nomadic lifestyle. This eye-opening experience of living off the land is in stark contrast to the crowded metropolis of Beijing.
After exploring the sights and attractions of Beijing, hop on a flight to Bangkok and spend a few weeks (or a few months) exploring Southeast Asia. Here you’ll get a glimpse of the developing world, where towering skyscrapers stand side-by-side with traditional street vendors and shop houses. Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos are all must-visit destinations with lots to offer. If destinations like Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City give you sensory overload, hop on a short regional flight and head to quieter Vientiane the Laos capital. Beach lovers can take a regional flight to any number of top seaside destinations, including Krabi and Phuket. Gap year students on a tight budget will find that hostels and budget hotels in Southeast Asia are very affordable, and food is also incredibly cheap.
From Bangkok, take the 8-hour flight to Cairns, Australia. Cairns is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and a great tropical destination. There’s obviously plenty to explore here, especially along the coastline. From Cairns, hire a car or van and embark on an epic road trip down Australia’s Gold Coast. Continue south to Sydney and Melbourne, visiting all the major attractions in these cities. Though it’s true that Australia is a bit pricey, youth hostels can be found pretty much everywhere.
If time and your budget permits, take the long-haul flight from Melbourne to either Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, two of the most dynamic cities in South America. Rio lives up to its party reputation, but if you’re through with hanging out at the beach, Buenos Aires offers up European charm with a South American twist. Enjoy the great food here, which is a combination of European cooking techniques with local ingredients. From Buenos Aires, keen hikers and outdoor lovers should head to Patagonia to experience some of the most beautiful natural scenery on earth.
Whether you’re taking the entire year off or just a few months, this route will take you through multiple continents and numerous different countries. Along the way you’ll gain access to an incredible range of scenery and have the opportunity to meet people from dozens of different backgrounds and cultures. The experience will leave you will a new perspective and help prepare you for your future.