Scoring a country on its climate is not an easy task, because everyone has their own ideas on what sort of weather they enjoy most. That’s why, in IL’s 2021 Annual Global Retirement Index, we’ve awarded our highest climate scores to the destinations with options for every taste.
In looking for the countries with the best climate, we assessed not only the hard data—temperatures, rainfall, and humidity—but we also assessed the comfort level of each destination’s climate by talking to the expats and our own correspondents on the ground in each country.
From sunny beaches to humid rainforests, we’ve looked at every type of region that each country has to offer, so retirees can find the spot that best suits their tastes.
This year we have a hotly contested three-way tie for second place. Find out below which countries scored the best in the climate category and which country ultimately took the top spot for the best climate for 2021.
Overall, because of the country’s varied topography, Mexico has one of the world’s most diverse climate systems.
“Mexico is about three times the size of Texas. And across the country, you’ll find a wide variety of landscapes and climates to go along with it, from steamy jungles to arid deserts to cool mountains to temperate highlands to hot and humid beaches,” says Jason Holland, IL Roving Latin America Editor.
“The good news is that unless you’re high in the mountains it generally doesn’t get too cold and there is no snow. In many parts of Mexico, it is warm year-round.
“You have the spring-like year-round climate of colonial highland towns like San Miguel de Allende. In beach towns like Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen, it’s always warm—and humid too, although sea breezes help.
“On the northern shore of the largest lake in Mexico are a string of small towns and villages like Chapala and Ajijic. This is the longest-running retirement haven in Mexico and still quite popular, especially with folks who escape the winter weather up north.
“For dry heat, head to arid Los Cabos. Further up on the Baja Peninsula you have towns like Rosarito, with a nearly identical climate to Southern California.
“Winter is actually one of the best times of the year, weather-wise, to visit Mexico’s Caribbean and mainland Pacific beaches because it’s the coolest (highs in the lows 80s F) and least humid time of year.”
For a more detailed look at the climate in Mexico, check out: Mexico Weather and Climate.
#2 Colombia (tie)
Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world, meaning you can find whatever climate you desire—there is something for everyone. Colombia sits at four degrees north latitude, practically on the equator. As a result, it has an equal 12 hours of daylight and darkness with very little variation during the year. Whichever climate suites your taste lasts all year long. January looks and feels like May or October.
“In some ways, I appreciate the consistency of temperatures,” says IL Colombia Correspondent Nancy Kiernan, “it means I don’t have to buy more than one season of clothes. Gone are the days of having boxes and bins of off-season clothes stuffed under my bed or stashed on the top shelves of my closet.”
Warm, tropical weather in the Caribbean coastal cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta offers average daytime highs touching 90 F and evening temps in the upper 70’s. Although it can be humid, afternoon and evening sea breezes make being out and about quite delightful. The hot, direct sun during the day can take its toll. Wearing sunscreen, a hat, and finding shade wherever possible help to let you enjoy the sun and ocean-based lifestyle. Living here means your entire wardrobe will consist of shorts, a bathing suit, t-shirts, and sandals.
With the three ranges of the Andes Mountains running down its spine, Colombia also has areas with a much more temperate climate. Medellín, Colombia’s second-largest city and the fastest-growing expat haven in Colombia, sits at 5,000 feet above sea level. The climate at this altitude gives Medellín its nickname “City of Eternal Spring” with daytime highs in the upper 70s to mid-’80s and evening temps that dip down to the mid-’60s every day of the year. No need to wear anything heavier than a light jacket. Polo shirts, jeans, or khakis are the daily uniform.
“Medellín has been my adopted hometown since 2012,” Nancy says. “I am thrilled to enjoy the perfect spring-like days sitting on my terraza, sipping tea or a glass of wine, relaxing as the gentle breezes and warm sunlight melt my cares away.”
Also nestled in the Andes Mountains is Eje Cafetero, the coffee triangle which is comprised of the cities of Pereira, Manizales, and Armenia. The climate, which is just a bit cooler than in Medellín, especially in the evenings, is perfect for growing some of the world’s best tasting coffee.
The capital city of Bogotá sees average daytime highs in the mid 60´s and evening temps that hover around 50F. At nearly 8,700 feet of elevation, some people are initially affected by the altitude. However, after a short adjustment period, most people adapt well to this climate. Jackets, leather boots, and decorative scarfs will keep you comfortable as you enjoy all the city has to offer.
In the southern part of the country, the Amazonian rainforest occupies 35% of Colombia’s total landmass. The Colombian city of Leticia is located at the crossroads of the countries of Peru, Brazil, and Colombia. With relative humidity averaging 86%, lightweight, cotton or other breathable material clothing is a must, as well as a raincoat. While this is not an area of the country where expats tend to live, it is a wonderful place to visit to experience Colombia’s biodiversity.
For a more detailed look at the climate in Mexico, check out: Colombia Weather and Climate.
#2 Ecuador (tie)
Ecuador lies right on the equator, so the entire country enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight, 365 days a year. However, the climate you will experience depends largely on where you are in Ecuador, since there are four distinct geographical areas—the Sierra (mountains), the Oriente (eastern rainforests), La Costa (Pacific coastal plains), and the Galapagos Islands.
For example, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, lies between the Andean Mountains’ eastern and western ridges. The equator is less than 20 miles north of the city, yet at an altitude of 9,250 feet (2,900 meters), Quito’s climate is spring-like year-round: 50 F at night and 69 F during the day. The sun makes the difference. You can comfortably stroll out on a glorious Quito afternoon in shorts and a t-shirt, but you’ll need to take along your wool sweater in case the clouds roll in. The equatorial sun is intense, but when it’s obscured by clouds, you realize how high in the Andes you really are. In fact, cold-weather gear is needed for high-altitude hiking and mountain climbing.
The beaches and rainforests, on the other hand, enjoy the tropical temperatures that one would expect from equatorial lowlands, with highs ranging between 80 F and 90 F. Among the high Andes, coastal plains, and the jungle, you can find just about any type of weather in Ecuador.
“The climate is probably the number one reason I moved to Ecuador, and the freedom to enjoy being outside just about any time of the day has provided me time to hike, walk the dog, go shopping, and eat at outdoor restaurants any time I want,” says Donna Stiteler, IL Ecuador Correspondent.
“It’s sweater weather in the morning, by noon you’re walking around in t-shirts, and by night you may need a jacket—but the weather here is pretty much I the 50s in the morning and reaching the high 70s during the day most of the year.
“When I left Florida, the forecasters were suggesting wearing oven mitts to drive in summer. I sweated just thinking about going outside. Now I can walk anytime during the day and because of this easily shed 20 pounds.”
For a more detailed look at the climate in Ecuador, check out: Ecuador Weather and Climate.
#2 Peru (tie)
With Peru’s diverse landscape of endless mountains, sprawling coastal deserts, and vibrant Amazon jungle that covers more than half the country, it is no surprise that there is a climate for everybody. Whether you are looking for year-round sunshine or distinct seasons with everything they have to offer, Peru will not fail to deliver.
On the coast, summer can begin as early as November and last into April or May. Temperatures reach the high 70s or even low 80s during the peak summer months (January and February) and rainfall is unheard of. Any precipitation that does occur never lasts more than five minutes and is more a light misting than a downpour. In the far north, the warm weather and clear skies persist throughout most of the year, save for a little rainfall that can occur from January to May.
The southern half of the coast is a different story. Although temperatures stay mild throughout the year, Lima can be clouded over for months during the South American winter. This is due to the icy Humboldt current that runs into the warmer moisture-laden air that envelops the southern half of the coast during the winter months. But drive an hour from the city into the desert and you will find clear blue skies once again.
The best of both worlds is found in the northern colonial city of Trujillo and the nearby surfing village of Huanchaco. Here, the sun shines most of the year. Winters can be cooler and cloudier but temperatures rarely drop below 60. Even in the heart of the winter, there will be at least a couple of sunny days each week. There is no need for heating or AC. And mosquitos and other flying pests are few and far between. Doors and windows can be left wide open for much of the year.
In the Andes, climates are reversed. When it is warm and sunny on the coast, the rainy season is invading the mountains. Temperatures are still mild (65 to 70 F) and the tropical sun’s rays can be very strong at high altitudes but nights are chilly. While much of the coast is clouded over from June to August, the mountains are enjoying clear blue skies.
The southern city of Arequipa is a bit of an anomaly. While located on the edge of the Andes, it enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year. January and February can experience a little rain and the sun shines less often but the total amount of precipitation is still very small. Days are mild year-round but nights can be chilly because of the altitude (8000 feet). But you will never have a problem staying warm as there are dozens of high-quality alpaca textile shops scattered throughout the city.
The Amazon basin is hot and humid throughout the year, with frequent rainfall. Although there are slight differences within this vast region, temperatures rarely dip below 70 and are usually in the 80s and 90s for much of the year.
(Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru tied for second place in the Annual Global Retirement Index 2021 Climate Category with a score of 87.)
For a more detailed look at the climate in Peru, check out: Peru Weather and Climate.
What Portugal lacks in size it makes up for in its variety of weather that changes with just a short drive. When we lived on the outskirts of Caldas da Rainha, on the Silver Coast we merely had to drive ten minutes to see the change. While temperatures at our home may be near 50 F on a winter morning, just ten minutes down the road, the farmer’s field sparkled a frosty white. And when we drove three-hours south to the Algarve, the cool 65F degree temperature at our house changed to a balmy 85F.
The coldest part of the country is the North Coast, from the Spanish border to the city of Porto. Summer temperatures range from 70F to mid-80’s F, with low humidity and plenty of sunshine. During the fall temperatures drop into the ’50s and 60’s F with some rain showers. This is the perfect time to get out for some leaf-peeping before the winter rains set in. In December, the heavy rains come and last through Springtime. Snow in Portugal only happens in the mountain range of Serra de Estrela where there is even a ski resort.
Move inland to the hilly region of Bragança, where summertime temperatures average 80 to 90F with a bit more humidity. Autumn temperatures drop to the low 50’s with cool, foggy nights. Winter brings plenty of rain and lows of 30F. But once spring arrives the sun returns, olive trees bloom and temperatures rise into the 60’s and low 70’s.
The center of Portugal includes the city of Caldas da Rainha on the Silver Coast to the capital city of Lisbon. Summers tend to stay cool here with daytime highs reaching only into the 70’s to low 80’s. The rain begins in the fall when temperatures drop into the 60’s and 70’s. Winters are chilly but when the sun comes out the daytime temperatures can be a delightful 50 to 60 degrees.
The rains help to make this region green and lovely. Rolling hills, verdant farmland, and colorful wildflowers cover much of the landscape.
Head south to the Alentejo and Algarve regions for the summer heat. The Alentejo is known for its extreme weather from scorching hot summers to cold, windy winters. The city of Évora typically reaches summer highs of 100 F or more. During the winter temperatures drop to the mid-’40s with a dry, cool wind blowing across the plains. Springtime in the Alentejo is beautiful with fields of colorful wildflowers, cork oaks, and olive trees blooming, along with the first leaves sprouting on the grapevines. Temperatures range from the mid-’40s to 60F.
Further south is the famed Algarve region that boasts of having over 300 days of sunshine per year. Summer temperatures are hot and dry with twelve hours or more of sunshine daily. Temperatures range from 80 to the ’90s during the day and cool off into the ’70s at night. During the winter this is the mildest part of Portugal with cool temperatures dropping only into the ’40s at night then rising in the daytime to the mid ’60’s.
So, whether you are a warm or cold weather person there is something for everyone here in Portugal.
For a more detailed look at the climate in Portugal, check out: Portugal Weather and Climate.