what countries speak spanish

What Countries Speak Spanish? The Full List of 20+ Nations for Learning Inspiration

There are plenty of reasons to learn Spanish.

But one thing will motivate you like no other: learning Spanish for travel.

Whether you have a trip planned soon or just think you might want to go to a Spanish-speaking country somewhere down the road, travel can be a huge motivator for propelling your Spanish to the next level.

With that in mind, why not learn some travel phrases and start thinking of where you might like to go?

With more than 490 million Spanish native speakers globally, you have a lot of choices!

In this post, we’ll take a look at 20 countries that speak Spanish, plus a few others with significant Spanish-speaking populations.

Contents

1. Mexico

Population: 127 million

Language: More than 90% of Mexicans speak Spanish, which is why it’s a top destination for learning the language (with some Mexican slang thrown in). 

Location: Located just south of the United States in North America, Mexico is largely desert, but it also has mountains, plains and rainforests. Wedged between the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, Mexico has an abundance of beautiful coastlines.

Notable Sights: Resort towns like Acapulco are popular with beach lovers, so start loading up on Mexican Spanish party phrases! Historic pyramids in Chichen Itza and Teotihuacán provide an intriguing glimpse into Mexico’s pre-Columbian history.

2. Colombia

Population: 51 million 

Language: Spanish is the official language, so you’ll definitely hear some unique Colombian Spanish expressions.

Location: Located on the northern coast of South America, Colombia has access to both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its landscape includes the Andes mountains to the west and the Amazon rainforest to the south and east.

Notable Sights: The Amazon rainforest and beautiful beaches have much to offer, but historical cities like Cartagena and Mompox also draw in tourists. Hikers might enjoy the ancient ruins of Ciudad Perdida.

3. Spain

Population: 47 million

Language: More than 90% of people in Spain speak Castilian Spanish, while around 15% speak Catalan. A small percentage speak Galician and Basque. While Galician is similar to Castilian Spanish, Catalan and Basque are quite unique. If you’re more familiar with Latin American Spanish, you’ll want to brush up on the European variety before your trip to Spain.

Location: Located in Western Europe, Spain has coasts on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. The Pyrenees mountains dot Spain’s eastern border, separating it from France.

Notable Sights: Some of the most popular attractions in Spain include the Alhambra Palace, the La Sagrada Familia cathedral and the Royal Alcázar of Seville. Ibiza and Mallorca are well-known for their beaches and nightlife. 

4. Argentina

Population: 45 million

Language: While Spanish is the official language, several other languages are widely spoken too, and it’s worth learning some Argentinian slang.

Location: Located on the southeastern side of South America, Argentina has a long coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. It has plains in the east and the Andes Mountains in the west. The southwest region is subarctic, so you might even be able to spot a few penguins!

Notable Sights: Ushuaia is a city that’s intriguingly called “the end of the world” because it’s close to Antarctica. You can also check out the Iguazu Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, as well as national parks (with glaciers!), rainforests and lush wine regions

5. Peru

Population: 34 million

Language: 84.1% speak Spanish. Other native languages are common in the mountains and rainforests.

Location: Located in western South America, Peru is situated on the Pacific Ocean. The west is largely desert, while the Amazon rainforest is in the east. The central region features the Andes mountain range.

Notable Sights: Peru is home to Machu Picchu, a well-known and spectacular Incan ruin. To get there, you can even take the Inca Trail, which is one of the most highly rated treks in the world. For a bit of history, visit Lima and Cuzco

6. Venezuela

Population: 28 million

Language: Spanish is the official language, and native languages are also spoken.

Location: Situated on the Caribbean Sea/Atlantic Ocean, this country is in northern South America. It features the Andes mountains, plains, highlands and the Amazon rainforest.

Notable Sights: Angel Falls in Canaima National Park ranks as the tallest waterfall in the world, with a height of more than 3,000 feet. Outdoor buffs can head for the beaches in Los Roques and Choroni, which feature plenty of coral reefs and wildlife. 

7. Chile

Population: 19 million 

Language: 99.5% of Chileans speak Spanish.

Location: Chile is a long, narrow country between Argentina and the Pacific Ocean. Needless to say, it has a lot of coastline in the west. It’s also got the Andes mountains in the east and desert in the north. Like Argentina, the far southern region has its share of penguins.

Notable Sights: Chile’s Punta Arenas is often a departure point for ships going to Antarctica, and you can visit it on the way to Torres del Paine, a scenic destination with lakes, glaciers and mountain trails. Another unique sight would be the romantic Valle de Luna, which is right at the heart of a desert.  

8. Ecuador

Population: 17 million

Language: 93% of Ecuadorians speak Spanish, so get to know some Ecuadorian slang while you’re there! Quechua, a native language, is also fairly widely spoken.

Location: Located at the equator (hence the name), Ecuador is in western South America, flush against the Pacific Ocean. It includes Amazonian jungles and the Andes mountains.

Notable Sights: Quito is the most highly elevated capital city in the world, and it’s a historical center with well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets. Try out adventure sports at Baños, which is close to the Amazon!

9. Guatemala

Population: 17 million

Language: 60% of the population speak Spanish, while the other 40% speak native languages.

Location: Situated just south of Mexico, Guatemala has coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It features mountains and rainforests.

Notable Sights: Tikal features the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, surrounded by a massive forest. There’s also the scenic Lake Atitlan, with tourist towns nearby and plenty of hiking trails. Antigua lets you enjoy city life without being too far from nature.  

10. Cuba

Population: 11 million

Language: Spanish is the official language, and Cuban Spanish has its own unique slang and other regional differences. 

Location: Cuba is an island located about 100 miles south of Florida in the Caribbean Sea. It’s largely plains, but the southeast features hills and mountains.

Notable Sights: Old Havana, the well-preserved central district in the city of Havana, is popular for its old, picturesque buildings. Cuba has an abundance of gorgeous beaches as well.

11. Bolivia

Population: 11 million

Language: Around 60% of the population speak Spanish. Native languages (primarily Quechua and Aymara) are also spoken by more than one-third of the population. Bolivian Spanish has many of its own words and expressions, so it’s a good idea to learn some of those along with a bit of Quechua if you’re thinking about traveling there.

Location: Landlocked in central South America, Bolivia includes a large Andean plateau called the Altiplano as well as valleys, deserts and the Amazon rainforest.

Notable Sights: Salar de Uyuni consists of vast salt flats as far as the eye can see—sometimes even reflecting the sky perfectly for an otherworldly experience. The Andes Mountains and La Paz are big draws, along with the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku.

12. Dominican Republic

Population: 10 million

Language: Spanish is the official language, and Dominican Spanish has its own set of quirks and slang.

Location: The Dominican Republic shares an island in the Caribbean Sea with Haiti (its smaller, western neighbor). Its terrain features mountains, valleys and rainforests.

Notable Sights: Santo Domingo is the oldest colonial city in the Americas, making it a worthy destination. Of course, don’t miss out on the country’s many beaches! A top destination would be Punta Cana, one of Latin America’s most visited beach towns. 

13. Honduras

Population: 10 million

Language: Spanish is the official language, but native languages are also spoken.

Location: Located in Central America, Honduras has a lot of coastline along the Caribbean Sea and a little on the Pacific Ocean. Its terrain is largely mountainous, but there are rainforests, too.

Notable Sights: Go back in time by exploring the Copan Ruins, a Mayan site that’s well-known for the portrait stelae decorating the buildings. To immerse in nature, go for water activities at the Bay Islands or get a guide to take you around La Mosquitia, a massive rainforest. 

14. Paraguay

Population: 7 million

Language: Spanish and Guarani share the title of “official language.” The two actually combine sometimes to make up Paraguayan slang.

Location: Landlocked in central South America, Paraguay is largely plains.

Notable Sights: Some of the top attractions in Paraguay include Iguazu Falls, which is right at its borders, and Saltos del Monday. La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná is another noteworthy attraction where you can see how missionaries lived in the 17th and 18th centuries.

15. El Salvador

Population: 6 million 

Language: Spanish is the official language, and Salvadoran Spanish is called Caliche. Aside from Spanish, Nawat is also spoken. 

Location: Tucked between Guatemala and Honduras in Central America, El Salvador abuts the Pacific Ocean. It’s largely mountainous.

Notable Sights: El Salvador has several volcanic crater lakes with stunning views, and many travelers hike up the Santa Ana Volcano to see Lake Coatepeque. Aside from these, El Salvador is known for its beaches and surfing spots, as well as Mayan ruins

16. Nicaragua

Population: 6 million

Language: More than 90% of the population speak Spanish.

Location: Located in Central America, Nicaragua has coastlines along both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its terrain features rainforests and mountains.

Notable Sights: Try volcano surfing at Cerro Negro—literally sliding down the volcano slope at heart-pumping speed. The beaches might lure you here too, especially Corn Island with its vivid blue waters and serene views.

17. Costa Rica

Population: 5 million

Language: Spanish is the official language, so it’s time to brush up on your Costa Rican Spanish and try out some local slang!

Location: Located in Central America, Costa Rica has both Caribbean and Pacific coasts. It’s well-known for its rainforests and volcanoes.

Notable Sights: Ecotourism is popular, with the rainforests, volcanoes and beaches being particularly popular.

18. Panama

Population: 4 million 

Language: Spanish is the official language, but native languages are also popular. Panamanian Spanish is heavily influenced by these native languages as well as English. 

Location: This narrow country in Central America is situated between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its landscape features rainforests, mountains and plains.

Notable Sights: The well-known Panama Canal is an impressive engineering feat and one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. You can hang out at Bocas del Toro’s sun-kissed beaches or cool down at Boquete, a quaint mountain town known for coffee farms. 

19. Uruguay

Population: 3 million 

Language: Spanish is the official language.

Location: Located on the Atlantic Coast in southern South America, Uruguay is predominantly plains.

Notable Sights: Old cities and neighborhoods like Colonia del Sacramento are popular. Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo, is worth a visit because of its bustling cultural life, while Punta del Este is a lively resort town with some great beaches.

20. Equatorial Guinea

Population: 1 million 

Language: More than 60% speak Spanish. French is another official language, but it’s not spoken as much compared to other local languages. 

Location: Consider this the unicorn of the list­—Equatorial Guinea is located all the way over in Western Africa. It has a lot of natural beauty, with rainforests, beaches and mountains.   

Notable Sights: Equatorial Guinea is one of the least visited countries in the world, but it has fantastic sights such as the Monte Alen National Park. The capital city of Malabo is located on Bioko Island, which has several picturesque beaches. 

Bonus: Puerto Rico

Population: 3 million

Language: Spanish and English are widely spoken. Of course, Puerto Rican Spanish also has its own distinctive slang

Location: This Caribbean island is a territory of the United States, but still quite separate and unique. It features mountains, rainforests and plenty of beaches.

Notable Sights: Travelers often flock to Old San Juan for its old architecture, lively restaurants and shops and trendy nightlife. Vieques is a Caribbean beach paradise with a luminescent bay, while Rincon is great for surfing.   

Bonus: United States

Population: 330 million 

Language: The US doesn’t have an official language, but Spanish is the most commonly spoken language right after English, with more than 50 million Spanish speakers. That makes them the largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico! In fact, some people predict that by 2050, one-third of people in the US will be able to speak Spanish.

Location: The US shares a nearly 2000-mile-long border with Mexico, along four states: Texas, New Mexico, California and Arizona. Given its size, it has a diverse terrain, including beaches, mountains, plains, valleys and forests. 

Notable Sights: Consider traveling to these states with major Spanish-speaking populations.

Bonus: The Philippines

Population: 111 million

Language: The Philippines used to have Spanish as an official language, but it became an “optional” language instead in 1973. Today, Tagalog and English are the country’s official languages. Still, around 600,000 people speak a mix of Spanish and local languages called Chavacano, mostly in southern regions like Zamboanga. 

Location: The Philippines is an archipelago in southeast Asia. Since it’s composed of many islands, there’s a lot of coastlines, along with rainforests and mountains.

Notable Sights: With great reefs and beaches, the Philippines are a water lover’s dream. Boracay, Cebu and El Nido are among the top destinations.

Why Travel to Spanish-speaking Countries?

  • For fun. Spanish-speaking countries have a lot to offer just because of their sheer number. With so many options, you’re sure to find one that will meet all of your desires. Whether you like beaches, culture, nature or history, there’s sure to be a great destination out there for you to enjoy.
  • To learn. Studying abroad is a tremendously popular way to immerse in a language. Not only will it help you improve your Spanish, but it will also help you learn more about a Spanish-speaking culture. You’ll also grow as a person and potentially get knowledge and skills that employers look for or become a better learner of the language.
  • For work. Working abroad has obvious perks. You get all the joys of travel, but you’re also making money, so you can continue your travels indefinitely and take the opportunity to become fluent in the language. Bonus: Working abroad is also a great résumé builder.

How to Get the Most out of Visiting a Spanish-speaking Country

  • Research in advance. Study up on any place you think you might want to visit. Lonely Planet is a great resource for this. They have detailed travel guides on all the countries in this post, plus phrasebooks for different types of regional Spanish. 
  • Focus on the correct language variation. The most notable differences are between the Spanish spoken in Spain and Latin American Spanish. Did you know that Vosotros (plural “you” form of verbs) is usually only used in Spain and not really in Latin America? But there are variations even within Latin American Spanish, such as commonly used phrases and pronunciation. 
  • Get to know popular expressions.
    You can make the transition smoother by practicing your Spanish and immersing online before you actually travel. For instance, an online platform like FluentU can teach you useful vocabulary and improve your comprehension. It features hundreds of Spanish media clips from diverse countries, all with interactive subtitles, post-video quizzes and other learner tools.
  • Interact with locals. You can rent rooms with locals through Airbnb or even stay for free by using sites like Couchsurfing. Try to chat with locals (in Spanish!). Not only will you practice your Spanish, but it’s also a great way to find all the best sights and get insider information about what to do.
  • Get off the beaten path. Every tourist destination has sights that are intended for tourists but that locals seldom visit. But if you chat with the locals, they can give you tips on places off the beaten path that they enjoy. This will give you a more realistic idea of what it’s like to live in the area you’re visiting.

 

With so many great Spanish-speaking countries, learning Spanish seems like the only logical option!

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