These 5 countries are the best places to retire with the most livable climates

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INTERNATIONAL LIVING

While the term “perfect climate” means something different for everyone, in International Living’s 2022 Annual Global Retirement Index, we’ve compiled a list of countries with the most varied weather systems to suit every preference.

In this category, we’ve considered specific criteria such as temperature, rainfall, humidity, and sunshine, as well as the personal experiences of expats and our boots-on-the-ground correspondents, to score the nations with the most liveable climates.

Whether your idea of paradise is a sunny Mediterranean beach or the freshness of a high-altitude town, four seasons, or eternal spring, our climate category is designed to help you discover your ideal-weather haven.


Read why the countries below made our top five list, and discover the 2022 titleholder of the best in the climate category.

5 Mexico

Climate-wise, Mexico has something for everybody. From hot and steamy jungles and rainforests in the far south of the country to dry deserts on the Baja California peninsula, which only get a few days of rain a year.

Those are the extremes. But within the borders of this country, which is about three times the size of Texas, the variety of landscapes and elevations leads to different weather patterns.

On the coasts, along the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and much of the central and southern Pacific, you have warm and humid weather year-round, although it does cool off a bit in the winter months.

“It’s no wonder that this is when thousands of “snowbirds” descend upon these areas, to towns like Playa del Carmen, Puerto Vallarta, Merida, Progreso, and Huatulco, among others,” says Jason Holland, IL Roving Latin America Editor.

“This is when these places have the best weather, with blue skies and no rain. Think of a climate very similar to Florida. On the flipside, the heat of summer can be very hot—with plentiful rain, especially in the afternoon.”

If heat and humidity aren’t your thing, you can check out the highlands in the interior of the country. Here you can be at essentially the same latitude as a warm and humid coastal area but, because of the altitude, temperatures are lower and humidity is pretty much non-existent.

You’ll find this phenomenon in popular colonial expat havens like San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, and Queretaro. Here the elevation of these historic cities hovers around 6,000 feet.

Temperatures don’t usually go above the low 80s F most of the year, only reaching the high 80s F in the hottest months in early summer. During the coldest months, around January and February, the temperature dips into the 50s F and 60s F, with nights going into the 40s F. Generally, every day of the year is quite comfortable.

“You should keep in mind that there is a rainy season here, roughly coinciding with the summer months,” says Jason. “It mostly rains in the afternoon, a heavy downpour that lasts about an hour. However, some days it can drizzle on and off all day.”

The place with what is considered the best climate in Mexico is around Lake Chapala, which is about an hour south of Guadalajara, one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Mexico. Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico and the town of Chapala is one of the longest-running expat havens in the country. Expats live in small towns and villages along the northern shore, which is surrounded by mountains.

The high elevation has led to a unique microclimate where it never gets too hot or too cold. It’s t-shirt weather all the time, although it cools down enough for a light jacket or sweater in the evening. This is one of the main reasons it is such a popular hotspot for retirees. Like the highlands, Chapala also has a rainy season, running from June into early October, with rains mostly coming in the late afternoon or evening hours.

For a more detailed look at the climate in Mexico, check out: Mexico Weather and Climate.#2 Colombia (tie)

Imagine a country where you can find practically any climate to suit your taste—warm, tropical Caribbean beaches; mild, spring-like mountain air in the Andes; a dry, arid climate in the Tatacoa desert; or the hot and humid Amazonian rainforest. There is even a snow-capped mountain just 25 miles from the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world. This climate diversity is one of the reasons Colombia is a major “birding” destination, with 1,954 recorded species, nearly one-fifth of the world’s 10,000 bird species.

Because Colombia is so close to the equator, it has an equal 12 hours of daylight and darkness with very little variation during the year. The sun rises at approximately 6 a.m. and sets at approximately 6 p.m. every single day. For expats coming from northern parts of the U.S. or from Canada, this can be a welcome change from the darkness of the winter months, but also an adjustment from the long summer days when there is daylight until nearly 9 p.m.

“After living in Colombia for a few years, I really lost track of the seasons. Every month looks the same,” says IL Colombia Correspondent Nancy Kiernan. “Having spent my entire life in New England, it was strange to celebrate Christmas without snow and being bundled up in a sweater, hat, mittens, and boots.

“But that is actually a benefit,” she continues. “I only need to buy clothes for one season. I wear the same outfits every day until they either wear out or I get tired of them.”

Colombia has long been a favorite retirement destination. Let´s explore a few of the climatically diverse regions in Colombia that expats tend to gravitate to.

In the Caribbean coastal cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla, and Santa Marta, warm, tropical weather offers average daytime highs of 90 F and evening temperatures in the upper 70s F. Although it can be humid, evening sea breezes make being out and about quite pleasant.

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 fastest-growing expat haven, 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 F to mid-80s F and evening temperatures that dip to the mid-60s F every day of the year.

“I’ve lived in Medellín since 2012,” Nancy says. “I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there are no thermostats in any of the buildings. There is no heat, and in most cases, no one has air conditioning. If you are hot…open a window. If you are cold…close the window.”

Bucaramanga is perched on a plateau of the Andes Mountains in the northeastern region of Colombia. Its climate is very similar to the other mountain towns, with temperatures just a little bit warmer and a slight touch of humidity. The warmer, moist breezes blow in from the Chicamocha River via the canyon, so you can comfortably enjoy the 160 beautiful green parks scattered throughout the city, that give Bucaramanga its nickname “The City of Parks.”

The capital city of Bogotá sees average daytime highs in the mid-60s F and evening temperatures that hover around 50 F. 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.

The Tatacoa Desert is the second-largest arid zone in Colombia after the Guajira Peninsula. It is not just a desert, but a tropical dry forest occupying more than 127 square miles around the town of Villavieja. While few people live here, the desert is quiet and tranquil, and provides a lovely refuge from city life for a visit. The plants have adapted to the climate conditions by developing horizontal roots up to 100 feet wide and vertical roots up to 50 feet deep that facilitate access to water. Cacti can grow to between 13 to 15 feet tall.

As a complete contrast to the desert, the Amazonian rainforest in the southern part of the country occupies 35% of Colombia´s total land mass. 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)

In Ecuador, it’s not too hot, not too cold; the weather is just right. Largely due to both the altitude and its proximity to the equator, Ecuador provides near-perfect weather no matter where you live. Every day the sun rises at 6:30 a.m. and sets at 6:30 p.m., meaning the entire country enjoys 12 hours of direct equatorial daylight, 365 days a year.

Although Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, the mainland (i.e., excluding the Galápagos Islands) actually has three distinct geographical regions, which each have their own climates: the coast, the sierras (mountain highlands), and the oriente (the jungle).

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, the climate in Quito is spring-like year-round: 50 F at night and 69 F during the day.

Most expats choose to live in the sierras, either in large cities such as Quito or Cuenca, or in smaller towns such as Cotacachi in the north or Vilcabamba in the south. For the whole length of the sierras, particularly at altitudes of between 7,000 to 9,000 feet, you can expect lots of sunny days, but with a fair amount of cloud cover and showers thrown in too. The rainier months tend to fall from March to May; June through September the weather is generally sunny but cooler; while the period from October to February is typically a little warmer, though also more prone to afternoon thunderstorms. With established expat communities and temperate weather, these towns provide the ideal environment to enjoy outdoor activities during the day, with temperatures dropping slightly at night.

“I’m an outdoorsy girl,” says Donna Stiteler, IL Ecuador Correspondent, “so temperate weather was top of my checklist for where I wanted to live. The summers had gotten so hot in Florida, that the only times I got outside were early in the morning and late at night. My car heated to 140 degrees during summer, hot enough to scramble eggs. It was time to find a place where I could actually walk outside, every day, all year round.

“In Ecuador I can enjoy being outside, which allows me time to hike, walk the dogs, go shopping, and eat at outdoor restaurants any time I want.”

Fiona Mitchell, IL Ecuador Contributor says, “Having lived in Cuenca for two years now, I have learned to expect pretty much anything, from sun to clouds to sudden downpours, in one day. But you can almost always guarantee that the sun will come out at some point each day, and that the temperature will always be agreeable. The altitude in these mountain towns and cities means that the air is always dry, so no miserable humidity to contend with either. And even on cooler days, I never need to wear more than a light sweater during the daytime. Most days of the year I just wear a t-shirt, and put on a light sweater or jacket when it cools down at night or in the early morning. The best thing about this climate is that there is no need for heating or AC. In fact, most Ecuadorian homes and apartments do not come with either. It’s only on the chilliest nights that you might want to make use of a small propane heater or light a fire, but most people don’t bother.

“Another thing I love about the climate in Cuenca is that the trees and flowers bloom multiple times a year, so the city is always colorful – vivid purples, pinks, yellows, and reds are frequently on display, and there is never a prolonged ‘dead’ season,” continues Fiona. “It’s truly wonderful to walk around the city on a sunny day in December surrounded by so many vibrant colors, knowing that the northern hemisphere is wallowing in greys and browns!”

In contrast to the high-altitude mountain towns, Ecuador’s beaches and rainforests are at sea level. Humid, tropical breezes in the equatorial lowlands have temperatures ranging from 70 F in the mornings to highs between 80 F and 90 F during the daytime. The city of Manta is a popular expat destination, as are the smaller resort settlements of Olón, Montañita, and Puerto Lopez. For those that like to wear shorts and flip flops all year, then the coast can be the ideal location, and many properties are available right on the waterfront, where the ocean breezes keep temperatures much more comfortable. A few hardy souls do seek out the peace and tranquility that living in the jungle affords, but of course the temperatures here are very humid and hot, with heavier rainfall year-round.

Overall, it’s fair to say that Ecuador offers a climate to suit every taste–unless you really do love those long, grey, cold northern winters–in which case Ecuador might not be the place for you!

For a more detailed look at the climate in Ecuador, check out: Ecuador Weather and Climate.#2 Peru (tie)

Daytime temperatures hovering around 70 F year-round, less than an inch of rainfall a year, and no bugs—what else could you want? In the small coastal town of Huanchaco, located 350 miles north of Lima, you can enjoy all of this along with copious amounts of sunshine for much of the year. And this is only one of Peru’s 28 climates on offer—the entire world only has four more choices!

Peru can deliver any combination of weather that you are looking for. The cool Andes Mountains, chilly Pacific Ocean, arid deserts, and humid Amazon jungle make it one of the world’s top ten biodiverse countries.

Those looking for year-round sunshine and a temperate climate will discover that the southern city of Arequipa ticks all their boxes. When Steve and Nancy LePoidevin moved to Peru in 2016, this was their first stop.

Steve says, “We had to start somewhere, and Arequipa seemed like a good choice to begin with. We arrived in July and didn’t see a cloud in the sky until the end of December. By the middle of March, the skies were cloudless again.”

But with its elevation of almost 8,000 feet, Arequipa’s nights can be chilly. Temperatures often reach 70 F by midday but can drop into the 40s F during the coldest nights of the year.

“It’s all about the sun,” according to Steve. “Step into the shade or go for a nighttime stroll and you will probably need a light jacket or sweater.”

Head deeper into the mountains to Cusco and you will find similar weather to Arequipa–dry winter months and rainy summers. The rainy season here is much longer than Arequipa’s and the nights are cooler, dipping into single digits for much of the year. This is pretty typical of most locations in the Andes.

On the coast, summers are hot and dry, beginning as early as November and stretching into April or May. Days are generally sunny, and temperatures can reach into the high 70s F. Winters are a bit cooler and are accompanied by more cloud cover and fog.

“The cool, damp winter climate is at its worst in the coastal capital city of Lima, which is socked in for much of the year,” says Steve. “This is due to the icy Humboldt Current that meets the warmer, moisture-laden air of the southern coast. Local residents refer to the gray winter skies as the “panza de burro”, the donkey’s belly.”

By the time you reach the towns scattered along the far northern coast, you’ll find warm days and blue skies for much of the year. Daytime highs consistently reach into the 80s F but will rarely go above 90 F. Even during the coldest winter months of July and August, the mercury rarely drops below 65 F.

The most well-known towns in this area are Mancora and Punta Sal. They are home to some of the finest beaches in the country and are holiday destinations for many Peruvians during the hot summer months. Tourists and expats choose the region because of the incredible weather, low cost, and plethora of water sports that are available.

Another major climate zone is the Amazon basin, which is home to the jungle cities of Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado. The former is the largest city in the world that cannot be reached by road. It is only accessible by water or air. This lush rainforest covers almost two-thirds of the country but is home to only 5% of the population. Here it is hot and humid year-round with frequent rainfall. Temperatures rarely fall below 70 F and are more often in the 80s F and 90s F for most of the year.

For a more detailed look at the climate in Peru, check out: Peru Weather and Climate.#1 Portugal

Portugal has some of the best weather in all of Europe. You can kiss snow- and sleet-filled winters goodbye in this compact country. Whether you are a cold-weather person, love the intense heat of summer, or prefer a year-round, spring-like climate, Portugal has something for everyone.

What Portugal lacks in size it makes up for in its variety of weather that changes with just a short drive. Say if you lived on the outskirts of Caldas da Rainha, on the Silver Coast, you merely have to drive 10 minutes to see the change. While temperatures at your home may be near 50 F on a winter morning, just 10 minutes down the road, the farmer’s field sparkles a frosty white.

“Mornings here are blanketed with a romantic sea mist that helps keep the landscape green,” says IL Portugal Correspondent, Terry Coles. “Rolling hills, verdant farmland, and colorful wildflowers cover much of the landscape.”

Drive one hour south to the bustling capital city of Lisbon. Summers in the city tend to be a bit warmer than the Silver Coast, with highs reaching the mid-70s F to 85 F. Winters bring rain, like the rest of Portugal, with cooling temperatures of 40 F at night, reaching into the 50s F during the daytime. Again, the humidity here can make it feel colder than the thermometer says, especially in the coastal areas.

“Sintra, just a 30-minute drive from Lisbon, is another microclimate frequented by fog and mist,” says Terry. “But when it burns off, the fairy tale castles glisten.”

Head two-hours south to the famed Algarve region, and the temperature changes yet again. While summertime temperatures remain spring-like in the center of the country, for those that can take the heat the southern regions offer summertime highs averaging 85 F. Cool sea breezes and milder nights in the high 60s F make it perfect for sleeping.

Sunshine abounds in the Algarve with 12 hours or more daily, adding up to over 300 days of sunshine per year. During the winter this is the mildest and driest part of Portugal with temperatures dropping into the 40s F at night, then rising in the daytime to the mid-60s F. The Algarve receives much less rain than the rest of Portugal, averaging around 20 inches per year compared to around 60 inches in the north.

If that’s still not hot enough, the largest region of the country, the Alentejo, sizzles with summer highs reaching the 100 F mark, or higher. Rain is rare during the dry, lazy days of summer but returns during the fall and winter months. Known for being rather extreme when it comes to the seasons, winters in the Alentejo are often excessive too. Temperatures can dip down to freezing at night but rise to the mid-40s F during the daytime. Cool, dry breezes blowing across the flat plains of the region can make it feel even colder.

Terry says, “As an example, the city of Évora typically reaches summer highs of 100 F or more while winters bring a freezing chill accompanied by gusty winds. But come springtime, the surrounding fields bloom into a colorful array of wildflowers. Cork oak and olive trees bloom and the first leaves can be seen sprouting on the grapevines. Springtime temperatures range from the mid-40s F to 60 F.

“The coldest part of the country is the North Coast,” she continues, “from the Spanish border to the city of Porto. Summer temperatures range from 70 F to the mid-80s F, with low humidity and plenty of sunshine. During the fall temperatures drop into the 50s F and 60s 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 is only found in the mountain range of Serra de Estrela, where there is even a ski resort.”

So, whether you are a warm or cold weather person there is something for everyone here in Portugal.

This story originally ran in International Living.

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