A sense of mystery fills Lima, City of Kings. On the shores of the Pacific, but not far away from the Amazon jungle, Lima is one of the most impressive cities in Latin America, and an ideal location for learning Spanish abroad.
A mixture of Inca ruins, Spanish colonial buildings and the most modern architecture fill the streets of the capital of Peru. Walking in its streets and admiring its impressive squares visitors can appreciate the contrasts that make Peru unique: the last model of a Mercedes Benz car speeds right next to a young women dressed up with the traditional Quechua attire, pulling a mule loaded with the hand woven fabrics she’s selling.
And what about learning Spanish in Lima? Well, it's perfect. Peruvian Spanish doesn’t have strong intonations and it’s easy to understand. The form of Spanish spoken in Peru, known as Peruvian Coast Spanish, is especially rich. It still maintains some old Spanish words, those that the Conquistadores brought with them in the 16th century, mixed with some Quechua words, the language spoken by the Incas and still spoken by indigenous Peruvians, mostly in the Andes.
As a huge metropolis and being the political, economic and commercial center of Peru, the resources offered to visitors and students are wide.
Lima is home of the oldest University in Latin America, Univesidad Nacional de San Marcos. Those who wish to move to Lima freely and practice their Spanish skills one-on-one will certainly find qualified private tutors among the students of this respected university.
The rates charged by students are usually inexpensive and this option offers the possibility of having the tutor’s undivided attention and the possibility of working on those particular areas you want to improve.
But moving to such a big city like Lima without anyone’s help may seem scary to many and it might not be the best option for those who have never been to Peru before or haven’t spent much time abroad. If that is your case, you have the possibility of contacting one of the many language schools that offer their services in Lima. They will help you figure out what your best option is, will place you in a class according to your level and will also guide you through finding housing and solving visa issues. Some may even organize extracurricular trips to some of Peru's most amazing sites!
Internships or Volunteer Programs
Several organizations in Lima offer internships and volunteer programs that allow you to practice your Spanish with native speakers while getting experience as a volunteer or intern. If you don’t have enough confidence to jump to the field right away, some of these programs also include Spanish classes so you can build up your skills before stepping into “the real world”.
- Did you know: Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize in Literature, is from Peru? Most of his books are actually set in Peru, and he has written widely about his native Miraflores, Lima’s richest district.
- Since when: Conquistador Francisco Pizarro officially founded Lima on January 18, 1535, in the agricultural region known by the Incas as Limaq.
- Don’t miss: Lima’s Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square.
- YUM: Peru is the origin of a worldly beloved food: potatoes.
There are many beautiful sites to visit around Lima. The capital of Peru is filled with contrasts and a beauty that will surprise even the most well traveled visitors.
The undisputable starting point to get to know Lima is the huge Plaza de Armas. It is the exact spot of Lima’s foundation in 1535 and a great place to admire the splendor of colonial architecture. Buildings like the Archbishop’s Palace or Lima’s Cathedral also show how Spanish traditions mixed with indigenous beliefs. If you enter the Cathedral you’ll see that many saints’ statues are actually dressed with clothes and have real human hair!
Lima didn’t exist during the Inca rule of the area but you can still admire the incredible building skill the indigenous population had before the Spanish invasion. In the Miraflores district you can visit the impressive ceremonial center of Huaca Pucllana. Built around the year 400 of our era, Huaca Pucllana is a monumental ritual complex that served as a ceremonial and administrative center for the and other pre-Incan communities that inhabited the area until the Spanish invasion in the XIV century.
The district of Miraflores is also a great place to understand modern Peru. It is known for being the place where the richest citizens of Lima live, and so it is the meeting point for businessmen, artists and tourists from all over Peru and Latin America. Full of malls copying the American life style, restaurants, and clubs, it is also one of the best spots to admire the Pacific shore.
But there also is another Lima, not as rich or modern. Cerro San Cristobal, another district of the capital, is a great place to see how Lima’s growth can also be unordered. Immigrants from the Andes have built their shantytowns in some of the hills that surround Lima and they are a big part of the city’s population. Cerro San Cristobal offers a glimpse to this reality. Also, there are several bus lines that will take you to the top of the hill to admire great views over the city.
If you wish to relax after all these excitements, there is no better place than the Barranco district, Lima’s bohemian district. Get there by dusk to admire the beauty of the Puente de los Suspiros (Bridge of Sights) and have a tasty dinner in one of the many picturesque restaurants in the area.
But if you get tired of the city and wish to breath some fresh air... There is also an option! You only have to travel 80 miles south (there are several bus lines if you don’t have a car) to Cerro Azul. Enjoy this fishing village, try some water sports, or simply relish the cold and refreshing breeze of the Pacific Ocean!
The cost of living in Lima is fairly cheap. For example, a one-bedroom apartment (by yourself!) in the city center costs around 1,580 soles, or $565 USD. Groceries and the water and gas bills are usually inexpensive -- only having internet connection will be costly: around 142 Soles, $50 USD, per month.
For budget conscious Spanish learners, your language school will help you find more affordable housing. Some may offer you a spot in student dorms, or help you contact possible roommates to share rent. Eat locally whenever possible, and avoid taking taxis too often to save money.