Travel’s the best education

The secret’s out: not all classrooms have four walls. This year we’re following in the footsteps of Malia Obama and launching the Gap Year to end all Gap Years. Put your early morning Intro to Economics class on hold – we know you hit snooze through it anyways – and dive into Real Life 101 instead. This is a two-month journey through the best of Asia. Sixty days of no-holds-barred adventure from the hippy beach vibes of Goa all the way to moped madness in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s time to take the road less travelled – don’t worry, ‘Real Life’ will be waiting for you when you get back.

The Ultimate Gap Year trip will start on January 1st 2017 in Delhi and end on March 2nd 2017 in Ho Chi Minch City. No assignments. No essays. Only epic adventures. 
The 60-day trip price is USD $5,000.

Travelers booking on this trip will also get $500 towards next year’s tuition! See full terms and conditions here.









Namaste. Welcome to Delhi, India. Today is an arrival day with no planned activities, except for a pre-departure meeting tonight at around 6 pm. Please look for a note in the lobby or ask reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so ensure you bring these details to provide to your leader. If you're going to be late, please inform the accommodation as soon as possible. After the meeting, perhaps pop out for an optional group dinner.



This morning head out on a walking tour around the commercial heart of Delhi, visiting Chandni Chowk (Sheeshganj Gurudwara) and Connaught Place along the way. Explore Old Delhi on a bicycle rickshaw to dig that little bit deeper. You'll then have some free time to do as much sightseeing as you can, before boarding an overnight sleeper train bound for Varanasi. The journey should take around 13 hours and you'll arrive into Varanasi early in the morning.



Arriving into Varanasi early, head straight to the hotel to freshen up before plunging head first into this holy city, which is one of the world's oldest. Explore the narrow laneways and backstreets on a walking tour with your guide, before watching the world pass by along the ghats. Your evening is then free to do as you wish.



Wake up early and experience one of the highlights of your time in India. This morning, jump in boats and watch the sunrise over the Ganges. Pilgrims bathing, cremation fires and riverside haircuts - India is best before dawn and this is the best way to see it. The rest of your day is free to explore, before catching an overnight train to Agra tonight (approximately 11 hours).



Arriving into Agra early this morning, head to the most iconic site in India, the Taj Mahal. The highlights of India just keep coming. You have a full day to explore Agra on a motorised rickshaw trip, with Agra Fort being another incredible optional activity in the afternoon. The rest of your day is then free.



Jump on a bus this morning and travel for around four hours to Rajasthan's pink capital, Jaipur. On arrival into the city stop off at the Hawa Mahal (pink sandstone palace) before heading to your hotel. Use the opportunity to freshen up and then venture out for a walking tour of the old city. In your spare time, perhaps take an optional tour of the Jaipur City Palace.



For many travellers, a hot air balloon experience is one of the highlights of Jaipur. Ballooning can be done over Jaipur on the morning of day 7, between September and June. For additional information, please see the important notes section of your trip notes. Later in the morning, enjoy a guided tour of the medieval Amber Fort with a local guide. The rest of your day is then free to explore Jaipur on your own.



Travel for around three hours this morning to Bundi, which feels like a world away from the chaos of Jaipur. Home to the famed stepwells and a ruined hilltop castle, it's a compact town best explored on foot. Meet your local guide and see this charming town through his eyes. Your guide will take you around the stepwell, Bundi Palace and may even point you in the right direction of best cup of chai in Rajasthan.



Enjoy a free day checking out more of Bundi. There are approximately 50 stepwells in Bundi, as well as a pretty impressive lake. Bundi is a friendly town and it's really fun to wander in the streets leading up to the palace - this is a good way to get a feel for the town. Tonight, catch an overnight train to Delhi, which takes around ten hours.



Arrive into Delhi early, with the day free to do some more exploring. There are shopping experiences aplenty or perhaps book an Urban Adventure to get your last proper taste of North India. An optional group dinner tonight is a great way to finish this part of your trip.



Enjoy a free morning in Delhi before making your way to the airport to fly to Trivandrum.

The internal flight from Delhi to Trivandrum is NOT included. Please book a flight that arrives into Trivandrum before 4.00pm so you can meet your new group at 6:00pm.

As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary and you're welcome to attend, as this is a great chance to meet your new fellow travellers.



Varkala sits on India's Keralan coast and is home to some of the whitest and most pristine beaches in the whole country. The sandy bay here is protected by soaring cliffs, the beach sits below the rock face, whilst the town itself sits prettily along the cliff edge above, a string of laid-back bars, restaurants, guesthouses and hotels. It's a great place to just kick back and relax, but if you want to get active, there are plenty of water sports on offer. Sitting on the sand and watching the sun dip below the horizon is the perfect way to end a day here.



Enjoy a free day in Varkala. This is a great place to sit back and relax, but if you want to get active there are plenty of water activities on offer, such as surfing and windsurfing. Even though this is a popular destination for Indian tourists, the beaches are quiet and laid-back. If you have time, perhaps rent a scooter and ride through fishing villages to Varkala Light House.



Take a local train along the Keralan Coast to reach Alleppey (approx 2.5 hrs).

Alleppey's sleepy, palm-shaded backwaters are Kerala's hidden treasure. Once an important trading port and now famous for its August 'snake boat' races, Alleppey is the starting point for most journeys into the backwaters and also hosts a mid-December musical festival.

Explore the backwaters with a local guide to observe the different facets of local life - this is a great chance to meet and talk with the people who live here. Strolling under palm trees and weaving in between the rice fields that cover the island, learn about their lifestyles.



Take a local bus to Kochi (approx 2 hrs).

Spread over several islands, Kochi is a fascinating place full of Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch and English influences. Stay at Intrepid Kaliveedu. This is a special lodge offering very different ambience with large landscaped gardens, air-conditioned rooms and a central location close to most of the sights in Fort Cochin. We will reach Kochi around midday. Today we will go on an orientation walk with our leader and take in the sights in the vicinity of our accommodation.



Today, head to the Mattancherry part of Fort Cochin to explore the old Jewish quarter, synagogue and Dutch Palace (Kochi Palace) on a guided walking tour. The tour takes around three hours, with the rest of the day free to do as you wish. Why not join one of our Urban Adventures day tours, such as Fort Cochin by Bike, Home Cooked Kochi or Kochi Food and Culture Tour. Please check with your leader in advance if you’d like to book one of these trips.



Set high in the ranges of the Western Ghats is the Periyar National Park and Tiger Reserve. This wildlife sanctuary surrounds a picturesque lake, formed by the building of a dam in 1895, which meanders around the contours of the wooded hills and provides a permanent source of water for the local wildlife. Though it's a tiger reserve, tourists come here to view the Indian elephants in the act of ablution and playfulness by the lake.



After breakfast, enjoy a free day with an optional walk around Periyar National Park. Be on the look out for tigers and other wildlife such as bison, wild boar, elephants and spotted deer.



Crammed full of bazaars, pilgrims, cycle-rickshaws, beggars and street markets, Madurai showcases southern India at its colourful and lively best.

Visit the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which lies at the heart of the city. This ancient, still active temple is a labyrinth of lamp-lit corridors which lead to shrines where some mysterious and interesting rituals are performed.



Today is a free day in Madurai. Perhaps head to the Ghandi Museum to learn about the man who fought for India’s independence or wander through the 1,000 pillars of Aayiram Kaal Mandapam. This is also a great opportunity to haggle with vendors at the bazaars and the tailors' market.



Board a local bus to Mysore (approx 3 hrs).

Mysore is an easygoing town with a pleasant climate, perfect for wandering around on foot.

A visit to Mysore isn't complete without a look around Mysore Palace. One of the most ornate palaces in India, its interior is a riot of colour, mosaics and mirrors.

Visit the Keshava Temple in Somnathpur - a stunning example of Hoysala temple architecture (approx 1 hr from Mysore).

You have plenty of time to explore the surrounding countryside, so head out and climb Chamundi Hill - site of the Sri Chamundeswari Temple, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga.



Today is a free day in Mysore, with plenty of optional activities to keep you busy. Perhaps explore the countryside surrounding Mysore. Climb up Chamundi Hill to the Sri Chamundeswari Temple at the top, which is dedicated to the goddess Durga. At 7 pm board an overnight 10-hour train to Hampi via northern Karnataka.



Arrive in Hampi and cross the river to our guesthouse by canoe.

Hampi is a beautiful ancient temple town situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River.



After breakfast, explore the ruins of the Vijayanagar Empire and the huge boulders on the outskirts of town. Use the rest of the day to explore. In the early evening, drive for around three hours by private vehicle to Hubli, where you’ll board an overnight nine-hour train to Goa.



Famous for the sandy beaches that line its coast, Goa is a fascinating and distinctive region in India's southwest. Brimming with Portuguese influences and bursting with fresh food, this region has earned its idyllic badge.



There are no activities planned for the final day and you’re able to depart the accommodation at any time. Today you’ll make your way to Kathmandu to begin the Nepal portion of your trip. You can choose to fly, train or bus!


View the full Big India itinerary:


You’ll have two full days to make your way from Goa to Kathmandu.


Oh hello Kathmandu. Get acquainted with Kathmandu’s patchouli-scented capital by feeding your spiritual side at Bodhnath Stupa, one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world. Meet your Geckos crew at 6pm and have an optional dinner together.



Enjoy a morning drive over the rim of the Kathmandu Valley and, weather permitting, views of the Ganesh and Lantang ranges. Arrive in Baireni/Galaudi for an exciting white water raft on the Trisuli River. Hit the water and enjoy the thrill of the rapids aptly named Ladies Delight, Rock Garden and Snell's Nose. Camp on the beach enjoy dinner by the river.

The following day have more fun on the river including negotiating the Monsoon and Upset. Late morning we end rafting at Kurintar and enjoy a light lunch and drive to Pokhara (4hrs). Arrive Pokhara in the afternoon. Chill out at the lakeside cafes.


DAY 30: GHANDRUK (1950M)

Hope you broke in your boots before the trip, cos this is where the trekking bit starts. There’s a dirt track leading to Birethanti and Shyauli villages. There’s a stone staircase up to Kimche, where you’ll stop for lunch. Then a bunch of stone flags lead you through fields of wheat to Ghandruk. That’s some diverse terrain right there.


DAY 31: TOLKHA (1700M)

Look east. That’s Landruk, the next village on the route.  Look down. That’s the Modi Kola River 600 metres below. Look around the corner. That’s Tolkha, your base for the night. What, you can’t look around corners? Ok, you’ll just have to trek there instead.



Rhododendron is a tricky word to spell, but super pretty to look at. You’ll see a bunch of these bright pink and purple plants today. Do you know what you won’t see much of? Other people. We’ve picked a pretty remote trail from Dhampus to Hyenjakot, and tonight you get to stay with a local family. Pack your best smile and get an even bigger and better one in return.


DAY 33: POKHARA (850M)

The legs get a rest today, with a jeep back to Pokhara in time for lunch. Free time to do all the things you didn’t do the first time round. We can highly recommend taking a rowboat (doonga) out on Phewa Lake.



It’s a long bus back to Kathmandu so bring snacks. Once you’ve arrived back into Kathmandu (approx 3pm) there’s time to sip on banana lassis and wish you didn’t have to leave.


View the full Nepal at a Glance itinerary:​

You’ll have a few days in Kathmandu before flying to Yangon, Myanmar. You can also get a head start and make your way overland.


Min Gala Ba! Welcome to Myanmar. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. Spend your free time getting amongst it today – glinting golden Shwedagon Paya and stroll around the Kandawgyi Lake.



Hit the streets for an orientation walk around Yangon. Afterwards you'll have loads of free time to do your own thing. You might want to hit the massive Bogyoke Market and shop for some locally made handicrafts (if you hear someone call it the Scott Market, don't worry, you're still the right country! Sometimes they call this market it its old British name). There are plenty of temples and pagodas to visit too (in case you didn't notice). Later in the afternoon it's time to head to the station and get on your sleeper train to Bagan. It'll be a long haul (approximately 17–20 hours).

Notes: Overnight train travel in Myanmar is definitely a real adventure! Rail upgrades are continuing around the country, so expect a bumpy ride and possible delays.



Roll into Bagan at around 11 am. This train rarely runs to schedule, so place some bets with your travelling pals on just how late it will be. Let's go with 11 though. The afternoon is yours in this amazing place. Stretch your legs, grab a bite to eat and go exploring. Try and close your wide-open jaw after seeing that super duper stupa-studded skyline (say that three times fast with a mouthful of pickled bitter melon!) The Nyaung U market, one of the best in the country, is a great place walk around. The archaeological museum is also a choice option. But there are 4,500 brick and gilded temples calling your name, and the fun has only just Bagan...



Today it's Bagan by bicycle. A full-day, two-wheeled tour of temple town. Riding is the perfect way to take in the atmosphere of this place. You'll visit the heavyweights like Ananda Pahto, Dhammayangyi Pahto and Shwesandaw Paya, as well as some of the smaller ones. There are plenty of chances to jump off the bike here and there so you can climb stairs to lookout points where the really awesome views are found. The ride is flat and easy, so you don't have to be Lance Armstrong. But if you'd rather not cycle, your leader can arrange a pony cart to take you around some of the sights (for an extra charge).



Rise and shine! Bound out of bed before dawn so you can catch the ferry for your cruise up the Ayeyarwady River to Mandalay. Watch the wonderful world of local life stream by while you're chilling out on the boat. It's a good idea to bring some snacks today, although there will be a cafe/bar on the upper deck with simple meals available. You'll arrive in Mandalay late afternoon, then be transferred to your hotel.



Head further up the Ayeyarwady River to visit Mingun, a world-class archaeological site. The main temple here was never finished, supposedly because an astrologer thought the king would die if it was finished. Harsh. But it sure is impressive. You'll also find the world's largest uncracked bell, which is possibly even cooler than the temple. And a glistening white stupa to go with it. There are plenty of things to do with your free time here. You can check out the city by local transport (van or truck ride) and visit some cottage industries that make gold leaf (the sacred Buddha image of Mahamuni Paya is covered in six inches of it – and it is known to be over 2,000 years old). On the other hand, you can rest your legs and enjoy a puppetry or dance performance at the Mandalay Marionettes or Mintha Theatre.



Take a private bus to Kalaw (approximately 8 hours). On the way there, you'll stop in at the amazing U Bein Bridge. At 1.2 km long, this the world’s longest teak bridge. As the drive continues you'll move into the mountains of the Shan state. Keep that camera handy, because the scenery is awesome and there will be stops for photos. Your Instagram followers will be loving you for this, or maybe not loving you, just wishing they were here. Arrive in Kalaw late afternoon, with time to stretch your legs and get a feel for this beautiful spot, a former British hill station.



Head for the hills! Explore villages, farms and forests in the area outside of Kalaw. Feel that breeze? Welcome to the highlands, baby. This is the land of many ethnic minority groups, including the Palaung, Danu and Pa-O, as well as Indians and Nepalese who moved here during the British rule. This may explain why the chai is so good. Along your travels today you'll stop for lunch (which is included) at a local village.



Enjoy free time this morning in Kalaw. Take this opportunity to hit the local market and shop for some nice local handicrafts (or just some silly souvenirs for your friends back home). Or you can check out one of the beautiful Buddhist pagodas around. Stock up on snacks before your bus trip to Inle Lake in the afternoon (approximately 3 hours). Surrounded by the cool stilt houses of many ethnic communities, Inle Lake makes for fairytale kinda scene. Shimmering waters, floating gardens. Ahhh....



Spend the day exploring the lake and the surrounding villages on a guided adventure. The transport: motorised long-tail boat. The sights: cool waters, floating tomato plantations, floating everything! (Even floating markets, if it's the right day.) The people: local silversmiths, weavers, cigar makers... and those fisherman, rowing their boats with their legs, how do they do it?. Visit some local villages towards the end of the day, where people will greet you with smiles and cute traditional handicrafts. Then make your way back to home base in Nyaungshwe.



Enjoy some time to chill today. You might like to visit the Mingala morning market, or maybe Nyuang Shwe's oldest Buddhist monastery, Yadana Man Aung Paya. There's also a traditional puppet show held every night in town, and a nearby winery that has ah-mazing views over the lake (your chance to sample a wee drop of the local varieties perhaps, and to be all distinguished and cultured and civilised).



Tar tar, spectacular state of Shan. It's been real. Make your way to the airport in Heho for your flight back to the hustle and bustle of Yangon (approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes). Your trip ends upon arrival at Yangon airport.


View the full Discover Myanmar itinerary:


Sa-wat dee! Welcome to Thailand. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6 pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. Bangkok has so much going on if you've got time to explore. Why not hit the canals for riverboat trip to Chinatown? Visit the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha? Mosey on down the tourist mecca of Khao San Road? Or indulge in some Thai massage?



Brace yourself for a long day of travel as you board a private bus to Siem Reap (approximately 10 hours, including border crossing and lunch). Say 'Laew phop gun' to Thailand as you exit at Aranyaprathet, and enter Cambodia at Poipet. Your tour leader will help you with border crossing procedures. You'll need some US currency for this, so ready those greenbacks. When you arrive in Siem Reap (150 km or so past the border), the markets are a great place to start practicing those haggling skills. Better yet, try some cheap and tasty street food. Get some rest and relaxation tonight before your Angkor visit tomorrow.



Time to visit the mighty Angkor complex with your guide. Get that camera ready, because it's going to be oh-so-pretty. Some of these temples are over a thousand years old, going back to the days when the Khmer Empire was top dog in South-East Asia. These beauties were known to represent the cosmic world and were set in perfect balance, symmetry and composition. Let your mind be blown as you roam around the complex with your leader. Don't even think about missing the sunset. The ruins are scattered over an area of some 160 square kilometres, but the main cluster of temples is close to Siem Reap, so you'll have plenty of time to get to grips with the larger-than-life Angkor Wat, the Bayon and the jungle-covered Ta Prohm.



Today is a free day for you to experience Siem Reap in your own way. If you're all templed out, but still feel like something pretty out-there, you can opt for a Flight of the Gibbon zip-line course, which will have you soaring like an eagle over the rainforest (and perhaps getting that ticker started again, if Angkor Wat made it stop).



Jump on a bus and head to Kampong Cham (approximately 5 hours). It's a public bus, which means you'll reaaally travel like a local. When you arrive, you might notice how chilled out this town is. It used to be an important trading hub in the area. Mingle with the locals and enjoy the change of pace. It's a slice of small-town Cambodia with plenty to see and do. You can explore the 11th-century Wat Nokor (also very chill, some might say 'tranquil'). You can hire a bike to explore the rural island of Koh Paen, linked to Kampong Cham by a fancy bamboo bridge (in the wet season you'll have to take a ferry over). The locals here make their living fishing and growing tobacco and sesame, so it's an awesome place to go for a closer look at some of Cambodia's cottage industries. A little further afield are the twin 'mountain temples' of Phnom Pros and Phnom Srei.



Catch a bus to the capital city of Phnom Penh (approximately 3 hours). Cambodia's capital is set on a major junction of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers and boasts some mighty fine examples of French-inspired architecture. Top of the list of things to do: head out to the Choeung Ek Memorial, and the infamous Killing Fields where a stupa made of some 8,000 human skulls lies. Confronting but important to see, these sites are places to learn about the dark legacy of the Khmer Rouge. Visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda to learn about brighter parts of Cambodian history. You can also explore Wat Phnom, check out the National Museum, take a cyclo tour of the city's key sites, or hit the pretty art-deco Psar Thmei aka Central Market (it's pretty AND pretty art-deco).



Travel by private bus into rural Cambodia (approximately 3 hours) to the region of Kampong Speu and the village of Chambok. This is the location of your homestay for tonight. Here is your chance can really immerse yourself in everyday life. Facilities may be basic, but this is your chance to BE in Cambodia with the PEOPLE. Not to mention feast on a traditional Khmer dinner, prepared by your lovely and very talented hosts.



Take a private bus to Sihanoukville (approximately 4 hours). Named after the Cambodian royal family, Sihanoukville has loads of beaches and welcoming folk. It's probably stating the obvious that you'll want to take a dip here.



There are plenty of ace things to do here, like taking a boat bound for one of the nearby islands. If you do that, you can chillax among swaying palms trees and have nice barbeque lunch. Or, if the jungle is more your thing, make the trip out to the Ream National Park. It's 21 hectares of coastal mangrove forest, buzzing with exotic birds and animals.



Take a local bus back to Phnom Penh (approximately 4 hours). Tonight will be your last night in Cambodia before you move on to Viet-nom-nom (possibly tastier than nom-nom-Penh). The perfect way to cap off your time here would be to take an optional traditional massage at the Seeing Hands Massage Centre. The visually impaired masseurs here are some of the best in town, and it's a great cause to support. Also, let's be honest, after that bumpy bus ride you could probably use a little limbering up.



Travel by local bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (approximately 7 hours). You'll exit Cambodia at Bavet and enter Vietnam at Moc Bai. Your leader knows the drill, so they'll assist you with border crossing procedures. Arrive in Ho Chi Minh City and get your first taste of this fast-paced, fun city. You'll see it's a combo of all kinds of flavours, old and new, East and West. Get a French baguette, best taken with a cup o' joe (the coffee is excellent here). Don't miss Reunification Palace. And there are some really cool things to see at the War Remnants museum, like a helicopter and a fighter jet. If you're staying longer, you might want to go on one of the Urban Adventures offered: Mekong Discovery, Cyclos & Markets, Cu Chi Experience, or Saigon Street Food by Night. Your leader can help you book the tour of your choice.



Your Gap Year trip comes to an end today and you can leave your accommodation at any time. Don’t forget to send your enrollment letter to receive $500 towards your tuition!


View the full Ultimate Cambodia itinerary:



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