K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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If you want to learn Spanish, or you’re already practicing now, one of the best ways to better master the language is to travel where it’s spoken. From vibrant cities in South America to the birthplace of Spanish in Europe, you can get a full immersion experience and discover a whole new culture. These Spanish-speaking destinations not only offer a great chance to learn but lots of great scenery and attractions to explore.
Columbia is a top destination in South America to learn to speak Spanish, particularly in central Colombia as locals have a minimal accent and tend to speak slowly. Though there are benefits to just about all of the cities in this country, your best bet is to spend time in sprawling Bogota or cosmopolitan Medellin – the accent typically found along the Caribbean coast can be challenging for beginners. If you’re concerned about Colombia being a risky country to visit, that’s no longer the case – in fact, you’re more likely to be eaten by a shark in Australia than to be kidnapped in Bogota, Colombia’s capital city. In between practice, you’ll have snow-covered mountains and volcanoes, wildlife-filled Amazon jungle, pristine beaches, and fascinating historic cities to explore.
While Mexican accents are a little bit stronger and can vary depending on where you on in the country, with people so friendly here it makes it much easier to practice your Spanish. Locals appreciate foreigners who come and try to speak the language, even if it means struggling through a few poorly pronounced words. They’re extremely patient and will be more than willing to help you out while providing a boost of confidence that makes it easier to improve. And, if you’re the type of traveler who is fascinated with ancient civilizations, Chichen Itza in particular is sure to thrill. Here you can explore Mayan civilization grounds like the Cenote Sagrado, a large sink hold that measures nearly 200 feet in diameter. Visiting would-be archaeologists have discovered jade, gold rings, necklaces and even ancient human bones that are the remains of young girls sacrificed to the Mayan rain god Chaac.
Guatemala is not only ideal for those who are looking for a budget-friendly vacation as it’s one of the most affordable countries in Latin America, but it offers a ton when it comes to outdoor adventures and culture despite its small size. Once a place travelers avoided, the nation’s current president helped eradicate political corruption making it much safer to visit too. Many of its attractions are being renovated or expanded, including Tikal National Park, which hosts one of the largest Mayan cities ever uncovered and the most fascinating ruins in Guatemala. Be sure to visit Lake Atitlan while you’re here. The crater lake is surrounded by three volcanoes and a number of villages where Guatemalans live a traditional life offering a fabulous chance to soak up culture and nature, as well as to enjoy hiking, kayaking, swimming and biking.
What better place to practice Spanish than in the birthplace of the language? Spanish in Spain is actually quite different from the language that’s spoken in Latin American countries. Spanish has evolved and changed over the centuries more in Latin America, so the version spoken in many areas of Spain is the most traditional form. Spain has an intriguing culture that blends European, Mediterranean, and North African influences. Madrid is a great city to not only practice the language, but it’s an art lovers paradise. Spain is full of exciting destinations, as here you can explore the Golden Triangle of Art, which refers to its three outstanding art museums: Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Museo Reina Sofia. Plus, unlike Barcelona where many people speak Catalan, Madrid residents speak Castilian Spanish (traditional European Spanish). They also tend to have international accents that are easier to understand.
In Costa Rica, you’ll have the Caribbean, the rainforest, and the Pacific as the ultimate travel playground for nature lovers. The laid-back ticos here speak at a pace that isn’t too intimating for beginning speakers. It’s ideal for Spanish speakers of all levels who want to enjoy a fantastic escape immersed in nature at the same time. There are hundreds of miles of beaches on both coasts, zip lines that stretch through misty cloud forests and some of the world’s most impressive biodiversity. If you like to dive, there is no better place in Costa Rica than Isla del Cano. The island offers dives for all skill levels and a wealth of marine life, including sea turtles, stingrays, morays, dolphins, massive snapper and sharks.
Argentina is ideal for the more advanced Spanish learners who also want to enjoy a wide array of fun things to do. The Spanish spoken in the country, more particularly in Buenos Aires, has its own distinct style that differentiates it from that of any other country, which will give you the unique experience of learning a language that’s entirely specific to where you are. Buenos Aires itself is a city so unique, you’ll probably find it hard to leave. Not only can you practice your Spanish, but you can learn to tango alongside the locals who love to dance the night away, and as the city also boasts some of the best shopping on the planet – retailers aren’t stuck inside malls either, they’re lined along fashioned cobbled streets that are much more delightful to explore.
While Machu Picchu draws countless visitors from around the world to check it off their travel bucket list, this vast country offers a whole lot more than that. You can enjoy everything from the exciting capital city to magnificent beaches and the charming town of Cusco, which is often seen as simply a place to acclimatize to the high altitude before tackling a hike to Machu Picchu, which most visitors regret the second they arrive. A thriving city with a fascinating colonial history, Cusco is a great choice for studying Spanish, as is the capital city of Lima. It’s home to grand museums, a thriving culinary scene, and dramatic cliffs that plunge right into the Pacific. You’ll have the chance to explore its pre-Colombian past, modern Miraflores, and join in on the hopping nightlife where you can salsa from dusk ’til dawn.
Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar and is also home to lots of North American retirees, so if you’re nervous about going somewhere that you could potentially run into trouble without being fluent in the language, this would be a good place to comfortably practice. The locals are generally used to foreigners and are more than willing to help out when it comes to speaking Spanish. As some may be inclined to speak English with you, to practice, or to help, as long as you stick to Spanish and insist on practicing, it’s ideal for testing out your language skills while also helping to connect you with a few expatriates. At the time same, Ecuador offers lots to see and do, including taking a trip to Lake Quilotoa. The first time you peer over the crater rim of the dormant volcano and see the mist-shrouded waters of the lake below is something you’ll never forget.