Learn to scuba dive, explore Buddhist temples and volunteer at an elephant sanctuary on this cultural gap year program through Thailand!

Thailand is incredibly diverse – the mountainous jungle up north is populated by numerous minority tribal groups and has stunning national parks, while tropical islands in the south have some of the world’s best beaches and diving spots. It is wonderful to contrast the mega-city bustle and excitement of Bangkok with relaxed and friendly provincial towns and villages. Traveling with us you’ll have the chance to taste a less-touristy slice of the country and uncover the true essence of Thailand.

This gap year journey takes you through Thailand by exploring some of the most stunning beaches in the world in Phuket and Krabi, heading on to volunteer at an elephant sanctuary, get hands-on in an environmental project, and learn about mindfulness in a yoga and meditation retreat. Immerse yourself in local communities; discover Thailand’s fascinating cities and culture; explore the incredible jungle, islands, and beaches; gain skills with lessons in Buddhist meditation, Thai cooking, scuba diving, rafting and rock climbing. Join us on a journey to the heart of Thailand for a life-changing gap year program abroad!

Who is this gap year program for?

This gap semester program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and gap year students, ideally 17 to 22 years old. Optional transferable academic credit is available to all participants.



For your peace of mind

  • Check out our full COVID-19 policy.
  • Borders are open for fully vaccinated foreign travelers without quarantine requirements. After a 1-night stay in a Test & Go facility and a negative COVID-test, our students can leave the hotel and move around the country.
  • COVID-cases in Thailand are seeing a downward trend and vaccinations rates are rising.
  • We have been running successful Thailand programs in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021. The students shared their experiences in testimonials and wrote their stories down in blog posts - feel free to have a look!
  • Service-learning and volunteer projects:
    • Get up close and personal with elephants during a volunteer project at an elephant sanctuary
    • Work with an organization that helps to break the cycle of poverty in Thailand
    • Get hands-on in a environmental project that focuses on restoring forest landscapes
    • Learn about the coral and mangrove population in Thailand, and help to replant some of them
  • Find inner peace during a yoga and Buddhist meditation retreat in Pa Pae
  • Rafting adventures through the rivers of Thailand
  • Scuba diving course in the the clear waters of Southern Thailand
  • Stand-up paddle boarding on the clear waters of Railay Beach
  • See the sights and wonders of Ayutthaya from a longtail boat
  • Discover spectacular temples and vibrant markets in the fascinating city of Bangkok
  • Hike and tube in the amazing jungle, rivers and lakes of Khao Sok National Park
  • Explore the best islands and beaches in southern Thailand
  • Wander around the Old City, the cultural heart of Chiang Mai
  • Experience Railay Beach from above the ground on a rock climbing adventure
  • Learn to make authentic Thai food during a cooking workshop
  • Try your hand at Muay Thai (or Thai boxing), the country’s national sport
  • Watch the canals come to live and taste local treats on a floating market

**This is a guide to what you can expect to do on Program. The order in which the activities occur might vary**

Week 1. Bustling Bangkok and Elephant Conservation

We arrive in Bangkok, home to one of the largest markets in the world - Jatujak Market, otherwise known as JJ Market. We get to explore this wondrous sight, the perfect place to buy those souvenirs to take home at the end of your trip. We’ll spend some time getting to know each other during a 3-day orientation. Our time will focus on getting to know each other and creating a positive and reflective group culture to support us in realizing our program goals. Then enjoy a yummy lunch at the market, where you can sit back and watch the hustle and bustle of market life around you.

 In your first week,You will see a LOT of elephants around these parts. Fortunately, you will be staying at an ethical elephant conservation park that aims to solve some of the problems surrounding elephant exploitation in Thailand. Despite a ban on logging, elephant habitat is still being lost and as few as 500 wild elephants are left within Thailand and they are threatened. Over 2,000 domestic elephants, trapped in the traditional elephant tourist industry, have a bleak future. You will be up close and personal with these kind and unforgettable animals for 5 days, helping care for them and exploring the complex issue the animal conservation world is currently facing.

After saying goodbye to our giant friends, we head back to Chiang Mai city where you’ll have a free afternoon to recover from your whirlwind adventure with the elephants, before enjoying a group meal at the Chiang Mai Night Market.

Week 2. Volunteering near Chiang Mai

We continue our time in Chiang Mai and enjoy a delicious dinner at Chiang Mai’s famous night market, which offers the perfect opportunity for travelers to see how Chiang Mai operates away from the tourist trails! Chiang Mai is a city like no other. Concealed by the mountain ranges on all sides, Chiang Mai is rich in culture and tradition, filled with quaint shops and restaurants, and friendly, smiling locals. We get to explore it all on a guided tour of the city, visiting Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, Wat Phalad, and Wat Umong!

This week is all about empathy and understanding. We will be based in the forest just outside of Chiang Mai and work to support one of the minority tribes in northern Thailand. We will work alongside a transparent NGO that helps to empower at-risk girls to end trafficking and exploitation within their communities and works to break the cycle of poverty in Thailand. We get to work with them over the next six days to help them in their vital mission.

Week 3.Yoga, Buddhist Meditation Retreat and Rafting

Next, we head to beautiful Pa Pae for our meditation and yoga retreat! We begin our days with chanting and meditation, before getting a Buddhism and meditation workshop. We’ll then head out into the open to discover meditation with nature, the perfect way to find inner peace. We will also take part in some gardening before an Enlightenment Of Buddha ceremony and a lantern bonfire in the evening!

We continue on for a rafting adventure. Do you remember the last time you went camping, hiking, or mountain biking? Remember getting that feeling of excitement thinking “oh wow, this is super fun, I should get outdoors more often?”, think more excitement and more thrills and then you land at whitewater rafting! It’s addictive, the wild rapids, the unexpected twists and turns, the screams of excitement. It’s thrilling! 

We also explore Phitsanulok, a beautiful city sometimes known as Muang Song Khwae due to the two rivers that flow through it. Here, we’re heading back out on the water in another rafting adventure, this time surrounded by the beauty of Phitsanulok. Remember to bring your swim-suit!

Week 4. Spotting Wildlife, hiking and  Environmental Volunteering

We also start a 5-day volunteer project with a non-profit NGO based in Pai. Their mission is to restore natural forest landscapes throughout Thailand in ways that protect and enhance biodiversity and improve the livelihoods of local communities in the long term.

It’s time to leave Pai and transfer to the beautiful jungles of Ayutthaya, not forgetting to take our mindfulness and peacefulness with us. After check-in we’ll head out on a tour of this magical city, seeing all of the sights and wonders that it has to hold, and all from a longtail boat! Now that we've already explored Ayutthaya’s sightseeing spots, it’s time to explore the cultural side of the city. We’ll take a guided morning cultural tour of the city before transferring to the bustling capital of Bangkok.

Week 5. Back to Bangkok and Ancient Temples

We will also whiz through the streets on an exhilarating (and very safe) electric foot scooter tour. The perfect way to discover the magic of Bangkok!

Hidden in the busy Bangkok streets are some of Thailand’s most beautiful religious and cultural sites, and this week we get to visit them and see their beauty in person. Including Wat Pho, The Grand Palace, The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Arun, as well as many more. In the evening we’ll enjoy a final night dinner, to share hugs, laughter, memories and photos.

We leave the lush forest and bustling city to travel to southern Thailand.

Week 6. Travel to Southern Thailand  

When it’s time to say farewell to northern Thailand, we travel to Khao Sok National Park. Khao Sok National Park is a remnant of the oldest and most diverse rainforest in the world, and is home to the largest flower in the world. Based from your very own treehouse, hidden amongst the jungles of this National Park, we will explore the area. We spend our days hiking, tubing and exploring this lush green jungle environment.

Next, it's time to open your mind and free your soul with a full day of yoga and meditation. There isn’t a place in the world more perfect to find inner peace than Khao Sok National Park. Bursting with beauty and tranquility, you’re sure to find your peace here.

Week 7. Rock Climbing in Railay Beach

Say goodbye to the jungle and hello to the beach as we head back down South to Railay Beach in Krabi! Situated along the Andaman Sea coastline, Railay Beach is one like no other, and you’re sure to fall in love with its golden sand and crystal clear water! After check-in you’ll have a free afternoon to explore everything that Railay Beach has to offer! The next day, you will discover Railay Beach from above the ground as we head off on an epic morning rock climbing adventure!

Week 8. Experience Island Life & Thai Cooking Workshop

We try our hands at paddle-boarding off the coast of Railay Beach, before catching the ferry over to the next island on our list, Koh Mook! The untouched and unexploited beauty of this island is really something to behold, and it is often referred to as the ‘Pearl’ of Thailand’s islands. Enjoy a welcome meal in the evening to really get a feel of Koh Mook!

We explore Koh Mook by land and sea on a guided island tour. We take to the streets to discover the wonders of Koh Mook's natural beauty, culture and the day-to-day lives of the local people who live there. We also hit the high-seas and explore the hidden wonders surrounding Koh Mook, including the Emerald Cave and sunset fishing! On our next few days, we will take a morning hike up to a stunning viewpoint, learn to recreate the Thai dishes that you've come to love, and make souvenirs from coconut shells. We also get involved in our first service project, where we’ll learn about the coral and mangrove population in Thailand, and help to replant some of them!

Week 9. Koh Lanta for Scuba Diving Course and Muay Thai

Known for its stunning white beaches and tasty local cuisine. The first glimpses of the islands around Phuket are truly mind-blowing. Luckily, we’ve got you covered and you will be experiencing a balance of the best bits. While we enjoy the blue waters and white sands, 

We will also start a four-day diving course! Southern Thailand is famous for many things, but the amazing scuba-spots are definitely at the top of that list! It’s time for you to explore the wonders of Koh Lanta from below the waves as we begin our four-day exploration under the surface of the ocean.

Next try your hand at Muay Thai, sometimes referred to as ‘Thai Boxing’. Immerse yourself in two days of lessons and learn the art, the most famous form of boxing in Thailand and the country’s national sport.

Week 10. Ancient Temples & Program Wrap

Headed back up the coast of Thailand to Hua Hin to explore the Amphawa Markets and program wrap. Amphawa market is one of the most iconic places to visit in Thailand. Watch the canals come to life, boats zip around offering all sorts of goods, and taste some fresh mangos. Not overly touristy, so expect to see an authentic view of the Thai lifestyle.

This week we also have time to reflect and discuss our time here in Thailand. It’s been a wild ride and now it’s time to bid farewell to Thailand, your new friends, and your guide, as you hop on board your flight and head off on your next adventure, wherever that may take you!

*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.

For full program details, please request the information booklet


This gap year program is perfect for high school graduates, college students and graduates, and non-students, ideally 17-22 years old. Anyone with an average 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 simple guesthouses and community homestays with shared facilities, to modern hotels with private bathrooms. Laundry and Wi-Fi will be available some days, except while on expeditions or on homestays. Accommodation is diverse, comfortable and carefully chosen to fit our needs.


Food is undoubtedly a highlight when travelling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian food. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the program cost. Any snacks are at an additional cost, which we recommend budgeting around $10 per day for. 

All meals are eaten out at restaurants due to the local culture and accommodation. An average day on program would consist of the following: 

  • Breakfast: rice, toast, fruit, omelet, Jok (rice porridge), dim sum
  • Lunch: Noodles, soups, Tom Kha, dim sum
  • Dinner: curry (Green, red, yellow, massaman), rice, noodles, Pad Thai, grilled meats, fried rice, Som Tam (spicy green papaya salad), Laab (spicy salad), some Western food available in Western areas, but not in the mountain communities

Camping meals will be adjusted to the cooking equipment at hand

Included in the tuition

  • All in-program travel and transport
  • All accommodation
  • 3 meals a day (not including snacks)
  • All expeditions, activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary
  • Experienced Program Instructors and local guides
  • Environmental education and volunteering projects
  • Experiential core curriculum that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves - working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose
  • Individual mentorship from program instructors, supporting you in your personal goals for the program
  • Informal lectures from resident experts on conservation and eco-tourism
  • 1- to 3-week optional extensions if you wish to continue traveling independently after the program
  • Pre-departure booklet with all information you need in one place to prepare for the program
  • 24/7 emergency contact number for students and parents
  • Global medical rescue and political evacuation insurance
  • Instructors have 24/7 access to a physician and a psychologist for advice and support
  • Pacific Discovery T-shirt

Duration 70 days
Program Tuition $13,500 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,500 USD
Availability Closed
Group Size 14 Students & 2 Instructors Ages 17 - 22 ideal Covid-19 Vaccination Requirement Vaccination Required
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Bangkok, Thailand