With Australia in lockdown and famous gap year destinations such as Thailand and Indonesia now on the red list for the foreseeable future, the global right of passage for student travel has been thrown off course.
An estimated 250,000 students in the UK usually head off for a gap year each year and COVID travel restrictions have put a real spanner in the works.
Youth travel brand, Contiki, has cut through the traffic light system to reveal the countries you can now realistically travel to during your gap year.
Places like Iceland or Austria wouldn’t normally be part of the textbook gap year, but feature on the green list and can be booked right now.
With tours of various different lengths available, you can visit all five (which would take you a month and a half), or just one.
Here is a selection of the best gap year destinations to avoid current travel restrictions.
Iceland (6 days): Best for November 2021
Starting in the city of Reykjavik, this trip gives you the best of Iceland's natural beauty. Along the way, you’ll witness erupting geysers, cascading waterfalls, volcanoes and glaciers - as well as the famous Blue Lagoon, a geothermal mineral wonder surrounded by steam and stars.
You’ll even be able to watch the Northern Lights from your rooftop hot tub and sauna at a family-run hostel perched in the Icelandic highlands. By the time it’s over, you’ll be floating home with a full camera reel.
Two unique experiences will also allow you to leave a positive mark on the country when you bid it farewell.
You can take part in a local reforestation program in the Haukadalur Valley by planting five trees yourself and visit an Icelandic Farm to learn about farm-to-table eating.
Austria (9 days): Best for January/February 2022
Austria is a place for ski lovers - especially the Austrian Alps of Tyrol. In the heart of the mountains, there is a place where all levels of borders and skiers are welcome.
This trip includes activities like a tandem paraglide, or just taking in the village while sampling rosti and pork knuckle in-between mountain runs. Jam-packed days will be eased by crashing at an Austrian Gasthof.
Your accommodation will be more than just a place to stay. Nestled in the quaint Tyrol village of Hopfgarten, the gateway to one of the world’s largest ski regions, Contiki’s Haus Schöneck is a ski chalet with a twist.
It’s also only 1.6km from the main gondola station with a free ski shuttle service.
Croatia (8 days): Best for May 2022
With sparkling seas, white sands and historical hotspots, Croatia is the Mediterranean jewel that has it all. And there's no better way to experience it than by island hopping on this trip.
There are the ancient hamlets of Hvar island - the party capital - or the Venetian architecture of Korcula to discover. The tour will bring you to Dubrovnik’s iconic Old Town, which doubled as King's Landing from Game of Thrones. Visitors can see the Red Keep, the House of the Undying and the setting of the Purple Wedding as well.
You will then make your way along the Adriatic coast on a traditional sailing boat.
While you’re there, you can sign up for a bbq lunch to give back to local people you've met on your trip. Rizzo Sandwich Bar, a small, family-owned café, follows a tradition that began in Naples, Italy. If you have good luck when purchasing a sandwich you can buy an extra 'sospeso' sandwich. A person in need can then enquire at the store and collect it.
Any funds not used for sandwiches are donated to MOST, a not-for-profit dedicated to feeding the homeless in Split.
Canada (18 days): Best for May 2022
Not many cities can claim to fuse big-city living with the great outdoors, but with its skyscrapers, beaches, forests and mountains, Vancouver has somehow nailed it.
On this tour, you’ll cruise along the clifftop ‘Sea to Sky Highway’ in search of Whistler. The landscapes in this world-famous region are gorgeous all year long, from the ancient mountain peaks to the alpine hiking trails.
You can even stay in the Pangea Pod Hotel, an innovative solution to travelling on your own. You can enjoy a craft beer in the hotel's ‘living room’ or a cocktail on the rooftop patio.
There’s no better way to start the day than with fresh air and fantastic views, so you’ll head to Montmorency Falls in the morning. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can soar across the falls on a zipline which brings you even close to this natural phenomenon.
It’s fun to canoe along the River of Golden Dreams too or simply take a hike in the nature-filled surroundings. If you’re feeling lazy, take a gondola or a chairlift to the mountain tops, but don’t forget to explore the village itself.