Travel & Learn Spanish in Peru
As a country where the desert meets the sea and the mountains reach the clouds, Peru is undoubtedly one of the most magical places in South America - yet there’s much more to see here than the mythical site of Machu Picchu.
Bit of a beach bum? Peru’s large stretches of beautiful beaches tempt those tourists keen for some serious relaxation.
Keen to do some local shopping? The influence of the indigenous Inca people stretches far and wide, with local markets filled with traditional textiles and handicrafts.
Outdoor enthusiasts will relish the array of possible hikes around Colca Canyon, the Sacred Valley, and the infamous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, while adventurers after an adrenaline rush can head for Huacachina to sandboard and Paracas for a bit of kiteboarding.
On the hunt for the best ceviche and Pisco sours? Gastronomy abounds in Lima, a hub of experimental cuisine and food obsessives, while architecture nuts will love Arequipa, filled with colonial mansions and bright white walls.
For those who want to learn Spanish in Peru, it’s wonderfully easy: schools in Lima, Cusco and Arequipa are all eager for students. And if you have a head for heights, you can soar high above the ancient and mysterious Nazca lines, laid out amongst the sand dunes in the middle of the desert.
It’s simple, really: Peru is a land of magic.
WHAT TO SEE & DO IN PERU
Known as the gateway to South America, Peru has a wealth of activities on offer, suitable for every type of traveller. Here is a rundown of just a handful of the Peruvian places that should be on your travel itinerary
Study Spanish in Lima
City life is buzzing in Peru’s capital city of Lima. Whether you take a bike tour through the bustling metropolis, visit the Larco museum filled with pre-Columbian artifacts, or relax in the suburb of Miraflores, overlooking the Pacific coast complete with a waterside malecon (walkway) and plenty of parks, there’s a lot to do in Lima. Don’t miss the dozens of fountains at El Circuito Magico, which are illuminated at night, and get ready to fill your face - there’s a serious focus on cuisine in Peru’s capital where chefs from all over the world gravitate to improve their Peruvian cooking. With so much to see and do, the capital of Lima is also a prime location to learn Spanish in Peru.
Devour a Plate of Ceviche
Indulge in a Pisco Sour Tasting
Explore the White City of Arequipa
The colonial white architecture of Arequipa is what makes it one of Peru's most stunning cities. Throughout the Old Town the charming old colonial buildings and wide open plazas beckon, while the bustling San Camilo market is a great spot for getting a glimpse of local Peruvian life. Don't miss the fascinating Santa Catalina Monastery either - from 1579 to 1970, the nuns used to live in a sprawling complex of colorful buildings hidden behind a high brick wall and cut off from the outside world.
Get Breathless in Cusco, Peru’s Highest City
A common excuse for having a few days’ respite in Cusco is the need to adapt to the altitude (11,200 feet), but the city itself is fascinating enough to warrant an extended stay - even when your breathing gets back to normal. Handicraft markets, jewelry stalls, massage parlors and hiking shops abound in Cusco, as do garments woven from alpaca wool. Embrace the slow pace of living here - it's hard not to.
Become a Trekking Whizz on the Inca Trail
Unlike many tourist attractions, half the fun of visiting Machu Picchu is the process of actually getting there. Whether you take the famous Inca Trail or opt for one of the lesser known routes like the Salcantay or Lares treks, you’ll nonetheless spend a few days scrambling along rocky paths, eating lunch al fresco with mountains all around and camping at night under the stars.
If you’re panicked about getting exhausted, don’t be - most of your gear is usually carried by a couple of seriously intrepid porters (and their donkeys) leaving you to fully enjoy the experience.
Explore the Ancient Ruins of Machu Picchu
Whether you venture out on a 3-day hike or take the train direct from Cusco to the site of Machu Picchu, this tourist hotspot never fails to disappoint its visitors. The huge fifteenth century citadel was built by a community of Incas, high in the Andes, but was only rediscovered in 1911. Since then, hundreds of people wander open-mouthed around the site each day and feel like they're at the top of the world.
Fly High over the Ancient Nazca Lines
If you’re looking for history in Peru, go no further than the Nazca lines. There’s no doubt that these ancient white lines in the deserts of southern Peru have withstood the test of time: historians date the Nazca geoglyphs at somewhere between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D., yet are still ultimately clueless about why they were created. Nowadays the hundreds of shapes - from birds and insects to mammals and even an 'astronaut' - are best viewed from the air in a tiny little plane (something the original creators almost certainly didn’t have access to).
Live the Hippy Lifestyle in Mancora
This tiny beachside village on Peru’s Pacific coast is a true backpacker haven and a well-established member of the travel circuit: think smoothie shacks, coconut stands, dreadlocked surfers and macrame jewelry. Days in Mancora are spent swimming, surfing and sunbathing, while the evenings involve beach parties or guitar music around an open fire.
Sail around the Wildlife-filled Ballestas Islands
Often known as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’, Peru’s Ballestas Islands are renowned for their wildlife. A short boat trip offers up barking sea lions on red-colored rocky outcrops, thousands of squawking birds and even the occasional Humboldt penguin if you’re lucky.
The Ballestas Islands are just off the coast from Paracas and can be combined with visits to Pisco, Huacachina and the Nazca Lines.
Go Kiteboarding in Paracas
Although the beaches at Paracas aren’t great for swimming, the flat waters of a large sheltered lagoon make it a prime location for kiteboard lovers. The coastal village’s proximity to Pisco, the Ballestas Islands and the Nazca Lines also makes Paracas a popular destination for tourists keen to visit a lesser-known part of Peru.
Sandboard in the Desert Oasis of Huacachina
If you've never visited a desert oasis before, the tiny village of Huacachina is the place to do it. Located beside a natural lagoon in the middle of the Peruvian desert, Huacachina abounds with vast expanses of sand dunes occasionally dotted with palm trees, and practically begs you to spend your days sandboarding. And if sandboarding isn’t your thing, don’t worry - you can still explore the dunes in a 4-wheel drive but hold onto your seat, as these babies move fast! Catch a sunset from the dunes in the evenings, and make it even better with a frosty beer bottle in the sand alongside you.
Hike in and out of Colca Canyon
Although the Grand Canyon is better known, Peru’s Colca Canyon is actually twice as deep as its Stateside counterpart - and there aren’t nearly as many selfie sticks. It's a two-day hike to clamber down a winding, rocky path to the natural oasis at the canyon’s base, and then up and out again the next morning (either on foot or with a trusty mule). If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll hopefully spot some of the rare Andean Condors which nest at the top of the canyon’s rim.
Colca Canyon is a short bus ride from Arequipa.
Wobble on the Floating Reed Islands of Lake Titicaca
Some of Peru’s indigenous communities still base themselves entirely on the waters on Lake Titicaca, thanks to an ancient method of binding tortora reeds together to create floating islands known as the Uros Islands. You can visit with the Uros people and see how they live; eat on a floating island restaurant; and spend the night. The area around the lake is also great for walking, and you can even cross over to the Bolivian side - just remember your passport because you’ll be crossing a border.
Tap into your Mystical side in Iquitos
As the world's largest city with no road connections, Iquitos is a somewhat isolated place that ticks all the boxes for an Amazon adventure. It sits on the banks of the Amazon River, right beside the rainforest, and features mud huts, mansions and floating markets. There’s also a hefty dose of spiritual centers for practicing yoga, meditation and other healing activities if that’s your bag.
The Peru Trail
Rapido Travel2 weeks or less
Thanks to Peru’s great buses, a few long overnight journeys won’t feel like the end of the world. This itinerary, while tight, should squeeze in all the most renowned Peruvian sights.
Lima - Arequipa - Colca Canyon - Puno (trips to Uros islands and Lake Titicaca) - Cusco (to acclimatize) - Machu Picchu - Lima
Tranquilo Travel1 month or more
Having a few weeks or more to explore Peru provides you with ample opportunity to travel slowly and get to grips with each place. This route starts and ends in Lima but also works if you’re travelling down from Ecuador towards Bolivia - just visit Cusco before leaving Lima.
Lima - Huacachina - Paracas (trips to Ballestas Islands and Nazca lines) - Arequipa - Colca Canyon - Puno (trips to Uros Islands and Lake Titicaca) - Cusco (to acclimatisze) - Machu Picchu - fly to Iquitos - fly back to Lima
Peru ExplorerFor Adventure Lovers
With kiteboarding, sandboarding and some serious trekking opportunities, there’s a wealth of adventure on offer in Peru. Here are some of the best places to get your adrenaline pumping.
Huacachina (for sandboarding) - Paracas (for kiteboarding and flying over Nazca lines) - Colca Canyon (for hiking) - Cusco - Machu Picchu (for hiking)
Peru Travel Tips
learn Spanish in Peru
Cusco is one of the most popular cities to study Spanish in Peru. Fairservices Cusco has separate teachers for indoor grammar lessons and practical lessons outside in the city, allowing students to practice their Spanish in real life situations. Other good options include Academia Latinoamericana de Español and Ecela Spanish.
El Sol Spanish Language School in trendy Miraflores offers small group classes taught by well-trained teachers in Peru’s capital - the school has even been approved by the Peruvian Ministry of Education.
The Incas Del Peru school in Huancayo combines Spanish classes with local cultural immersion and students can join organized trips into the nearby mountains and jungles to learn cooking and crafts, take dance classes and help with volunteer projects. With schools in various locations around Peru, the beautiful countryside of Llama Education Spanish School in Arequipa, the city of endless blue skies, nearby mountains, the Colca Canyon, and of course, 300 days of sunshine a year, provides the perfect place to learn Spanish in a relaxed and familial atmosphere, where socializing with town locals is a part of your daily life.
Another school with a collaborative approach to language learning is Teach Huaraz Peru. A small volunteer organization that works with a range of schools and language centers in Huaraz, this school provides the schools with willing and voluntary English teachers and, in exchange, Spanish classes are provided for volunteers using the immersion method.
And if you’re all about beach-based study, then head to Mancora where you can learn Spanish in a homestay at Wasi Centre. Mixed into a day of dancing salsa, cooking ceviche and learning taekwando, this innovative way to study the language includes group or one-on-one classes, as well as cultural excursions into Mancora.
guest author bio - Flora Baker
Flora Baker has been in love with Latin America since she spent eighteen months attempting to become fluent in Spanish while journeying around the continent.