There are plenty of reasons to learn Spanish.
You may want to learn for work, personal growth or just for fun.
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 that can propel 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?
In this post, we’ll take a look at 20 different countries out there with significant Spanish-speaking populations.
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 travel abroad—and rightly so. Studying abroad will not only help you improve your Spanish, it will also help you learn more about a Spanish-speaking culture. It will help you grow as a person and equip you with knowledge and skills that employers look for or just help you to be 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. Their selection of travel guides includes information on all of the countries in this post, with complete guides for most of them. Additionally, you can find phrasebooks on their website for a variety of different types of regional Spanish (see more on language variations below).
Knowing more about the country you’re visiting in advance will help ensure that you see everything you want to see and do everything you want to do. Otherwise, you might miss out on some cool stuff!
- Learn Spanish or brush up on your Spanish with FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons. Because FluentU’s videos are made by and for real Spanish-speaking natives, they’ll prepare you for actual encounters with Spanish-speaking populations.
- Interact with locals. You can rent rooms with locals through Airbnb or even stay for free by using sites like Couchsurfing. Just remember, staying with strangers is a risky business, so you might want to use resources like this to look for someone to just meet up with for coffee instead. Regardless, try to chat with locals (in Spanish!). Not only is this a great way to practice your Spanish, it’s a great way to find all the best sights and get insider information about where to stay and what to do.
- Get off the beaten path. Hopefully, interacting with locals will already help you here. 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.
How to Deal with Language Variations
Remember: Like any language, Spanish has language variations. What’s common in one region may not be common in another, right down to the regional names for various kinds of fruit.
The most notable differences are between the Spanish spoken in Spain and Latin American Spanish. If you’ve studied Spanish in American schools, perhaps you’ve learned the vosotros (plural “you”) form of verbs, but you probably haven’t used vosotros much. That’s because it’s usually only used in Spain.
But there are variations within Latin American Spanish, as well. Commonly used phrases and pronunciation can vary between places. Because of this, it’s always best to research the language differences of the place you intend to visit and adjust your vocabulary accordingly so you can speak Spanish confidently.
What Countries Speak Spanish? These 20 Intriguing Countries!
Check out the list below, and see if the thought of visiting any of these beautiful countries tempts you into polishing up your Spanish language skills.
- Population: 121,736,809 people live in Mexico. Of these, 98.4% speak Spanish.
- 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 also 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.
- Population: 48,146,134 people live in Spain. 74% of them speak Castilian Spanish, 17% speak Catalan, 7% speak Galician and 2% speak Basque. Note that while Galician is similar to Castilian Spanish, Catalan and Basque are quite unique. These regional languages are spoken in Galicia (northwestern Spain), in and near Catalonia (eastern Spain) and Basque Country (northern Spain) respectively. 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 Mediterranean Sea. The Pyrenees mountains dot Spain’s eastern border, separating it from France.
- Notable Sights: Spain features many popular architectural attractions such as Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia and the fortress/palace Alhambra. The beaches of southern Spain are also a popular draw.
- Population: 46,736,728 people live in Colombia. Spanish is the official language.
- 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 will also enjoy the ancient ruins of Ciudad Perdida.
- Population: 43,431,886 people live in Argentina. While Spanish is the official language, several other languages are also widely spoken, and it’s worth learning what’s unique in 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: Argentina’s Ushuaia claims to be the southernmost city in the world (more on that later), so it’s pretty noteworthy. But if that doesn’t intrigue you, you can also visit glaciers, vineyards and the massive Iguazu Falls.
- Population: 30,444,999 people live in Peru. Of these people, 84.1% speak Spanish. Other native languages are common in the mountains and rainforest.
- 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. There are lots of other beautiful ruins worth checking out, too. Enigmatic lines in the desert called the “Nazca Lines” are popular among visitors. For nature lovers, the Amazon Rainforest and Lake Titicaca are big draws.
- Population: 29,275,460 people live in Venezuela. 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, the tallest waterfall in the world, is located in Venezuela. Outdoor buffs will also enjoy the sand dunes of Médanos De Coro National Park and the many beaches.
- Population: Chile has a population of 17,508,260 people, 99.5% of whom 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 claims to be the southernmost city with a sizable population in the world (why yes, this does conflict with the claim of Argentina’s Ushuaia). For a fun, touristy excursion, Pucón is a popular destination with lakes, activities and a volcano to round things out. Outdoor enthusiasts can find deserts, lake regions and glaciers to enjoy. Easter Island, a territory of Chile, is one of the most isolated areas in the world, and you’ll surely recognize the moai (giant stone heads).
- Population: 15,868,396 people live in Ecuador, and 93% speak Spanish. 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, Ecuador has the highest elevation of any capital city in the world and is well-preserved. If you can handle the altitude, you might also visit mountain villages in the region. Montañita is a city popular for its surf and nightlife. To enjoy the outdoors, the Amazon is a popular destination, as are the Galápagos Islands, where tourists love to marvel at the unique wildlife.
- Population: 14,918,999 people live in Guatemala. 60% of the population speaks Spanish, while the other 40% speak native languages.
- Location: Situated just south of Mexico, Guatemala has coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It features mountains and rainforest.
- Notable Sights: Tikal, a popular sight in Guatemala, is the ruins of an ancient Mayan city, and features several unique structures.
- Population: 11,031,433 people live in Cuba. Spanish is the official language, and Cuban Spanish has its own unique pronunciation, slang and other regional differences. (For Americans, traveling to Cuba still may throw up some complications, but hopefully these will continue to subside in the future.)
- 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. There are also an abundance of gorgeous beaches.
- Population: Bolivia is home to 10,800,882 people, 60.7% of whom speak Spanish. Native languages (primarily Quechua and Aymara) are also spoken by about 36% 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, desert and the Amazon rainforest.
- Notable Sights: The salt flats of Salar de Uyuni offer a unique and unworldly experience. The ancient ruins of Tiwanaku are architecturally unique with their sharp lines and impressive precision. The Amazon rainforest, Andes mountains and Lake Titicaca are also big draws.
- Population: 10,478,756 people live in the Dominican Republic. Spanish is the official language, and Dominican Spanish has its own set of quirks you’ll need to learn.
- 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. The country’s many beaches are also popular.
- Population: 8,746,673 people live in Honduras. 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: The ancient ruins of Copán are well-known for the portrait stelae that decorate the buildings. Tourists also enjoy water activities at destinations such as Roatán and Utila.
- Population: Paraguay is home to 6,783,272 people. Spanish and Guarani share the title of “official language.”
- Location: Landlocked in central South America, Paraguay is largely plains.
- Notable Sights: Iguazu Falls is a group of waterfalls that straddle the border between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and its impressive width makes it quite a sight. 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: 6,141,350 people live in El Salvador. Spanish is the official language, but 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: The Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site is often compared to Pompeii. It, too, was destroyed abruptly by a volcano, and offers a unique glimpse into Mayan life. El Salvador is also known for its beaches, surfing and hiking.
- Population: 5,907,881 people live in Nicaragua. 95.3% of the population speaks Spanish.
- Location: Located in Central America, Nicaragua has coastline along both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Its terrain features rainforests and mountains.
- Notable Sights: If the beaches don’t lure you here, historic cities like Granada and León are a worthy draw. And if all else fails, you can always try “volcano boarding” at Cerro Negro.
17. Costa Rica
- Population: 4,814,144 people live in Costa Rica. Spanish is the official language, so it’s time to brush up on your Costa Rican Spanish!
- 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.
- Population: 3,657,024 people live in Panama. Spanish is the official language, but native languages are also popular.
- Location: This narrow country in Central America is situated between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. Its landscape features rainforests, mountains and plains.
- Notable Sights: The well-known Panama Canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and is popular with tourists. Water activities like scuba diving and snorkeling are popular on Panama’s many beaches.
- Population: 3,341,893 people live in Uruguay. 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, but there are also some great beaches to enjoy.
- Population: 740,743 people live in Equatorial Guinea. 67.6% speak Spanish, though French, Fang and Bubi are also spoken.
- Location: Consider this the unicorn of the list. This Spanish-speaking country is located in…Africa! It’s situated on the Atlantic Coast in central Africa. Its terrain features plains, valleys, rainforests and volcanoes.
- Notable Sights: While Equatorial Guinea is not as popular with tourists, its beautiful beaches, rainforests and wildlife are appealing.
Bonus Country: Puerto Rico
- Population: 3,598,357 people live in Puerto Rico. Spanish and English are widely spoken.
- 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: Old San Juan is popular for its historic buildings. For nature lovers, the beaches, waterfalls, rainforests and caves also have a lot to offer.
Bonus Country: Philippines
- Population: 100,998,376 people live in the Philippines. Spanish was the official language for hundreds of years, but that ended in 1987. Still, Spanish is popular in the Philippines, with a growing interest in including it in school curricula.
- Location: The Philippines is an archipelago off southeast Asia. Since it’s composed of many islands, there’s a lot of coastline, but there are also rainforests and mountains.
With so many great Spanish-speaking countries, learning Spanish seems like the only logical option!
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