Top 5 Cities to Study Spanish in Latin America

by Mary Beth Strawn

The beautiful historical district of Santiago, tucked away in the Sierra Madre mountains.

The beautiful historical district of Santiago, tucked away in the Sierra Madre mountains.

Photo credit to Rebecca Olivieri

Between the unique cultures, delicious varieties of food, urban attractions, and history, the cities of Latin America have a lot to attract any traveler, especially those seeking a Spanish language learning abroad.

For some, four years of high school Spanish and one year of Spanish at the university level can be enough to write that tremendous, required mid term paper; however, this is usually still not quite enough to engage in an in-depth conversation on the streets of Latin America.

It isn’t until you decide to devote significant time to improving your Spanish skills in an immersion setting that you can really begin to see results, thanks to the friendships you’ll make and activities you’ll participate in. You can’t fully understand many different cultural aspects until you observe them firsthand, come to appreciate them, and begin to have a more substantial grasp of the language.

Keep in mind that although there are many things that Latin American urban centers have in common, each one is still uniquely distinct, both in its Spanish accent, areas of interest, and cultural trademarks. So no matter what, be sure to read up on your location of interest before applying for a Spanish language program abroad!

If you are ready to take your Spanish language skills to the next level, here are some of the top cities to study Spanish in Latin America, along with the best schools to get you started.

Habla Ya Panama City

Conveniently located only a block from Vía España, the city's main artery, you'll find Habla Ya Panama City.

Photo by Alex Alba Photo

1. Panama City, Panama

The most developed of the capital cities in all of Central America and a top pick for Spanish language schools, Panama City is a unique seaside metropolis of modern commerce and luxury. Combined with the flavor and cultural influences of both Latin America and the Caribbean, most travelers are drawn to Panama City for its diverse culture, modern comforts, and proximity to nearby eco-adventure activities.

Located in the heart of of the city’s downtown El Carmen neighborhood, Habla Ya Spanish School is one of the most highly rated institutions for Spanish language study in Panama City. Conveniently located close to Panama City’s new metro line, shops, restaurants, and other services, Habla Ya receives students from all over the world, who come to Panama City for tourism, work, or even those who decide to make Panama their new home.

With a choice of group lessons, private lessons with a personal instructor, or a combination of the two, Habla Ya Spanish School offers a variety of options to cater to every student’s need (if you’re unable to travel at the moment, they even offer classes online!). For those who need to prepare for the DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) certification exam, Habla Ya offers one-on-one lessons to prepare you no matter what your current Spanish language level!

Looking for an immersion experience? Habla Ya can arrange a homestay for you with a local family near the school. There is no better way to get to know a culture and continue putting your new Spanish language skills to use than by experiencing life alongside a Panamanian family!

Apart from the attractions scattered throughout the modern part of the city and the well known Panama Canal, language students can also arrange a tour to an Emberá indigenous village, the historic Casco Viejo neighborhood, or check out the nearby hiking trails through the jungle like Cerro Ancon, Metropolitan Park, and Gamboa! There are even loads of things you can do on a budget while studying Spanish in Panama City too.

Puebla, Mexico

Street in Puebla, Mexico

2. Puebla, Mexico

For those looking for a more historical atmosphere in one of Mexico’s most popular colonial cities, look no further than Puebla, Mexico! Located between Mexico City and Veracruz, Puebla is a World Heritage Site, home to the beautiful architecture of both the Renaissance and Baroque periods. With commerce, industry, and remnants of past eras, Puebla can win over any traveler, and is a particularly excellent location for those looking for an intensive Spanish language learning experience abroad.

Located in the center of many popular tourist sites is the Spanish Institute of Puebla, the ideal school for students who want to be close to nearby attractions, such as the main plaza, cathedral, markets, and museums. The Spanish Institute of Puebla boasts one of the most intensive Spanish immersion experiences in all of Latin America.

“Puebla is a great city to learn Spanish,” according to school director Antonio Prado, “because Puebla does not have much international tourism, our students have to speak Spanish all the time. The Institute is in an ex-convent in the first block of the historic center so the students are living the culture as they are learning the language”.

Class time is divided into group sessions in the morning and one-on-one lessons with instructors in the afternoon, which may even include walks through the local neighborhood to interact with locals or visit cultural points of interest near to the school. Homestays are provided for students as well, unless they prefer other arrangements.

The Merced, Quito, Ecuador

The Merced, Quito, Ecuador

Photo credit: Patricio Sánchez

3. Quito, Ecuador

For a truly unique experience studying Spanish abroad, with a great mix of mountains, jungle, and coastline, Ecuador is the place to be! If you’re looking to learn Spanish abroad in a city with an incredible combination of history and modern amenities, that happens to be nestled on the slopes of an active volcano, then look no further than Quito.

Intensive Spanish Ecuador is the DELE certified school for those looking to prepare for the DELE exam in all of Ecuador. The school is located in the modern part of the city, within walking distance to local stores, malls, gyms, and other conveniences that students might need!

“Our school has the highest accreditation for studying Spanish that is Instituto Cervantes. The fact that we administer and prepare for the DELE examinations is also unique. Plus, the facilities, the quality and experience of the instructors, and the kindness of the school’s personnel, I think make us a very special place to study [Spanish abroad].” - Intensive Spanish Ecuador’s director Maria Clara de Wohlermann. 

Courses are taught in both one-on-one and small group settings. For lodgings, homestays are provided for students, but student housing or hostels can be reserved upon request, so there is something for everyone at Intensive Spanish Ecuador.

Downtown of Santiago, Chile

Downtown Santiago, Chile

4. Santiago, Chile

One of the major cities in South America that is growing in popularity with travelers is Chile’s capital city of Santiago. Bustling and cosmopolitan, Santiago offers language students much to do, such as exploring museums, enjoying high class dining, and touring the city and surrounding areas. Most students decide to leave some room in their busy course calendar to escape the city for a day to nearby Valparaiso, the wine capital of the country, for some wine tasting and basking in picturesque scenery (at the very least!).

In Santiago, language students can try out the unique Tandem® method of learning at Tandem Santiago Escuela de Idiomas. The school is a DELE certified exam center and offers a variety of Spanish language course options, including group lessons, private lessons, small group lessons (with one other person), and special course modules that allow students to combine a variety of course settings.

Tandem Santiago also promotes its very own Tandem® method, in which students staying for longer periods can be assigned a local Chilean guide to help enhance their Spanish language learning after class, while sharing their own native language with their guide at the same time (in tandem, get it?). The method also applies to group lessons, where Spanish learners and English learners can connect through after class activities to help each other in their language learning through a fun social activity.

Why choose Santiago? According to Tandem Santiago’s school director Stefan Meffert, Santiago is the safest capital in South America. A modern city filled with lots of cultural events, festivals, and concerts, Santiago was even voted one of the best places for young people to live in South America, and its Mediterranean climate means no rain for eight months out of the year.


Pepián -  a traditional Guatemalan dish

Photo credit: Carly Sandin

5. Antigua, Guatemala

Once Guatemala’s bustling capital city and nearly destroyed by a major earthquake in 1773, Antigua is one of the most important colonial cities in the entire region. Antigua continues to be a major attraction for locals, visitors, and history buffs who decide to travel to Guatemala. Apart from exploring the historic city, Spanish language students can enjoy world class cuisine, explore ancient Mayan ruins, and enjoy lots of fun eco-activities.

If learning the Spanish language (or improving the Spanish skills you have) is on your list of things to accomplish in Antigua, then you’ll feel right at home at Continental Spanish Academy. Aimed at being flexible to each student’s learning needs and schedule, this recently-opened school is located close to the central park of historic Antigua. Continental Spanish Academy offers a variety of different Spanish language program options, such as an intensive two week total immersion program and an academic semester program that can even be used to earn university credit! Homestays can be arranged for language students with a Guatemalan family, and student housing is also available in private rooms.

There are many options to choose from if you decide to make learning the Spanish language a priority on your next vacation, or decide to go abroad specifically for language learning.

If you have you heart sent on travel to Latin America, you can easily find a Spanish language school that fits your needs, at a price that doesn’t break your travel budget, and in a place that you are bound to get a truly unique immersion experience in!

This article was contributed by Habla Ya Spanish Schools in Panama City, Panama. Founded in 2005, Habla Ya is Instituto Cervantes accredited.