Himalayan Gap

Our gap year program offers students a highly personalized and holistic introduction to north-Indian culture. As part of our ten-week core program, students live with the directors in their mountain-home in Kalimpong, while pursing activities from our vast range of offerings, which include lessons in the Hindi language, Indian classical dance and music, yoga, Thangka painting, trekking, and rafting, among other activities. We end our program with a week in Bhutan, and a three-day stay in Delhi visiting historical sites and monuments, including the Taj Mahal. Below is a description of each of the fundamental elements of our core program:


Hindi is one of the most widely spoken languages in South Asia and is one of India's official languages. Although Hindi might be considered predominantly North Indian, people throughout the subcontinent speak it, oftentimes as a second or third language.

At Himalayan Gap, we believe that language is an indispensable aspect of culture, and one cannot understand the culture of North India without some familiarity with Hindi. In this vein, the language component of the program enhances all the other activities students participate in. For instance, basic language proficiency goes a long way when volunteering one's time in women empowerment campaigns, just as it helps one navigate the local bazaar and religious shrines to better understand quotidian life.

Each evening students have the option of enjoying a Hindi movie or documentary with a native speaker to further enhance their comprehension of Indian culture and Hindi. For students who are interested in pursuing more intensive Hindi language training, we can organize for lessons before the beginning of the core program. Please write to us for more details.


Students will have the option of receiving yoga instruction each morning. A yoga guru will conduct classes, weather permitting, in an open-air space overlooking the beautiful mountainside. This yoga program will include asanas (postures), pranayam (breathing) and non-denominational meditation. Practicing yoga tones the body and makes it more flexible. Very often, even with regular exercise, one can miss out on stretching muscles important for relaxing the mind and body. If students want one-to-one instruction for specific needs, independent sessions can be arranged.

Volunteering Opportunities

There are several ongoing projects in conjunction with local NGOs that students can get involved with. These are often engaged with issues such as organic and sustainable agriculture, women empowerment, teaching English and Math, health and hygiene education, and HIV/AIDS awareness among others. Students are also welcome to introduce their own ideas and spend time implementing it in the local community. Given the importance we lay on language study, our students are able to communicate with locals, making them especially effective in their volunteering efforts.

Thangka painting

Thangkas, which can be found adorning the walls of many a Buddhist monastery, are paintings illustrating Buddhist deities and themes. A Thangka usually consists of a picture panel, made of embroidered silk or cotton, which is mounted with a textile. The subject of the paintings ranges from traditional depictions of Buddha's life, to deities, myths, and personal interpretations of Buddhism that are used for meditation. Owing to the mediums used, Thangkas serve as scrolls that can be rolled up and transported with relative ease. They have thus historically served a didactic purpose, allowing monks to carry their teachings in the form of a scroll-painting across miles of mountain trails.

To allow students to artistically explore the rich culture and tradition of Buddhism, Himalayan Gap offers Thankga painting lessons. The instructor is (very appropriately) a monk who has been teaching this centuries-old art in the local Buddhist monastery for over two decades. Students will learn how to paint on silk and cotton sheets with water-soluble paints made of mineral, herbal, and organic pigments. The usual process of creating a Thankga consists of combining traditional motifs with personal understanding of the statutes of Buddhism.

Hindustani Classical Music

Learning Indian classical music is another fascinating way to explore Indian culture. In contrast with Western schools of music, the Indian classical music system is based primarily on raagas (melodic note patterns) and taalas (rhythmic beat cycles). Each raaga is classified by a few note patterns unique to it, and by the particular time-period of the day under which it may be played. These two concepts correspond to the "mood" the raaga is meant to depict. Since the theory underlying Indian classical music is rooted in significant aspects of Hinduism, Hindustani classical music can also serve as a wonderful avenue to understanding one of the main religious orientations of north India.

Travel in Bhutan

After eight weeks in the pristine surroundings of Kalimpong, students spend the last week traveling to Bhutan, a small country nestled in the eastern Himalayas between India and China.

Bhutan is a unique country for many reasons. Unlike many other countries in the Indian subcontinent, Bhutan was under absolute monarchy until 2008, when the first democratically elected government was instated. Founded by a Buddhist monk, the state-religion of Buddhism symbolizes much more than religious practice and belief; it constitutes the core of the national identity. Having had very little interaction with the rest of the world until the 1960s, Bhutan has managed to preserve its native traditions, culture, and natural environment from the homogenizing trends of globalization. Many academics consider Bhutan to have the highest Gross National Happiness index, if not a consistently growing GDP. Its majestic mountains, intricate monasteries, scrumptious food, and extensive flora and fauna, allow visitors to partake of a culture and environment long lost in many other parts of the world.

To fully satiate our students' wanderlust, the program ends with a visit to one of the most sought-after sites in the India, the Taj Mahal. On the car ride back to Delhi, we also visit the Red Fort and Fatehpursikri, two forts constructed by the Mughal Emperor Akbar to serve as the imperial capitals of the Mughal Empire.


Your weekends are free to explore the following options in the area:

White-water Rafting on Teesta

Teesta Bazar, 45 minutes away from Kalimpong, offers white-water rafting trips on the Teesta river. Rapids abound at all levels, so expert or novice, some aquatic adventure is on offer for everyone!

The Tea experience

Darjeeling is home to arguably the best tea in the world. Our "tea experience" involves hiking through rolling tea fields and learning about how tea is planted, nurtured, plucked for processing, and finally made into tea bags that end up in our cup. Experienced tea-picking ladies guide us as we're taught to pluck the perfect "two leaves and a bud". After a visit to the tea factory, where we witness tea processing, the hike ends with a tea tasting session fit for a tea connoisseur's delight.

Indian Cooking

Perhaps nothing embodies culture as fully as food does, and learning how to cook entails not only the actual preparation of food, but also a lesson in the customs, traditions, religion, and philosophy informing it. With this goal in mind, Indian and Tibetan cooking classes may be arranged. Students are also welcome to informally visit the kitchen whenever they like!


Overlooking the majestic Kangchendzonga range of the Himalayas, steeped in tea plantations, and strewn with many a colonial building, Darjeeling is one of the most sought-after summer destinations for tourists. There is plenty to do in Darjeeling, from admiring the architecture of the Raj in churches and mansions, to shopping for trinkets at the local crafts bazaar, to visiting the zoo and botanical garden that are home to alpine flora and fauna, to people-watching over coffee and hot moms from a cozy café. Darjeeling will surely be a highlight for more than one weekend!

Tsomgo Lake

Situated at an altitude of 3780 m (12, 400 ft), Tsomgo lake is as lush as alpine vegetation can make it! Strewn with beautiful primula flowers and inhabited by Brahminy ducks half the year, Tsomgo is worth visiting for the sites alone. The lake is, however, considered sacred according to local legend and is a popular place of worship. In fact, Buddhist monks are said to have foretold the future by studying the waters of this holy lake.

Weekend in a Village

The majority of India lives in villages and our "weekend in a village" experience allows students to immerse themselves in this more rural and agrarian setting. Set up as a series of home-stays with local farmers and artisans, it is a great way to probe yet another level of the vast spectrum of existence in India.

With all your activities during the week, you can also take the weekend off, sit by a bonfire, and just relax.



Kalimpong, is a bustling bazaar town that sprawls along a ridge overlooking the roaring Teesta River and the Kanchanjunga, the third highest mountain in the world (after Mount Everest and K2). Located near the town of Darjeeling, at an average altitude of 4000 feet, here you can shop in the bazaar, hike through the dense forests of golden oak trees, raft in the nearby Teesta, or enjoy Tibetan dumplings while watching a beautiful sunset over the gorgeous Kanchanjunga range.

Accommodation and Food

At Himalayan Gap, we believe that true cultural immersion comes only from living in a family-like environment. This is the reason our students live in the directors' home in Kalimpong, which has been designed to provide enough independence and privacy to young-adults, while also allowing for meaningful exchanges among the directors and the students. With two students to a room, the home also has plenty of common spaces, equipped with Wifi and television among other gadgets, that students may enjoy. Laundry and housekeeping is carried out by the resident-staff twice a week. Three meals of local and Western cuisine are served in a common dining area, where the directors and students often eat together. We ensure that every meal is healthy, hygienic and sumptuous. Moreover, our resident staff is available 24 hours a day to attend to all needs at any time.