Once you've made up your mind to go abroad to learn Spanish, you probably are somewhat clueless as to where to go. Your biggest challenge is finding out which Spanish-speaking country will be the right fit for you.
There are all kinds of fabulous locations you could spend time in Latin America, from beach cities to urban centers to towns located in emerald-green forests. Just read on for our picks of some quality locations that'll more than satisfy your wanderlust.
Without further ado, let's explore nine great places to learn Spanish.
Ecuador is home to many natural wonders of the world. Plenty have heard of (and are interested in visiting) the Galapagos Islands, but that is just one aspect of Ecuador's natural offerings. The country has the Andes mountains, the Amazon rainforest and colonial cities of such high altitude that you'll feel you're staying in a city in the clouds. Literally.
When you first arrive in Quito, the city may overwhelm you with its expansive urban sprawl, but stay for a few days and the place will start to make more sense to you. With an old town sector that has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status and a busy nightlife, Quito will entertain you when you are not in class. Stay for a week and you'll begin to see Quito as the center of the planet, which it actually is – the equatorial line crosses it.
If you want more adventure in your life, or you're looking to mix up your study time with the occasional adrenaline rush, then go to Baños. From mountain biking to waterfalls to white water rafting to horseback riding, there are several outdoor activities you can opt for. And when your body is sore and tired from a day of extreme sports, you can go soak in the town's hot springs.
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Visitors who enjoy city life, but are discouraged by the huge sprawl of Quito usually prefer to head for Cuenca. The colonial look of its architecture in the city's center – with its beautiful red roofs – certainly did much to earn UNESCO's World Heritage status. Likewise, its abundance of museums and quaint native handicrafts delight visitors and Spanish language learners who opt to reside here for a while. If you've always wanted a Panama hat (which are beautifully made in Ecuador), Cuenca is the perfect place to acquire one.
Located south of Mexico, Guatemala offers a fascinating window into the wonders of Central America. A country that offers good facilities in its most visited travel spots yet remains under-developed enough to guarantee adventure, highlights of Guatemala include active volcanoes, native indigenous cultures, and rich cultural history. From time to time, you'll also be able to partake in a delicious cup of the globally-famous Guatemalan coffee, picked locally and brewed fresh; so tasty, even, that it'll tempt you to stay here longer.
Antigua has plenty of endearing personality and character. The colonial city sits upon a site of past volcanic eruptions that have created interesting ruins out of some of the buildings. The centuries-old ruins, which feature a monastery, makes Antigua uniquely beautiful. The mountain landscape and brightly colored buildings will make a stunning view from the classroom window you're studying Spanish in. Distracting? Likely. Worth it? Absolutely.
5. Lake Atitlán
The towns spread around this lake are full of contrasts between the old and the new. Native traditions are noticeable everywhere as local women carry out their duties on the banks of the lake and fishermen haul in their daily catch. But if you're in the quest for adventure, such as hang-gliding over the lake, you'll find Atitlán still has plenty of modern activities to offer. You may opt to stay in any one of the many villages/settlements around the lake. If you're aiming to immerse yourself in the local culture while you study Spanish, this is an ideal place to do it.
Many of the visitors travel to Flores to use it as the base town for the amazing tourism spot that is Tikal – a site of ancient Mayan ruins situated in the depths of the Guatemalan jungle. However, the town has a lot to offer to the student of Spanish looking to stay longer. For fun, take a break from your studies and the heat by diving off the jetty. Or take a stroll down Flores' charming narrow streets. Or try your best to speak Spanish with locals as you enjoy a cup of coffee at a café. Arrange to stay here for just a few days and you'll feel assimilated into the society very quickly.
Mexico is a large, expansive and stunningly diverse country that has a number of sites and towns that will be to your liking as you settle in to study Spanish. White, sandy beaches? No problem. Fun cities? Absolutely. Be sure to take a lot of culinary food breaks as you study as the country is famous for its delicious, spicy dishes. Here are three Mexican cities that are amazing spots to learn Spanish:
This town has a thriving student population of local and study abroad students that will make you feel right at home. Of a size that is refreshingly smaller than Mexico, City but with a similar offering of trendy bars, cafés and shops, Guadalajara is popular among students for a reason. Its easy proximity to the town of Tequila and the mariachi live music bands that play here frequently may entice you to stay here for a lot longer than you originally planned.
If you have a passion for food as well as for learning Spanish, then you can't go wrong staying in Oaxaca. With local food options that include chocolate, mole and tlayuda (Mexico's answer to a pizza) to pique your culinary interest, as well as craft fairs, local Mexican traditions and museums to occupy your time, you'll be happy during your stay in Oaxaca.
Very popular for its view of the splendid Mayan ruins that are situated right next to the Caribbean Sea, Tulum is an ideal beach town for you to start your Spanish language studies. Do a little pre-breakfast yoga on the porch of your cabana; take a lengthy dip in the sea between Spanish lessons and lie lazily on the beach over the weekend. Studying Spanish in paradise is what Tulum is all about.
Editor's Note - For information on another popular studying destination, see also: "Where should I go to study Spanish in Colombia?"
Denise Recalde is a Content Writer at Day Translations with eleven years of experience under her belt. She has worked on writing projects that range from business to nutritional health to beauty and fashion and spent a total of five years working as the English News editor for a top ranking food industry site. Bilingual and a world traveler, she has been to 14 countries and spent about one-half of her life in the US and the other half in Argentina.