Program Summary - Fall 2021
|European Expedition||Fall 2021 Program Details|
|Dates||Wed Sept 1, 2021 to Wed Nov 17, 2021|
Program Summary - Fall 2022
|European Expedition||Fall 2022 Program Details|
|Dates||Thurs Sept 1, 2022 to Thurs Nov 17, 2022|
Note: Arrival airport Dublin International Airport (DUB) and departure airport Leonardo de Vinci-Fiumicino Airport Rome (FCO)
What's it all about?
The European Expedition Program brings students on an epic journey across Europe, broadening their horizons through exposure to the continent’s deep cultural and historical roots infused with an exhilerating mix of outdoor-adventuring in some of the world’s most iconic locations. From the Arctic Circle to the Adriatic Sea - This will be the journey of a lifetime!
The European Expedition Program is designed to expand student’s knowledge of Europe and build independence and confidence through the four cornerstones of Immersive Travel, Experiential Learning, Outdoor Adventure and Cultural Exchange.
This 11-week program allows students to really become part of the lifestyle and people of each of the countries they visit. It is not about ticking off a list of destinations. We travel slowly across Europe – by train, yacht and ferry – giving plenty of time to soak up the experience along the way. It is as much about the journey as the destinations.
From Norway’s Arctic Circle to Amsterdam to the islands of the Adriatic Sea and points between you’ll be with Europe’s best natured people – The Irish! Specifically, Irish Gap Year’s team of experienced and passionate Program Leaders.
The European Expedition Program will provide students with a once in a lifetime adventure and a fascinating insight into European culture and history, all while building their independence and confidence. The friendships and memories made during the program will last far beyond their time with Irish Gap Year.
The European Expedition Program is divided in to four distinct stages, each with its own theme and goals
Part I Ireland: Orientation & Adventuring in National Geographic’s ‘Coolest Place on Earth’, Country Donegal, located on the Wild Atlantic Way one of the most westerly points of Europe
Part II Arctic Explorer: Journeys through Norwegian fjords under the Northern Lights.
Part III The Grand Tour: The art of slow travel and backpacking across Europe’s culture capitals
Part IV Southern Europe by Sail and Rail: Learning to sail and island hopping in the Adriatic Sea, exploring Dubrovnik and La Dolce Vita in Rome.
A unique experience of Europe designed to expand your worldview and connect you with the culture, people, history and physical environment.
Slow Travel by rail, road, yacht and ferry from the Arctic Circle in northern Scandinavia to the Dalmatian Islands off Croatia in the Adriatic Sea. You’ll be logging over 2,000 miles of immersive travel in Europe’s most scenic places.
You’ll have the 24/7 support of Irish Gap Year’s team of experienced (and extremely fun) program leaders.
- Build your independence and confidence while making new friends.
- Learn to navigate the world by train, boat and ferry.
- Connect with locals and learn about life in their countries by staying with our amazing hosts.
- Push your perceived limits and discover a deeper self-confidence through outdoor adventure in some of the world’s most amazing landscapes.
- Live with your peers in Irish Gap Year’s 19th Century coastal Manor in Co. Donegal (National Geographic’s Coolest place on Earth 2017) for your training and orientation week
- Kayak and Camp your way through Norwegian Fjords, sleeping under the Northern Lights for an entire week.
- Trek to glaciers in Norway and witness the effects of climate change in action
- Spend a week learning to sail in the Adriatic Sea on our own chartered yachts which will slowly island hop from Split to Dubrovnik along the Croatian Dalmatian coast.
- Live in an amazing 19th century farmhouse in Hoddevik, a Norwegian fjord while learning to surf in the Arctic Circle in one of the most scenic villages in Norway.
- Delve deep into Europe’s iconic cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome and Venice during 5 weeks backpacking on the continent’s inter-rail train system. This is a classic right of passage for any young traveller to Europe.
- Embrace immersive travel where you’ll have the time and space to reflect on the journey as it unfolds.
- Rest assured you are in good hands. Irish Gap Year has an impeccable safety record and is Gap Year Association Accredited, meaning all of our programs operate to the highest industry standard.
- Meet interesting people in our host countries.
Enjoy the humour and insights of the Irish Gap Year team – Sorry to ring our own bell, but we’re actually pretty awesome too!
Our application process is done entirely through the website, click the 'Apply Here' link above to get started. You'll receive automated emails from Irish Gap Year prompting each step of the process.
- First create and register your account with Irish Gap Year. It's an easy process that only takes 5 minutes.
- Your Irish Gap Year Student Portal will be activated. Next you'll complete our questionnaire and medical form (through your student portal).
- We'll be in touch with you via email to organize a phone call to get to know you better, answer your questions about the program and officially welcome you aboard.
- Your orientation materials will be available through your Irish Gap Year Student and Parent Portals.
Upon acceptance, a 10% deposit is required to secure a place on this program. The balance of the program fee is then due 90 days prior to the start of the program.
Find Out More About Our European Expedition Program
The goals of our European Explorer Program are to connect our students with the people, culture and current events of the countries we visit and to facilitate a journey of self-discovery. A journey that is about expanding your worldview, contextualizing identity which will ultimately lead to greater self-confidence and independence in students.
We achieve these goals through our four-cornerstones, of Immersive Travel, Cultural Exchange, Experiential Learning and Outdoor Adventure.
The Four Cornerstones of The European Expedition Program
1. Immersive Travel: A journey of thousands of miles begins with a single step
To us immersive travel means travelling the way locals do every day throughout Europe, by train, tram, ferry and occasionally by yacht! Immersive travel means taking the time to connect deeply with your journey, your fellow travellers and to look within.
These journey’s by sea and rail will come to be some of your fondest memories and provide great time for conversation with fellow travellers. They will also see you passing through some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes like the Northern Railway that passes along fjords and mountains into Norway’s Arctic Circle or taking funiculars up steep mountain sides into the Austrian Alps or sailing in the azure blue waters of the Adriatic Sea along the Croatian coast.
Train and ferry travel throughout Europe is also an excellent way to build your independence and confidence. When was the last time you met someone who navigated their way from the Arctic Circle to Dubrovnik by train, sailboat and ferry?
With the support and experience of our Program Leaders you’ll voyage well over 2,000 miles of the world by train, sail and ferry. You will experience many of Europe’s ‘must-see’ locations, meet interesting people from all over the world, be engrossed in local culture, have conversations you never dreamed of and push yourself, discovering new inner strengths and skills along the way.
Suffice to say, that the skills, friends and insights you develop on this journey will last a lifetime.
2. Cultural Exchange: Creating connection
The meaningful exchange of ideas, sharing of backgrounds and creating connections across borders is at the heart of the European Explorer Program. Through this exchange students will inevitably inspect their own cultural identity, challenge their worldview and come away with a deeper knowledge of both themselves and European culture.
One of the main goals of the Program is to emphasize the importance of the human connection. You will be getting to know some very interesting people along your journey from Norwegian boat-builder-rockers, to Italian art curators, to Syrian-refugee-entrepreneurs, to Croatian sailboat captains and of course the Irish Gap Year team in Donegal!
We hope that by introducing students to a variety of unique individuals and a variety of cultures that we will get them thinking about different paths in life that can lead you to fulfilment and success. You will find it interesting and inspiring to meet such a variety of characters and makes for a very rich and unique experience.
3. Experiential Learning: Learning through experience
Experiential learning is paramount to all Irish Gap Year Programs. As educators we understand the power that hands-on experience has and the impact that it leaves on our students. Throughout the European Explorer Program, we aim to bring students face-to-face with the places that have shaped the modern world.
You will cultivate first hand knowledge of the history, culture and current events on-site from our local partners, hosts and our experienced program leaders.
Many of our daily excursions throughout the program will have a cultural and/or historical emphasis designed to provide you with an authentic cultural connection. We will visit museums, castles, medieval town-squares, Roman temples, war memorials and UNESCO sites. The daily itinerary is designed to give students an experiential education of Europe.
Culture and History
You will be surrounded by history, you will literally be able to reach out and touch history, climb on it, explore its lesser known nooks and crannies, ponder and connect in with it a way that is not possible by distance. The same is true for experiencing the wide variety of cultures that you will encounter during the program.
You’ll cook traditional Norwegian cuisine that you’ve caught fresh from the sea with our friends while in residence in Hoddevika. You’ll have free range to explore ancient mega-lithic tombs while learning about Ireland’s pre-history, Learn to sail from accomplished Croatian sailors and experience the culture of the Adriatic Sea. You’ll smell a thousand years of wood-smoke and sit in the dim light of real Viking cabins in Norway.
Lasting impressions and connections with history and culture will be made, you have breathed in the history, lived the culture and felt both with your own hands and heart.
Students on our European Explorer Program will also discuss current events unfolding in Europe with locals as we connect with our friends, hosts and guides throughout our travels. Be prepared to have some of your pre-conceived ideas of Europe challenged as we get to know people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
We’ll spend time with Syrian refugees turned entrepreneurs touring Berlin through their eyes and learning about parallels between modern day Syria and 1930’s Germany. You’ll participate in the ‘Refugee Experience’ workshop testing your own problem solving, ethics and values as you are forced to make very difficult decisions along your virtual journey from Syria to Germany. In the evening, our Syrian friends will host us at their house for a traditional Syrian meal and casual conversation to debrief on the day and get to know one another better.
You will trek to glaciers in Norway’s Arctic Circle where you will see the effects of climate change in real-time as you discuss with our local guides the glaciers recession and the changing climate in their region.
You’ll participate in a workshop discussing the different approach of Norway to managing their natural gas and oil. Students will be asked to discuss whether they agree the measures implemented have been successful and are fair.
In Amsterdam we will learn how The Netherlands has manipulated sea-level change over the centuries to their advantage while we compare the difficulties being experienced by rising sea levels in Venice, Italy.
We will learn about the break up of the former Yugoslavia during the Balkan Wars during the 1990s and more particularly the Croatian War of Independence. We will also see first hand how this has affected the geography and people of the region.
Overall, students on the European Explorer Program will benefit from a first-hand experience and knowledge of Europe’s history, culture and socio-political events. A knowledge that is only available to those who’ve invested their time and effort to travel the lands and meet the people with an open mind along the way.
4. Outdoor Adventure: Good for the body, mind and spirit!
We are passionate about the outdoors and believe that time spent in nature is good for the body, mind and spirit! For our European Explorers nature will become a place for adventure, education and realization.
We use outdoor activities and adventures to get students out into Europe’s epic landscapes, experiencing all there is to offer and allowing them to become immersed in these environments.
Outdoor adventure will also be used as a means of pushing your comfort zone and perceived limitations. You don’t need to have any previous experience as an outdoor adventurer, but it is essential that our European Expedition students are motivated to try new things, resilient and up for the activities that are part of the program.
You will be learning to surf in Norway’s Arctic circle (don’t worry – You’ll have very good wetsuits!), you will climb sea-stacks on Ireland's rugged northwest coast, you will cycle-tour the lakes of the Italian Alps exploring villages as you go, hike the amazing thousand-foot-tall sea-cliffs of Ireland’s northwest coast and the forests of the Austrian Alps, you will learn to sail by island hopping along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, you will kayak-camp in Norwegian fjords and trek to glaciers where you will see for yourself the effects of climate change in real-time. There will be daily walking tours of cities and excursions out into the surrounding country sides as well. Be prepared to get fit while having the time of your life!
Ultimately, we hope that our students will take away an appreciation for nature and exercise as a refuge for the mind, body and spirit.
The Journey in Four Parts:
Part I - Ireland: Orientation and Adventuring on The Path Less Travelled
We can think of no better place to begin our European Expedition Program than in our own hometown of Bundoran, county Donegal, located on Ireland’s pristine northwest coast.
You’ll spend a glorious week in residence at our amazing 19th century manor home, Bundrowes House, right on the edge of the Atlantic. During your time in Donegal we’ll be bonding the group with icebreakers, workshops, team-challenges, cultural day-trips and lots of adventuring in our wild landscapes.
You’ll literally jump in the deep end with our polar dip challenge, emerging from the icy mountain-top lake ready to take on the world! The group will hike to remote camping locations, teach you to surf on our golden-sand beaches and hike through panoramic vistas in the coastal mountain ranges of the northwest.
There will also be plenty of cultural day trips throughout the northwest to connect you with the region’s history, culture and people through first-hand experience by visiting castles, museums and some of the oldest megalithic tombs in the world. You’ll get to know the locals through our “Humans of Bundoran” project.
Our time in Ireland will also include a two-night trip to everyone’s favourite Irish city, Galway. Here you will enjoy Ireland’s best pub culture with live music, street buskers and soak up the City’s lively, free-spirit personality. From Galway City we’ll a day trip do the world famous Aran Islands where we’ll rent bikes and explore the ancient Dun Aengus fort that build in 1100BC.
Your time in Ireland will prepare and bond the group for the journey ahead while giving you an authentic experience of our town and region. After your time on Ireland’s 'Wild Atlantic Way' you will be thirsty for even more adventure and the rest of Europe that awaits you!
Part II - The Arctic Explorer: Journeys through Norwegian fjords under the Northern Lights
Your journeys by rail, ferry and kayak in Norway will take you to the most amazing places you’ve ever been in your life.
You will kayak and camp in the fjords under the Northern Lights, learn to surf in the crystal-clear waters of the arctic circle (don’t worry – the wetsuits are very good!), trek to glaciers and hike mountains affording you breath taking vistas over the Fjords of western Norway.
You will also learn much about Scandinavian culture and history as we stay with our fantastic hosts and tour our favourite museums, fortresses and castles in Oslo.
Oslo - Velkommen til Norge’:
Our time in Norway starts in Oslo, the very hip and architecturally rich capital of Norway. You’ll take a walking tour of the City centre and learn about the history of Oslo as we explore the docks, the Akershus Fortress, The Viking Museum and Embassy row. You’ll have lunch in the city’s funky street food district and enjoy free time in the afternoon to settle in and explore the city for yourself.
On our second day in Oslo you’ll walk along the water’s edge of Oslo Harbor to the King of Norway’s Castle and grounds, where one of our favourite museums in Norway is located - The Norwegian Folk museum. Here you’ll find original homes and buildings collected from all over the country, ranging from Viking log cabins from the 900s to 1950s farmhouses. You’ll have free rein to explore and connect with these amazing buildings. We’ll enjoy a group dinner and time in one of our favourite Oslo bars on our final evening before we make our way west into the Fjords.
Bergen by way of Europe’s most scenic train journey
The train from Oslo to the western port city of Bergen has consistently been voted one of the world’s most magnificent train journeys. You’ll pass through lush regions with pristine rivers, lakes and snowy mountains eventually arriving at the fjord lands of south-western Norway.
While in Bergen you’ll explore the colourful wooden houses of the old wharf in the downtown, learn about the Hanseatic League (once headquartered on the old wharf) and its influence on the shaping of modern north European commerce and culture. You’ll take the funicular to the top of the spectacular Fløyen Mountain and take in the vast views over the fjords and city below.
Bergen will also provide you some much needed rest before and after our week-long kayaking and camping expedition through the fjords. Take a shower, be a little lazy - rest up!
Kayak-Camping Under the Northern Lights
Your time kayaking and camping in the Norwegian Fjords will be something you will never forget and probably one of the most amazing experiences of your life.
On this 7-day kayaking, camping and hiking expedition through Norway’s fjords you’ll paddle your way through some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes, completely disconnected from the outside world. You’ll camp on beaches where Viking villages once thrived, eat and sleep under the stars as the northern lights dance overhead and earn every bit of it under your own power.
You will hike to glaciers, zipline through gorges and learn about the effects of climate change at first-hand. You’ll also learn about the history and ecology of the region from our local guides.
The kayak-camping expedition is where you push your limits. It is where you realize what you’re made of and it is where you will face true moments of realisation. It will benefit you for the rest of your life.
Note: Remember this program is designed for students who want to push themselves. You don’t need to be an ultra-fit, experienced outdoors-person to enjoy this expedition. All you need is a willingness to try, enthusiasm and a dash of determination.
Hoddevik: The Land that Time Forgot
After our camp-kayak adventure in the fjords we’ll make our way back to Bergen where we’ll have a much-needed rest day before we board a passenger ferry and make the 5-hour passage along the west coast of Norway to the small, coastal town of Måløy.
You’ll pass through many fjords beneath snow-capped mountains as we steam up the coast. These are the same waters that the Viking ships you saw in the Oslo Viking Museum once sailed while leaving Norway on their way to Europe to raid and pillage.
From Måløy you’ll make the short journey to the remote valley village of Hoddevik, a place very near to our hearts at Irish Gap Year. A place that time seems to have completely forgotten by time and outside influence.
While in Hoddevik we’ll be staying in a gloriously picturesque 19th century Norwegian farmhouse owned and operated by personal friend of Irish Gap Year and eccentric Norwegian boat builder and adventurer, Torkild Strandvik. Torkild’s house is an oasis of traditional cultuers and people located in a vibrant hub for outdoor enthusiasts coming from all over Norway. Located a mere 100 feet from a white sand beach and surrounded by impossibly tall, snow-capped mountains, this is a place that will leave a lasting impression.
While at Torkild’s house you’ll be learning to surf in the clear blue waters in front of his house. Sound crazy? It is. But trust us, you will love it! You will be in the care of an experienced team of surf instructors and conditions are absolutely ideal here for learning. – Besides, who can legitimately say that they learned to surf in the arctic?!
You’ll also be hiking in the mountains directly behind the house, fishing for your own meals and warming your bones in what is probably the most scenic hot-tub on Earth (we should know, we helped build it from scratch!).
Dinners in Hoddevika will be home-cooked, traditional Norwegian cuisine, which is hearty, healthy and very tasty. At night the northern lights will illuminate the evening sky overhead and as we share in the awe of their beauty.
Arctic Explorer Takeaways:
Your time in Norway will be one of tranquillity and sereneness, of immersion in immense natural beauty and of personal growth. You will realize that you are capable of more than you ever imagined physically and mentally as you push your comfort zone through outdoor adventure. You will also leave Norway with a better understanding of the culture and of Norway’s contribution in shaping modern Europe.
Part III - Inter-Railing and The Grand Tour of Europe
The Grand Tour of Europe started as a rite of passage for young people in the 17th century and continues to this day. Our fashion and music may have changed since those first Grand Tour travellers way back when but the purpose of this journey through mainland Europe remains. Exploration, enlightenment and the search for knowledge of culture, history and the arts.
The inter-railing part of our program gives you the opportunity to experience the joys of slow-travel and backpacking through Europe, experiencing its multiplicity of cultures, food, scenery and people.
You’ll travel in style and comfort on the Inter-Rail train network from Amsterdam to Berlin, Prague to Salzburg, through the Austrian Alps and then on to Venice in northern Italy.
Survey the grandeur of Europe’s iconic cities and discover their interlocking histories, diverse cultures and learn about the past and current events which have shaped them in the modern era. You’ll stay in centrally located accommodation and get to know some of our friends and locals throughout the continent.
At each stop on the inter-railing portion of the program we do a walking tour of the city you are in, helping you to get your bearings and understand more about where you will be staying. There will be balance between daily activities, excursions and free-time. Generally, we try to give our gappers one full free day in each location, however we are sure to have group breakfast and dinners on those days to make sure that everyone is getting on well!
The Journey by Rail
Amsterdam: Art, Progressive Culture and of course Canals
Amsterdam is known for its rich artistic heritage, progressive culture, distinctive narrow gabled houses and elaborate canal system.
Here you’ll explore the heart of Amsterdam with the local Dutchman, Julius, our friend, local historian and tour guide. You’ll discuss the very interesting and oftentimes dark history of the Netherlands as we spend a wonderful day walking the city.
In true Irish Gap Year fashion, you’ll be venturing a bit off the beaten track in subsequent days as we cycle the beautiful islands and villages surrounding Amsterdam. On return explore the city’s vintage shops and take part in a ‘fishing for plastic’ tour of the city, where we will discuss the impact of plastics in the world's oceans while also learning about Holland's progressive environmental stance.
As with all of the stops on our inter-railing journey, you will also have ample free-time to get out and self-explore all that Amsterdam has to offer.
Berlin: Iron Curtain to Cultural Wonderland
Divided by the Belin wall in 1961, Berlin has had a tumultuous history. The fall of the wall and the city’s reunification in 1989 heralded the start of a creative and cultural regeneration which continues today. Berlin is a hub of creativity, industry and culture. The city expertly melds its difficulty history with a new modern outlook. It’s easy to understand why Berlin is one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations.
You’ll have the opportunity to check out the city’s most iconic historical locations and explore the lesser known hotspots of Germany’s capital city.
The Berlin Wall and more specifically Checkpoint Charlie were the physical and ideological border that defined a generation of Berliners and infamous crossing point from East to West Berlin during the Cold War era.
The Brandenburg Gate was built in the 18th century when the city was part of Prussia to represent the entrance to the city. It was appropriated by Nazis during World War II and badly damaged during the Allied bombardment of the city. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the east and west governments worked together to restore it and it now stands as a symbol of peace and reunification.
The Reichstag Building is Germany’s national parliament building. It was severly damamged by fire during World War II. When Berlin became Germany’s new capital city this 19th century building was fantastically restored with an amazing modern addition which you will tour and hopefully pariliment will be sitting on that day and you can have a peek at all the political heavyweights through the glass ceiling.
Off the Beaten Track:
Refugee Voices Tour is a powerful, controversial and moving tour of Berlin’s city centre as told by Syrian refugee guides. This tour speaks of Syria's own secret police, government repression, and natives fleeing for safer destinations, drawing parallels between modern day Syria and 1930s Germany. Following the tour, our Syrian freinds will host us for a traditional dinner and conversation at their home.
The Swimming Pool in the Spree is a harboured barge that functions as a swimming pool with unique panoramic view of the river Spree, the Oberbaumbrücke and Berlin’s iconic TV tower. Besides bathing, the beach area around the Badeschiff has become an urban recreational area and a a focal point of urban culture and entertainment for many Berliners at any time of the day.
The Urban Garden in Berlin is self-described as “a piece of nature in a concrete jungle”. You will visit the artisan cafes in these city centre organic gardens which hip, alternative Berliners like to hangout.
The Prinzipal Bar allows you to drink in the past in this real life 1920s speakeasy. The Prinzipal Bar is typical of pre-war Germany and has become an underground icon of Berlin in recent years.
Prague: Medieval Europe at its Finest
A thousand shades of terracotta, hundreds of spires reaching for the blue sky, colourful baroque buildings leading from one medieval town square to another, the sound of church bells ringing out as they’ve done for hundreds of years. Prague is a bohemian fairy tale.
Our visit to the capital city of the Czech Republic will be a dive into the past. You’ll visit the old town square, tour the Prague Castle and enjoy the show that’s been going on since 1402 at the medieval astronomical clock.
We will also speak with locals about Prague’s recent history and the Prague Spring movement and the velvet revolution in 1989 as the former Soviet Union collapsed.
Of course, no time in Prague is complete without a visit to a beer hall for a tasty dish of Vep'o knedlo zelo (roasted pork)
Salzburg: Baroque Architecture and Austrian Culture at its Finest
Salzburg is a magnificent city of antiquity and grandeur nestled on the Salzach River in the Austrian Alps. Its cobble stoned streets, lined with medieval and baroque buildings and surrounded by snow-capped alpine peaks makes this city impossibly picturesque, as if it’s sprung straight from a fairy tale.
The city centre (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of the best-preserved old town centres in all of Europe and feels very much like a fairy-tale setting.
You will tour the enchanting city and the surrounding countryside, exploring the striking 1,000-year-old Salzburg Fortress and learning about its significance in Austrian history, touring the Old Town Centre, cruising the Salzach River by power-boat, admiring the ornate intricacy of St. Peter’s Abbey and visiting one of Austria’s best outdoor markets.
Zell am See: Adventure in the Heart of the Austrian Alps
Zell am See is a small Austrian town located on Lake Zell, in the heart of the Austrian Alps. Surrounded on all sides by towering, forested and snow-capped mountains, Zell am See is a place of great natural beauty and a mecca for outdoor adventure.
The town offers excellent alpine hiking, water-sports on the lake and rural Austrian culture. There are many excellent cafés, traditional beer halls and shops in the area.
During your stay here you’ll be staying in a traditional, mountainside, Austrian chalet close to the town centre and the start of mountain trails. You’ll cycle around the lake, stopping in the nearby villages to explore castles and learn about the local history, you’ll tour the infamous ‘Eagles Nest’ located nearby, learn about Austria’s role in WWII and go on plenty of day-hikes in the mountains and gorges that surround Zell am See.
La Machina Fissa: A unique perspective on Northern Italy and The Dolomites
La Machina Fissa is unlike anywhere you’ve been before. This 18th century, converted agricultural pumphouse is nestled among national parks in the plains of northern Italy and is just a short drive from the Dolomite mountains and Lake Garda. This is the perfect place to relax, immerse yourself in Italian culture and cuisine, and reflect on your incredible journey through Europe so far.
You’ll be staying with one of our favourite hosts on the entire program, Clark Lawrence, a witty and talented personal friend of Irish Gap Year, who has operated La Machina Fissa as an Art Retreat for the past ten years. Clark opens his doors exclusively to our group, and along with his partner Gigi, will make us wonderful, traditional Italian breakfasts, lunches and dinners each day.
While in this part of Italy you’ll explore the Lake Garda region on bikes, take a few easy day hikes in the Dolomites, tour the nearby historical city of Mantua with Clarke, getting the local history and insights, and enjoy garden projects at Clarke’s place such as harvesting the autumn crops and tending to the garden.
The is truly an amazing place, run by an amazing person in one of Europe’s most spectacular regions.
Venice: The Floating City
Built on over 100 small islands, Venice is home to more beautiful canals, Gothic Palaces, Basilicas and impressive architecture than just about any other European City.
You’ll be staying right on the water’s edge in the city centre of Venice in the fabulous Generator Venice, a funky and hip converted 18th century library with an amazing view of the city and plenty of other like-minded travellers to socialize with.
While in Venice we will be discussing the issue of climate change and the impending threat to Venice as sea-levels rise. You will have the opportunity to compare the Venetian approach to the issue as compared to other European cities you’ve visited on the program.
Our time in Venice will also include walking tours giving you an overview of Venetian history, a day-trip to the nearby island city of Burano to take in its amazing sights and culinary delights. You will be able to have lots of delicious meals, plenty of free time for you to get lost in the amazing labyrinth that is Venice and take a trip to Venetians’ favourite outdoor market for lovely fresh foods. You will also take part in our very own ‘Venice Challenge’!
Interailing & The Grand Tour of Europe Takeaways:
Navigating your way by train from the Netherlands to Italy, through Europe’s capital cities gives you the chance to build your independence and resilience.
You will also build your practical skills by planning and preparing your own meals along the way and work as a team to support one another on this incredible journey.
Finally, the inter-railing portion of the program will also act as an education of European history, culture and current events. You will have the opportunity to experience first-hand places that shaped world history.
Part IV - Southern Europe by Sail and Rail: Croatian Islands, Dubrovnik and Rome
On the final leg of the European Expedition Program you’ll be exploring the ancient capitals of commerce and power that shaped modern Europe.
You will Island hop along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast while learning to sail, walk the fortified castle walls of Dubrovnik and witness the awesome might of the ancient Roman Empire at first hand in Rome.
We will explore the rich history of the Adriatic Sea while learning first-hand about Europe’s ancient maritime cultures, learning to sail in a yacht as we navigate around the islands along Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast en-route to Dubrovnik, a fairy-tale city described by George Bernard Shaw as the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’.
You’ll then make your way across the Adriatic by ferry to mainland Italy where you will journey by train to the ancient port city of Salerno where you’ll spend two days exploring cathedrals, haunted crypts, white sandy beaches and winding cobble-stone streets.
Our final destination on the European Expedition Program is Rome, the Eternal City, the centre of one of the largest and most powerful empires the world has ever seen. You’ll visit the power centres of ancient Rome and explore the city’s antiquities with local historians while also getting a feel for modern day Rome as we divert to the city’s lesser known sights.
Rome will also act as a place to reflect and debrief on your journey of over 2,000 miles that you have just completed. This journey will be rounded off on the last night with a sumptuous meal, lots of laughs, maybe some tears and plenty of new friends and memories that we hope will last a lifetime.
Learning to Sail: A timeless journey on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast
Your journey into southern Europe begins with the beautiful train ride from Venice to the coastal city of Split, on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. We have chartered the group’s own of yachts and you’ll set sail from Spilt island hopping along the coast to the capital city of Dubrovnik.
The yachts each have an experienced, local skipper who will teach you the basics of seamanship and sailing. It will literally be all hands on deck as you glide through the azure waters of the Dalmatian Coast and Adriatic Sea. You will learn to cook fresh Croatian cuisine and you will receive an in-depth, first-hand education on the history of Croatia and the Adriatic Sea from our Croatian skippers.
You’ll be living, eating and sleeping on these boats as we make our way south from Split to Dubrovnik. On our way, you’ll anchor in the evenings in harbours on the islands either making our way into coastal villages or enjoying the secluded, spectacular beaches of the coves all to ourselves.
After a glorious, educational and adventurous week on the sea you’ll say goodbye to our skippers and our sea legs as we arrive to the medieval, port-city of Dubrovnik (one of our favourite cities in the world!).
Dubrovnik: Fairy tale city and ancient empire
The City of Dubrovnik sits on the warm, shimmering waters of the Adriatic Sea where its ancient, fortress walls have protected her position of wealth, sophistication and progression since the times of the Byzantine Empire.
Entering the Old City of Dubrovnik through the ancient city walls is like stepping back in time a thousand years, to a fairy-tale land where you can literally reach out in any direction and touch history.
As is often the case, fact is far more interesting than fiction when it comes to Dubrovnik. Its recent popularization as a film location for the Game of Thrones series pales in comparison to the incredibly rich history of the city.
While in Dubrovnik you’ll be touring the city with local guides and learning about the city’s ancient past, recent conflict and status as a UNESCO World Heritage city. You’ll discuss with our local guides and hosts the evolution of Dubrovnik’s identity in recent times along with the Croatian War of Independence during the 1990’s.
You’ll explore the magnificent palaces, fortresses and cathedrals built by an ancient society that rivalled Venice for the control of commerce in the Adriatic Sea. The group will kayak out to beautiful island of Otok Lorum just 2 kms from Dubrovnik
Dubrovnik is always a favourite destination among European travellers and for good reason. Visually Dubrovnik is a feast for the senses with its red terracotta rooftops, the glistening blue Adriatic Sea under its giant medieval city walls, narrow cobble stone streets and cathedrals around every corner.
Our students will take more than just memories and great photos with them from Dubrovnik though. We aim to delve into the city’s influential past in the shaping of southern Europe, its modern history of conflict and resolution and emergence as a peaceful and vibrant modern city.
You’ll make your way from Dubrovnik to Rome via a ferry journey across the Adriatic followed by a train ride and a glorious two days spent in the Italian seaside town Salerno. There you’ll tour one of Europe’s oldest medical school (which opened its doors in the 1400’s and is still teaching medicine), explore the old town center, amazing beaches and ruins of Arechi Castle.
All Roads Lead to Rome
Rome has been at the centre of everything for thousands of years. It has been the seat of power of the Roman Empire, the home of the powerful Catholic Church and its influence can be felt in every corner of Europe. It has a long and varied history and is the perfect ‘last-stop’ on our European Explorer Program.
In Rome you’ll tour some of the city’s most significant ancient sites as we tie together the historical and cultural influences that connect The Eternal City to all of the other locations you’ve travelled through on the program.
Rome and its treasures of antiquity will act as your experiential masterclass in early European history. You’ll tour the Pantheon with local historians and learn about the temple’s mysterious connection to barbarian raids of the 5th century and its honouring of ‘all gods’. You will explore The Colosseum and discuss its role in ancient Roman culture while drawing parallels to modern day spectacle and sport. You’ll also spend a day touring the Vatican City where so many of the decisions that shaped Europe and the modern world have been made over the centuries.
In addition to the iconic sites of Rome, we will also be getting off the beaten track with street-food tours, group meals in our favourite restaurants, exploring antique markets and a brief tour of Rome’s lesser-known fascist architecture.
Program Reflections and Debriefing
Your time in Rome marks the culmination of the greatest journey of your life thus-far. Over the past 78 days you’ve travelled over 2,000 miles across Europe by train, ferry, kayak, sailboat (and two flights), which is no small task of course!
You’ve just completed an EPIC journey that you will cherish and remember forever. You’ll be proud, tired, nostalgic, accomplished, braver, more independent and confident. You’ll be all on top of the world and sad to go at the same time!
Your program leaders will be there with you to debrief, reflect and share in the laughter (and perhaps tears) as we look back on the past 11 weeks. We’ll help to contextualize the journey both in terms of personal growth and as a learning experience.
Our last meal in Rome will be a great celebration of success and a mighty send-off. Your right-of-passage is complete.
Who is the Program for?
The European Expedition Program is for students who wish to have a highly immersive and adventurous experience of Europe. This will be the journey of a lifetime.
You will build your independence and expand your worldview through travel and adventure. You will discover new elements of yourself on this program, sharing the experience and challenges on the road with a new group of friends.
This program is best suited to students who are adventurous, curious and will enjoy a balance of structure and freedom. Students need to be resilient with a “can do”, positive outlook as they take on life on the road throughout the expedition.
You will be spending a lot of time with locals who will be eager to share with you their perspectives on life, so we ask that you come with an open mind.
You will experience Europe as few have the opportunity to. You’ll be travelling by train, ferry, sailboat and occasionally airplane so it is essential that students enjoy the art of slow-travel itself!
What’s Included on the European Expedition Program
Accommodation - Students will share guest houses, sailboats, hostels and occasionally tents. All accommodation is private and we do not share rooms with other travellers or groups. We strive to provide the very best accommodations that are clean, safe, unique and centrally located.
All travel costs and associated travel expenses within Europe
24/7 support from Irish Gap Year’s experienced team of Program Leaders. There is always two program leaders with students at all times. Parents and guardians are given a dedicated telephone number to call if they need to speak to their children urgently. Students are also provided with this number and staff are always located close-by during free time
All linen and towels are provided.
All breakfasts and most dinners: In total, Irish Gap Year provides 7 breakfasts and 5 dinners weekly, allowing students 2 ‘free-dinners’ weekly. Lunches are included during our sailing trip, in Norway and while in residence at La Machina Fissa but will be not be included in other locations. Some meals we provide will be student-led meals, for which students will shop with program leaders and prepare food in our guesthouses. Other meals will be provided as group dinners in restaurants and cafés throughout the program.
All entry fees for parks, UNESCO sites, museums and activities.
All staff conducting activities are fully qualified and trained to undertake the activity.
Fully insured and certified activity providers.
Fully insured and certified transport providers.
Staff have university level education and occupational first aid.
What's Not Included?
International flights to Dublin and from Rome.
Individual travel insurance.
Some dinners and lunches