Why study Spanish in Peru?
Peru is also known as the “land of the Incas”: once it was home of the most extensive empire of the Americas, the Inca empire! Since then, the riches of the Incas have fueled the world’s imagination, although much of the country’s main appeal lies in the sheer beauty of its landscapes, the abundance of wildlife and the strong, colourful character of the people.
Consistently ranked as one of the most biodiverse countries on earth, Peru features prominent jungle, desert, mountain and coastal regions. Along with its famous beauty, world-renowned trekking and fascinating history, Peru is a great place to study Spanish in Latin America, not in the last place thanks to the clear and well-articulated use of the Spanish language and the delicious Peruvian cuisine. No wonder that Peru consistently ranks as a top tourist destination! A great choice for a Spanish immersion program abroad!
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Highlights of Peru
LimaRelish the Peruvian fusion cuisine, Lima’s museums and vibrant nightlife and the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
CuscoNestled high in the Andean mountains, travellers hub Cusco offers the opportunity to marvel at the magnificent Incan architecture and much, much more!
Machu PicchuTake the train or do a trek to the famous Inca Citadel Machu Picchu, one of the new seven world wonders. And remember: Machu Picchu never disappoints.
AmazonAt only half an hour from Cusco by plane, explore the Peruvian Amazone in the National Parks Tambopata or Manu. One of the most biodiverse places on earth!
South CoastsDiscover the Paracas region at only a few hours by bus from Lima: nature, sea lions, beaches, a beautiful oasis with sandboarding opportunities in Ica and the legendary Nazca lines.
Northern PeruEnjoy the beaches of Huanchaco and Máncora, or the amazing hiking opportunities in Huaraz. But there is culture too: visit Trujillo or Chiclayo, or discover the fortress of Kuelap.
Spanish language in Peru
Two Latin American countries are supposed to have the “best” Spanish regarding clarity of pronunciation and universal vocabulary: Peru and Colombia. Therefore, Peru a great destination for a Spanish Abroad Program.
The coastal region of Peru is particularly known for the quality of its Spanish, and this could because the Viceroyalty of Peru was located in Lima, once the Spanish conquered Peru. More dialect levelling in favour of the standard language occurred throughout Peru. And although Quechua was the dominant language until about the middle of the 20th century, a universal Spanish has been adopted by the majority of the Peruvians in all regions. Still, there is some influence from the Quechua Language. E.g. a word like ‘calato’, meaning ‘naked’, is incorporated in Peruvian Spanish but is originally a Quechua word. But the Spanish in Peru that can be easily understood by people from all over the world.
Food and Drink from Peru
Peru is considered the culinary mecca of Latin America and for a good reason. The history of Peru´s rich cuisine and its notable culinary fusion dates back many centuries. From the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th, the Incan cuisine was fused with European flairs from France, Germany, and Italy as well as with the deliciousness from the cuisines of Asia and West Africa. Peruvian food consists mainly of hearty dishes of rice, eggs, and vegetables along with hot soups to warm you up during the colder months in the mountains.
Pisco, a brandy made from distilling fermented grape juice, is extremely popular throughout Peru and is used to make the very tasty cocktail pisco sour. Some world-renowned Peruvian dishes include ceviche, aji de gallina and Lomo Saltado. Whether it is with your Peruvian host family or during a cooking class at your Spanish school in Cusco or Lima, you will for sure try some of these delicious dishes during your Spanish classes in Peru!
Useful Information for Peru
MoneyPeru’s currency is the new sol (Nuevo Sol) with note denominations of S/ 200 (very rare), 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins include S/ 5, 2, 1, 0.50, 0.20, 0.10. In the more expensive establishment's prices are quoted in US dollars to avoid the constant changes in the value of the Peruvian sol. Note that there are some fake bills, both US bills (especially US$20 and the larger bills) and soles (both notes and coins). Therefore, it’s recommended to not change on the streets but in Casas de Cambio, that offer a better exchange rate than the banks. Always check your money in Peru, even in the banks and from ATMs and make sure, that when held up to the light, the watermarks and colour change accordingly.
Shortage of change in places such as museums, post offices, some shops, and markets is common so try and carry low denominations and small change. MasterCard, Amex and Diners Club are valid; however, Visa is more widely accepted. It is relatively easy to use ATMs in Peru, and you can normally choose between taking out US dollars or Peruvian soles.
WeatherPeru's climate is very diverse due to its wide-ranging geography of coastal, jungle and Andean regions. In general, the climate can be divided into two seasons - wet and dry - except for the coast, which is generally dry. The winters here are known for the ‘garúa’ (a coastal fog) that moves in and blocks out the sun for extended periods.
In the Andes, the dry season is from April/May to October/November. This is the best time of year to go hiking the Inca trail (or any other trek) and see the glorious Machu Picchu. The wet season takes up the remainder of the year.
As you move into the jungle, the drier months are similar to the highlands, though the wet season (January to April) is more pronounced. Enjoying the jungle is possible any time of year for this reason, and travellers visit the Peruvian Amazon all year round.
What to bringPeru´s geography varies so much that it can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what to bring, especially if you plan to travel the different regions (and therefore climates) of Peru! As a result, it is good to bring a variety of clothes and think about your travels like a game of “what would you bring if you were stuck on a desert island?” so that you know you will have the essentials. Three important tips: remember that the highlands can be chilly, especially during the nights; malaria pills (as well as yellow fever vaccinations) are only needed if you plan a visit to the Peruvian Amazon; suncream will be needed all over Peru, and especially in the highlands, the sun is very strong.
Learn more about Peru
as a destination to learn Spanish
Due to substantial migration from across the world over five centuries, Peru is considered to be a multiethnic community. The Spanish conquest in the 1500s brought European and African peoples that mixed extensively with the native population. Later centuries saw waves of migration from China and Japan as well as France and Italy. Before the arrival of the Spanish, Peru was inhabited for millennia exclusively by Amerindian peoples, including those of the Inca culture.
Peruvians are known for their hospitality and warmth, but there are some seemingly distinct differences between people of different geographic regions. Along the coast, people tend to be more open and direct, whereas travellers to the Andean regions will encounter more reserved inhabitants. Peruvians from the jungle tend to be the warmest and welcoming of all and will happily invite you in for a drink!
Peru is almost as large as Alaska, the largest state in the United States, and boasts a population of about 28 million. Peru lies on the edge of western South America and shares borders with Chile (to the south), Bolivia (southeast), Brazil (northeast), Colombia (north) and Ecuador (northwest). Peru has three major regions: a narrow coastal belt, the extensive Andean mountains, and the Amazon Basin. All three areas are culturally distinct; they have their own languages, development, history, population, customs, etc.
The coastal strip is predominantly desert but contains Peru's major cities and its principal highway, the Carretera Panamericana. The Andes comprise two principal ranges - Cordillera Occidental and Oriental - and feature some of the best trekking routes and most breathtaking views in the world including that of Machu Picchu. To the east sits the Amazon Basin, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet that comprises about 60% of Peru´s total surface area.
Widely viewed as one of the premier destinations for nature lovers Peru features a wonderful array of landscapes from sandy beach coastlines to lush rainforests to deserts with some of the best stargazing anyplace has to offer. Containing some of the greatest biodiversity in the world, Peru is home to a plethora of species, many of which are yet to be discovered due to the remoteness of many areas.
Peru´s coastline is an ideal breeding ground for marine life that 30 species call home including sea lions and several species of dolphin. Of the over 500 mammals that live in Peru, 70 are native to the country. An ideal destination for bird-watchers and scientists, there are more bird species in Peru than there are in North America and Europe together at over 1800!
Before the Inca Empire, what is known as “Pre-Inca” peoples inhabited this part of South America for thousands of years. These groups include the Moche, the Chimu and the Nazca with some of the first known cultures dating back to 12,000 BC. By the beginning of the 15th century, the Inca Empire began to take power, extending from present-day Chile up to Colombia. This time in Peru´s history is it's most celebrated and has captivated millions of people the world over. It saw some of the most significant engineering marvels known to man, incredible agricultural innovations and an intricate network of roads that extended throughout the entire region. The Inca Empire did not last long, however, because Francisco Pizarro and the Spanish Army conquered the empire in the early 1530s. Once under Spanish rule, Lima functioned as the major social, political and commercial centre of the continent. Peru officially gained independence on December 9, 1824. Subsequent years saw wars with Chile and Ecuador and some instability caused by the violent guerrilla group the Shining Path, but conflicts have died down in the past 30 years making Peru a favourite tourist destination once again.
Similar to many countries in South America, Peru´s population is an interesting mixture of races, ethnicities and cultural traditions. Beginning with Peru´s indigenous origins of Inca and Pre-Inca peoples, the arrival of the Spanish in the sixteenth century saw a gradual merging of both native and European peoples creating a mestizo, or mixed, race. Soon after came a significant influx of slaves from Africa that continued to enrich the newfound melting pot while immigration from Italy and France came in waves many years later. The final major cultural transition coincided with the arrival of settlers from Asia, ultimately altering Peruvian identity once more.
While the Spanish conquest came close to wiping out indigenous peoples by way of violence and the spread of disease, today the cultures left behind by the natives are very active and influential in Peruvian society. The indigenous language of the Incas, Quechua, is estimated to be spoken by some 8 million people in Peru while almost half of the country´s 31 million people are of native Amerindian origin.
In keeping with Peru´s rich history and varied influences, different aspects of Peruvian music can be attributed to the different cultures that arrived over the years. Andean influences can be easily perceived in the wind instruments while both Andean and European styles have predominantly shaped the melodies of traditional Peruvian music. African rhythms are heavily drawn from while stringed instruments like the charango – an instrument which drew inspiration from those brought from Spain – play a prominent role in the slow-paced and melodic music of Peru.
Pottery is the art form most associated with Peru and Inca culture, but European influences and the adoption of European forms of art by the natives expanded Peruvian art into painting and sculpting.