Gray skies…dark mornings and evenings…and inches of snow covering your driveway… Those don’t need to be a fact of life.
For the 2015 Annual Global Retirement Index, our editors and correspondents spent months researching, surveying, and collating the data on the best places to live in the world…a task that included identifying where you can find the best climate in the world.
The “Climate” category assesses the hard data of temperatures, rainfall and humidity, and also the comfort level of each destination’s climate.
It’s difficult to quantify and qualify a “perfect” climate. It really boils down to on-the-ground experience and to personal preference. What’s too cold to you may be quite comfortable to me. I’m from Nebraska, after all, where “cold” can be life threatening. And summers can be stiflingly hot and outrageously humid.
Below are the three countries which received the highest scores in this year’s Retirement Index in this “Climate” category.
Here’s what they all have in common: they are located at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet and are in the “tropics”… lying securely between the lines of latitude at 23.5 degrees north of the equator (the Tropic of Cancer) and 23.5 degrees south of the equator (the Tropic of Capricorn).
That’s the sweet spot: a combination of latitude and altitude. And here are the places where my husband and I have found our personal climate nirvanas:
Ecuador—The Land of Eternal Spring
We’ve lived in Ecuador’s capital city of Quito as well as two hours north of there, in the village of Cotacachi in the province of Imbabura. As a friend that visited us said, “You’ll never find better weather than this.” He’s right. The weather suits us to a T, and that stands for T-shirt, which is what we wear just about every day, along with a pair of jeans and sometimes a long-sleeve shirt in case a billowy cloud passes beneath the sun.
The elevation at our home is about 7,800 feet and we are about as close to the equator as you can get, at 0.29 degrees north. Thanks to this location, we enjoy 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of nighttime every day of the year. Temperatures also rarely vary. Our daily high temperatures range from 60 to 75 degrees F and our average nighttime low temperature is 45 F. That makes for comfortable living, and we have no need for either heat or air conditioning for our home (a huge cost savings, too).
There are only two seasons: summer (dry) and winter (rainy). I’ll admit that I’m a fan of the rainy season, when the hillsides are lush and green and a nighttime stroll feels like a walk in the clouds. April is the rainiest month, when you can expect about 4.5 inches of rain, although it rarely rains all day, but most often just in the late afternoon and evening—perfect for napping and sleeping.
Note: If you monitor the weather for a specific location in Ecuador, it may seem that every day is overcast and rainy, leading us to believe that satellite weather data is accumulated for the entire country rather than any one place. Thanks to its diverse geography (coastal lowlands, mountains, rain forest, and more) it’s always raining somewhere in Ecuador, of course. By the way, Cuenca—Ecuador’s most popular expat destination—seems to experience more overcast days than Quito and the Imbabura province.
Colombia: Enjoy Two Seasons
Colombia is right next door to Ecuador and enjoys the same type of geographic diversity. So you’d expect it to enjoy a similarly prefect climate…and you won’t be disappointed.
The city of Medellin, in fact, is known as the “city of eternal spring” and also as the “city of flowers” for the year-long growing season that encourages a glorious abundance of roses, orchids, chrysanthemums, and dozens of other varietals.
At an elevation of about 5,000 feet above sea level and latitude of just 6.2 degrees north of the equator, Medellin enjoys slightly warmer temperatures than most of Ecuador’s popular expat communities. The average daytime high temperature is 81 degrees F. The average nighttime low is 62 degrees F. As in Ecuador, there are two seasons (wet/winter and dry/summer) and October is the month when you can expect the most rainfall… slightly less than 9 inches.
You’ll find a similarly agreeable climate elsewhere in the Andes of Colombia, including the stunning agriculturally rich Coffee Triangle region.
Mexico: Where to Find the Ideal Climate
We’ve had the opportunity to live in two central-highlands locations in Mexico with extraordinary weather. Here, you’ll find low humidity, non-stop days of sunshine, heaps of colorful bougainvillea that bloom year-round, and best of all, never any snow or ice.
The Lake Chapala area in the state of Jalisco just south of the sprawling metropolis of Guadalajara takes the crown for its ideal climate. Again, that’s thanks to its location at 20.25 degrees N latitude—just south of the Tropic of Cancer line—and its 5,200-feet elevation.
The lake itself is surrounded by mountains, protecting it from prevailing northerly winds and ensuring pleasant temperatures with an average high of about 79 degrees F. The warmest month is May when highs can reach 90 degrees F and the coldest month is January, when highs hover close to 75 degrees. Nighttime lows average about 50 degrees F year-round.
October to May is the summer or dry season when there is very little rain. June to September is winter/rainy season and most who live here say this is their favorite time of the year. Once the rains begin, the dry mountains turn green and the hills are soon covered in lush greenery and multi-colored wildflowers.
Likewise, the popular expat enclave of San Miguel de Allende, almost directly east of Lake Chapala in the state of Guanajuato, experiences a similarly mild, near-perfect climate. San Miguel’s elevation of 6,200 feet gives it slightly cooler temperatures, especially in the winter when you’ll be thankful for the fireplaces that most homes are equipped with.
Where’s the place with the perfect climate for you?
Only you can figure that out. If you have the luxury of time, you should spend a full year in a place to know if the climate really suits you.
Dry season, rainy season… suffer through them both, and see how it feels, although take it from me: coming from Nebraska, I’ll “suffer” an occasional 65-degree rainy day any time, any place…
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