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 onto Sevilla. 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.
Check out our Gap Year Program Comparison Chart to compare our programs or get the full Spring Program run-down in our catalogue. Our newest Program Quiz can also help you find your perfect Program match!
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!
It’s time to embrace the southern Spanish sunshine and head to Sevilla, the capitol of Andalusia and home of the birthplace of Flamenco dancing! UNESCO recently recognized Flamenco as part of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage and we’re going to settle in and learn the ropes so that we can take a little slice of southern Spain home with us. An art form that mixes poetry, singing, guitar playing, dance, polyrhythmic handclapping, and finger snapping, we’ll learn from the best and of course, watch a show ourselves!
Flamenco might be the nation's favorite dance, but when it comes to Spain's favorite sport, there no debating it's football. While we’re here, we’ll get to experience the Spanish passion firsthand when we join a crowd of screaming and cheering football fans at a football match. We’ll finish our stay here by hopping on our bikes for a tour around the old quarter and taste the delights associated with this region of Spain.
Up ahead we’re moving on to Malaga, which 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! We’ll also test our legs in preparation for the Camino and explore the beautiful 8km walk that hugs the cliffs of Malaga, the Caminito del Rey.
Later in the week, we head towards Granada and partner up with the local volunteer association dedicated to environmental sustainability in the region. We’ll learn about ethical bee keeping, oak tree planting and get an introduction to the regional issues facing this part of Spain. We’ll also spend a few days exploring the lush landscape of the Alhambra in Granada center, the staple of Moorish architecture built on a hill, complete with gardens, intricate stonework designs, colorful mosaics and carved fountains.
Travelling between Granada and Murcia, we’ll settle for a few days and catch our breath. Murcia is known as "Europe's orchard" due to its long agricultural tradition and its fruit, vegetable, and flower production; we’ll tour the Correos market for fresh delights and local delicacies, ensuring that we’re relaxing and taking in some of the most impressive sites including Plaza Cardenal Belluga, the city’s architectural showpiece.
On the way to Valencia, we’ll set up camp once again, this time our focus will be on regenerative agriculture and ecosystem restoration, as conventional farming practices are causing many problems in the region which is already one of the poorest in Europe. 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.
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 that this region is known for, and we’ve witnessed these last weeks. 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 royalty when we get home.
While we’re in Valencia, we’ll 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!
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 you bet we’ll try to see it all!
On our way out of 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!
This week we’ll head back to Madrid and take a walking tour of this wonderous, magnificent and diverse city. From kilometers of park land riddled with glass palaces and fountains galore, to endless streets of boutique shops and bakeries, this city has it all. Then, we’re packing our bags and heading to Northern Spain, starting in Leon.
Leon, a city famous for its magnificent Santa María de León Cathedral is place that will not disappoint. We’ll spend our days here visiting some of Leon’s most iconic historic landmarks and sites, sleeping in a 500-year-old hostel and immersing ourselves in the richness of the region.
Our journey on the Camino de Santiago is up ahead and leaves from the beautiful city, so we’ll take a few days to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for our trekking adventure up ahead. Before we set off, we’ll pack our bags with snacks, check in with our families and do laundry, and ready ourselves for the experience up ahead.
The saying goes ‘The Camino Will Provide’ and that it will. From the Cathedral city of León to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, we’ll be following the ancient pilgrimage route of the Camino Frances through to 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, we’ll pass through market towns, challenge ourselves with steep forest climbs and eat 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.
On your way you’ll explore Astorga, Ponferrada and Sarria, and multiple other small hubs so that we’re always well stocked and prepared. We’ll no doubt visit the magnificent Los Templarios Castle as well as La Catedral de Santa Maria.
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. Along the way there will be multiple options, routes and rest days, all decided upon by you and your group mates so working together is key.
We’ll also have the option to try the local delicacies in each place we visit. Will you try ‘cocido’, made primarily of pork, octopus, pastry and wild game, partridge, boar and hare, in Sarria? Other local foods include the blood crepes of milk and egg freixos, served with cream or honey.
Our last stretch on the Camino takes us to 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).
But we can’t stop quite yet! 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.
We’ll rest up, check in with our families and reflect on a truly lifechanging experience. The Camino is an eye opening, path finding, life changing event that many people repeat over their years as they become ‘hooked’ on the feelings they encounter on this magical journey. We’ll sit in this space for a while and continue our reflection by looking back on a truly wonderous semester in Spain. Wrapping up the 10 weeks and feeling grateful for the friends we’ve made, the experiences we’ve had the things we’ve learnt, both about Spain, and ourselves.
*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 some 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 class. In general, Spanish cuisine usually contains potatoes, eggs, ham, tomatoes and cheese. 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 main meals are included in the program cost. Food will be predominantly catered with restaurant/ cafe dining but there will be an element of group meal preparation, shared by all students. This 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 con chocolate