Highland Retreats for Quiet Living

Sometimes you just want to get away from it all.

But rather than a steamy tropical beach, you want cool weather...crisp, clean air...peace and quiet...and panoramic views of natural beauty. A place where the nearest town to buy your groceries or have a meal out is a small village...and limited access makes it hard to get to from the "outside world."

You can find splendid isolation like this in mountain and highland regions all over the world.

In the tropics, thanks to high elevation, the climate is temperate all year round—you can always be outdoors comfortably, whether you're hiking, biking, gardening, or sitting outside enjoying a coffee or cocktail.

In Europe, you will see snow in winter. No harm there—that's the time to enjoy a cozy fire and skiing. And you appreciate spring and summer all the more.

If you're ready to retreat to your own high-altitude hideaway, check out the properties my team has assembled below.

Mislinja, Slovenia

Listing Price: €124,500 ($150,355)


Located in the northern part of Slovenia, on the border with Austria, the Koroska region is sparsely populated and marked by dense forest, deep valleys, extensive river network, and the steep slopes of the three mountains ranges considered to be part of the eastern edge of the Alps.

It's no surprise that outdoor sports like mountain biking, kayaking, and hiking are popular here—you can even go spelunking.

Koroska is also quite isolated, with poor road connections to the rest of the country—it's actually easier to get to Austria than central Slovenia. That makes it a true highland escape.

This recently renovated 1950s-era two-bedroom country home sits on a hillside in the village of Mislinja, which is in the Mislinja River Valley. It's surrounded by tree-covered slopes and offers view of the surrounding valley.

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

Listing Price: $130,000


Lake Atitlán, in southwestern Guatemala, sits in the highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range. It's actually the caldera of an extinct volcano and features three active volcanos on its southern edge.

It's a major tourist attraction for people attracted by the natural beauty (the lake and surrounding region is a national park) and mystical ambiance—it was a hippie hotspot in the 1960s. Many of the villages on it shores are home to indigenous groups who live much as they have for centuries. And retirees and other expats have started coming in numbers in recent years as well.

This two-bedroom home in the little-known Maya village of Jaibalito is close to the shores of the lake and the pier. That's key as this settlement, like many on Atitlan, is boat-access only; the journey from the most popular shoreline town, Panajachel, is about 25 minutes. There is an extensive covered terrace, as well as tropical landscaping.

Viterbo, Colombia

Listing Price: 450,000,000 Colombian pesos ($120,356)


Colombia's Eje Cafetero, referred to as the Coffee Axis or Coffee Triangle in English, encompasses the land between the region's three major cities: Pereira, Manizales, and Armenia. As you might have guessed, this highlands area is a coffee growing region. This is actually where the famous Juan Valdez mascot that advertised Colombian coffee originates. You can bet you'll never be without good beans.

The great thing is that you can escape to your quiet country home but, when you want them, you have big city amenities, like shopping malls, hospitals, international restaurants, and more, a not-too-far drive away on smooth modern highway.

But the Axis offers other delights. The village of Salento showcases some of the best-preserved Spanish colonial architecture in the country. And the Cocora Valley is national park and natural wonderland crisscrossed by trails perfect for horseback riding, trekking, and camping.

This three-bedroom home is on the outskirts of the village of Viterbo, which is about equidistant from Pereira and Manizales. From the terrace you can survey the rolling hills of this highland region in the foothills of the Andes.

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