Explore colorful Barcelona and historic Andalusia, walk part of the world-famous pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago, and delve deep into Spanish culture on this inspiring gap year program through Spain!
It’s hard not to fall in love with Spain when you’re there. The Mediterranean climate, Spanish cuisine, rich history, spectacular architecture and relaxed way of living make Spain a place like no other. The landscapes are as varied as they come, from deserts and beaches to green hills and soaring mountain ranges. We will explore different parts of the country, and walk through quaint, cobblestone streets packed with character in villages that stood the test of time. We'll learn about sustainable living and ecosystem restoration, we'll meet the locals and learn that life itself is a ‘fiesta’ in Spain and everyone is invited!
We start this journey through Spain by exploring Madrid and taking some Spanish language classes, before heading north to walk part of the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella. As we discover the southern part of Spain, known for its many Moorish influences, we will immerse ourselves in local culture by cheering at a football match, mastering the passionate flamenco dance, and getting introduced to Spanish cuisine. When we head east towards Barcelona, we will discover the architectural masterpieces of Gaudi, like Park Guell and the world-famous Sagrada Familia. Ready to join us on this journey to the heart of Spain for a life-changing gap year abroad?
This gap semester program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and gap year students, ideally 18 to 22 years old. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.
Spain requires proof of vaccination to enter.
Landing in Madrid, we say hola! to Spain and to our group mates. We’ll get straight on the road and head to Alcala de Henares, the birthplace of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes, where we’ll kick off our program orientation and get to know one another.
Alcala de Henares was founded in the 16th century and is now most commonly known for its impressive architecture and university. It seems only appropriate that while we’re here we get started on learning all about the Spanish language, the culture and history that makes up this beautiful city, and of course, get accustomed to some of the incredible food that Spain is known for with a tapas tour in Madrid City!
On departure from Alcala, we will take a train up north to Leon, a city famous for it’s magnificent Santa María de León Cathedral. We’ll continue to soak up all there is to see and learn, and spend our days here visiting some of Leon’s most iconic historic landmarks and sites.
We’ll also take a few days to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for our trekking adventure up ahead, the Camino de Santiago. Before we set off, we’ll pack our bags with snacks, check in with our families and do laundry, ready for the experience up ahead.
From the Cathedral city of León to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, we’ll be following the ancient pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago through the villages, towns, and cities of Galicia. Be prepared to have a journey filled with beautiful places, people and experiences on your way to Santiago.
On our way from Astorga to O Cebreiro, we’ll pass through market towns, challenge ourselves with steep forest climbs and eat and drink plenty of authentic and delicious Spanish food. These weeks are designed to take you on a journey of self-discovery, personal growth and development whilst taking in all of this history of the Camino.
We’ll take a few days to relax in Ponferrada, a place known for its magnificent Los Templarios Castle as well as Basílica Nuestra Señora de la Encina. Here, we’ll rest our mind and body and take some relaxed days looking around the local area.
We’ll marvel at our ability to work together as team and get to know one another on a whole new level as we take on this adventure, walking the walk of the 12th and 13th century pilgrims travelling to Santiago de Compostela for the first time.
Our second week on the Camino sees us visiting Triacastela, Sarria, Porotmarin and Palas de Rei. Our extended rest period for this leg will be in Sarria, a city known for its artistic heritage which is characterized by churches, specifically, O Salvador.
While we’re here, there is a multitude of options to partake in, from fishing to horse back riding along the shores of the river Sarria. We’ll also have the option to try the village's famous dish ‘cocido’, made primarily of pork, octopus, pastry and wild game, partridge, boar and hare. Other local foods include the blood crepes of milk and egg freixos, served with cream or honey. Which one would you prefer to try?
Our last stretch on the Camino takes us through Rua and finally finishes in the famous Santiago de Compostela, the capital of northwest Spain’s Galicia region. We'll receive a personalized 'Compostela' for completing this incredible 100 kilometer journey through the Spanish countryside after handing in our stamped pilgrim's credential (essential for bragging rights at a later date).
We’ll rest up, check in with our families and then get exploring once again! Santiago de Compostela is known as the culmination of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, and the alleged burial site of the Biblical apostle St. James. We’ll take a trip to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela, completed in 1211, whose elaborately carved stone facades open onto grand plazas within the medieval walls of the old town.
While we’re here, we’ll also do a mid-program reflection session, looking back over the last 5 weeks and checking in with our program goals. What an incredible journey it has been so far! It’s time to pack our bags once again and head to Southern Spain, starting in Sevilla.
It’s time to embrace the Southern Spanish tradition of Flamenco! We’re flying down to Sevilla, the birthplace of flamenco, and starting with embracing the wonderous art of Flamenco, which UNESCO recently recognized as part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. An art form that mixes poetry, singing, guitar playing, dance, polyrhythmic handclapping, and finger snapping, we’re going to settle into 3 short days’ worth of learning the ropes so that we can take a little slice of southern Spain home with us.
Flamenco might be the nation's favorite dance, but when it comes to Spain's favorite sport, there no debating it's football. We'll get to experience the Spanish passion first hand when we join a crowd of screaming and cheering football fans at a football match.
Up ahead we’re moving on to some sun, sea, and sand time in Malaga, so ensure you’ve got your sunscreen ready! Malaga is located on the Costa del Sol, and the name says it all, this region is spoiled with sunny days. In between spending our time on the beach, we'll also make room for a visit to an Arabic fortress and the Picasso Museum, which displays works of one of the 20th-century greatest painters!
This week, we head to the lush landscape of the Alhambra in Granada, a staple of Moorish architecture built on a hill, complete with gardens, intricate stonework designs, colorful mosaics and carved fountains.
Travelling between Granada and Murcia, our focus will be on regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration moving forward, as conventional farming practices are causing many problems in the region which is already one of the poorest in Europe. This week we’ll take a deep dive look into sustainable farming and agriculture in Southern Spain.
We’ll be getting our hands dirty and mucking into farm life, learning and absorbing all that we can so that we can take our knowledge back home with us and be changemakers in our local community. It’s bound to be a fun, learning filled experience here that will stick with us for years to come.
On the back of some meaningful reforestation and service work, we’ll spend a few days in Murcia, relaxing and taking in some of the most impressive sites including Plaza Cardenal Belluga, the city’s architectural showpiece.
Then it’s onto Valencia, the city of Arts and Sciences on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. In the birthplace of paella, we’ll learn how to master the skill of making this authentic seafood dish whilst basking in the sunshine at a remote country cottage. And what is cooking without a trip to the local market to handpick and choose the finest ingredients? We’ll take a whole day to soak up all of the intricate pieces that go into creating the ultimate Spanish cuisine, and then we’ll sit and enjoy it! A couple of days of culinary lessons will see us set to live like Spanish Kings and Queens when we get home.
On our way to Barcelona, we’ll embark on our second service project, taking place in a remote area where we’ll go totally off grid.
This location prioritizes harmony with nature over personal and individual gain and our time here will be spent observing and learning from nature in order to build resilient and sustainable systems that feed and replenish the native land. Our accommodation will be basic, and we’ll live fully sustainably for the duration of our time here, we’ll learn heaps! And will be able to take this learning home with us.
Before the sun comes up, we’ll milk the goats, feed the chickens, and collect the eggs. Everyone fits into a daily rhythm here that requires no watch, heavenly!
Our last week together will based out of Barcelona and Madrid and will see us reflect and process all of the wonderful experiences we’ve had this semester.
In Barcelona we’ll visit the famous Antoni Gaudí creations of Casa Batilo as well as Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. There will be opportunities to grab those last-minute souvenirs for your loved ones as well as eat as much Spanish cuisine as you can before heading home. This enchanting seaside city boasts boundless culture, fabled architectural buildings and beautiful sandy beaches, and we’ll try to see it all.
Finishing in Madrid, we’ll embark on our program wrap, a time spent in appreciation for all of the growth we have been through together. There will be time to explore the sites and sounds of the city before heading home and saying ‘Adios!’ to Spain.
*Each week there will be some designated free time so that you can catch up on email, laundry, rest, and explore independently with others in the group.
**Pacific Discovery reserves the right to alter and/or change the order of the itinerary, the focus of the projects or the activities themselves due to dates, availability, and safety precautions.
This gap year program is perfect for vaccinated high school graduates, college students and graduates, and non-students, ideally 18-22 years old. Anyone with an intermediate to advanced fitness level, and an interest in conservation, humanitarian work, new experiences and different cultures will have a great time on this gap semester! You need to be openminded, and prepared for some physical work during the volunteer projects on the program. You don’t need to have had previous experience with international travel or any of the activities offered.
The program is a shared group experience. Join this program with an open mind and a willingness to work together with your group mates to make the program an amazing experience for the whole group. Additionally, the program will be as much about the inner journey of personal growth and learning about yourself as it is about what you will experience in the outer physical journey. We expect you to be open to learning and challenging your ideas and assumptions.
Our accommodation will vary from tents under the stars and simple share accommodation with shared facilities to modern hotels and guesthouses with private bathrooms. Laundry and Wi-Fi will be available most days except on expeditions. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.
Spanish cuisine is delicious and you’ll get to understand it up close and personal in your Tapas Cooking classes. In general, Spanish cuisine usually contains potatoes, rice, fish, meat, and a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Garlic, paprika and bread are used in most savory dishes.
Meals are fresh, tasty, healthy and varied. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. All meals are included in the program cost. Food preparation, shared by all students, is fun, social and often a highlight. An average day on program would consist of the following:
Special foods to try: paella (rice and seafood dish), gazpacho (cold vegetable soup), Serrano Jamon (ham), chorizo (Spanish sausage), patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce), croquetas, pisto, churros