Six Destinations Around the World for an Alternative Gap Year Experience


By now, we’ve all seen the quintessential post-grad Thailand trip Instagram pics at a full moon party in Koh Phangan. If not that, perhaps it’s of your friends on the popular Gili Trawagan Island swing, in front of Machu Picchu or taking a dip in the famous Bondi Icebergs.

If you’re still considering embarking on an exotic journey of your own as a graduation gift, Booking.com, the global leader in connecting you with the widest choice of incredible places to stay, has rounded up six destinations around the world to travel to for an unusual, un-cliché gap year experience. Whether you’re hoping for culture, partying, or adventure, we’ve got great options for every new grad looking to spread their (plane) wings and experience the world.

For the Culture-Inspired Traveller: Yangon, Myanmar

Bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand is the beautiful country of Myanmar, within this lies the city of Yangon, home to bustling street markets, beautiful beaches, holy sites and the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda. Often overlooked by its popular neighbouring countries, Yangon boasts must see sites which include the impressive golden temple of Shwedagon, clothed in real gold with its crown laced with thousands of precious stones. Another popular temple to add to your checklist is the Sule Pagoda; legend has it that a strand of the Buddha’s hair is enshrined within its golden walls. After soaking up the rich culture and history that Yangon has to offer, take a scenic trip to Kandawgyi Lake where you’ll find the Karaweik restaurant, boasting impressive views of the lake’s vast landscape. The top endorsements for Yangon by Booking.com travellers are temples, friendly people and culture. The top nationalities that travelled to Yangon in 2016 were Thai, German and French, and the top types of accommodation booked are hotels, hostels and guest houses.

Where to stay: Travellers will love the spacious and clean Thanlwin Guesthouse, ideally located just a short walk from the Inya Lake and Shwedagon Pagoda. Choose from private rooms to shared dormitories and swap tales with fellow travellers in the shared living areas and bar.

For the Nature Inspired Traveller: Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

Escape to the colourful port city of Puerto Limon and embrace the Pura Vida way of life, known for its lush tropical landscapes, pristine beaches and rainforests. Make sure you take trips to the Veragua Rainforest Park, Tortuguero Canal, Costa Rica Wildlife Sanctuary and the Veragua Rainforest Reserve. The top endorsements for Puerto Limon by Booking.com travellers are beaches, culture and food. The top nationalities that travelled to Puerto Limon in 2016 were American, German and Spanish and the top types of accommodation booked are hotels, lodges and guest houses.

Where to stay: Nestled in the hills next to La Amistad Biosphere Reserve is the idyllic Selva Bananito Lodge; this eco lodge boasts extensive gardens and hosts an array of activities such as zip lining over the lush tropical landscapes, waterfall rappelling, hiking, tree climbing and horseback riding. Wake up to mountainous and river views, unwind in your hammock or take a trip to the impressive Cahuita National Park; there is something for all nature lovers.

For the Party Loving Traveller: Perth, Australia

Often overshadowed by the city of Sydney, the oasis city of Perth has it all, from bustling city nightlife, to stunning sandy beaches and botanical gardens, year-round sunshine, surfing and a myriad of tropical marine life waiting to be discovered. Take a trip to the iconic Pink Lake, hit Perth’s small bars in the city centre and utter the secret password to gain entry into Perth’s best bar, Sneaky Tony’s. The top endorsements for Perth by Booking.com travellers are sightseeing, relaxation and beaches. The top nationalities that travelled to Perth in 2016 were British, Malaysian and Singaporean and the top types of accommodations booked are hotels, apart-hotels and hostels.

Where to stay: The Witch’s Hat backpacker’s hostel offers affordable accommodation with an impressive outdoor courtyard and barbeque facilities, perfect for cooking up a storm under the timeless sunsets. Meet fellow travellers in the communal kitchen and living areas and take a short walk to Hyde Park Lake or the Perth Central Business District, where you will find an array of restaurants, bars and nightlife hot-spots. Choose between private rooms or shared dormitories and wake up to daily fresh breakfasts. This hostel is the perfect retreat for backpackers looking for a fun-fuelled getaway on a budget.

For the Adventurous Traveller: Bogota, Colombia

After years of conflict, the Colombian capital has re-emerged as an exciting new hotspot for culture, fun and adventure. Take an art and food tour of Bogota, a trip to the Gold Museum, ‘Museo del Oro’, soak up the artistic vibe along La Candelaria’s cobbled streets and dance the night away to rumba and salsa at Zona Rosa’s nightclubs. The top endorsements for Bogota by Booking.com travellers are museums, culture and food. The top nationalities that travelled to Bogota in 2016 were American, Brazilian and Spanish and the top types of accommodation booked are hotels, hostels and apart-hotels.

Where to stay: The modern Hotel B3 Virrey boasts a terrace, bar, tasty tapas menu, fitness centre and is in an ideal location, just a short walk from a vast selection of nightlife hotspots, bars and restaurants.

For the Foodie Loving Traveller: Budapest, Hungary

Often overlooked on the European inter-railing map is the beautiful capital city of Budapest. Architecturally, Budapest is a treasure trove and the city is blessed with an abundance of natural hot springs and its reputation as a food capital does not disappoint! According to a recent study from Booking.com, 43% of Canadian traveller are looking to be more adventurous with the type of cuisine they eat while traveling. The incredible Hungarian food at the Great Market Hall, just along the Danube, Europe’s second longest river, will knock any foodie’s socks off. After a feast of a dinner there, take a stroll along Europe’s second longest river, the Danube, and start the evening right with a trip to Budapest’s famous ruin pubs. Hidden in old buildings, travellers will love the pubs’ quirky décor and lively atmosphere.

Where to stay: Located in the heart of Budapest are the beautiful Central Passage Budapest Apartments, situated between Deak Square and Andrassy Boulevard guests will love this home away from home. Ideally located with a short walk from the river Danube and St. Stephen’s Basilica Square, travellers will love the array of fashionable cafes, shopping streets and restaurants nearby.

For the Relaxation Seeking Traveller: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Sometimes in the shadow of the bold and brass capital of Bangkok, the mountainous city of Chiang Mai should not go unnoticed. Escape from the whirlwind pace of its southern rival and expect temples galore. Explore off the beaten track and travel like a local to Chiang Mai, discover pristine rainforest reserves, majestic waterfalls, bubbling natural hot springs and sleepy countryside villages. During your travels make sure you visit one of the numerous elephant sanctuaries, visit the Pure White Temple, get a foot massage by a prison inmate and if you’re brave enough, try the local delicacy of a 100 year old egg.

Where to stay: Stay in the heart of Chiang Mai at the modern HOSTEL by BED, located in the old town area this hostel offers both private and dormitory rooms. Relax in your comfy bunk bed with your own private locker and reading light, meet fellow travellers in the shared common and kitchen areas and benefit from a 24 hour reception desk. The magnificent Wat Phra Singh temple and Wat Lok Moli temple are both a short walk away from the hostel, as well as an array of restaurants and bars along Sunday Walking Street.


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James Chung

Founder & Editor in Chief of Hello Vancity magazine. Email [email protected]

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