5 Andean cities for ‘living large’ in retirement

South America’s Andean region is capturing the attention of expatriates in search of a place to spend their retirement. Here, even moderate-income retirees can live in veritable luxury thanks to the region’s excellent medical care, temperate climate, improving safety indices, and, of course, the region’s low cost of living.

At the same time, high-speed internet and state-of-the-art international airports permit close contact with loved ones at home. We present to you here what we think are five Andean cities and towns that baby boomers might consider for actively enjoying their “golden years”.

1.Cuenca, Ecuador

Ecuador has remained somewhere near the top of International Living’s “Annual Global Retirement Index” for years. This year is not an exception, and there are good reasons for that.

For anyone who has excellent weather at the top of their list of personal requirements for a retirement destination, Ecuador is almost unbeatable. And health care in the country equals anything available, anywhere and at surprisingly low prices.

In Ecuador, the city of Cuenca has served as an expat magnet, attracting some 15,000 American and European retirees who have formed a community within this Andean community. For these adventurers, living in Ecuador’s most beautiful city means soaking up the atmosphere of this ancient place while casually sipping a cappuccino.

Spend time quietly wandering cobbled streets and historical buildings, many of which have been turned into museums and cafes! Cuenca is rivaled only by Quito in terms of its rich past, though without quite the same level of urbanization one might find in the capital. Enjoying the mild daytime climate of Cuenca, these retirees experience the local way of life, bucolic landscapes, rustically elegant dining, and complete comfort.

2.Cotacachi, Ecuador

Though Cuenca has been spotlighted as Ecuador’s expat retirement destination of choice, the small leatherworking town of Cotacachi is stepping into that limelight. Situated only an hour and a half north of Ecuador’s capital city (Quito), this village of 9,000 residents counts among it a small community of about 500 expats who add to the mix.

These people thrive off the area’s perpetually spring-like climate and the easy pace of village living. Not constantly in need of the amenities of the big city, these newer residents indulge themselves in nature-oriented activities like hiking, fishing, and horseback riding. Instead of raucous food courts at a local mall, Cotacachi’s market gives them the chance to savor everything from organic fruits and vegetables to hand-made crafts and fresh flowers.

3.Arequipa, Peru

While Machu Picchu likely comes to mind when thinking of Peru, interest in a different location is emerging when it comes to a retirement destination in Peru. That place is Arequipa, the country’s second largest city.

Enjoying over 300 days of sunshine a year and spring-like temperatures that rarely go above the high 70s F, strikingly scenic Arequipa is a UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site. Founded in the middle of the 16th century, the city remains famous for its colonial architecture that combines decorative elements of Spanish and native design.

While the metropolitan population is close to a million, the city feels much smaller, particularly its historic district, where you’ll find narrow cobbled-stoned streets, colonial buildings and churches dating back 500 years. At the same time, though, Arequipa has several malls, major hospitals, shopping centers, cinemas, and scores of fine restaurants.

Today, a small but growing expat population has decided that Arequipa is the perfect place for them to live. They’ve “discovered” the city’s rich culture and way of life … a place brimming with modern amenities yet close to spectacular natural settings.

4.Medellin, Colombia

If your idea of Colombia is Netflix’s “Narcos” series (about the country’s well-known drug brain), it’s unlikely that Medellin will be your first choice as a retirement city. However, expats know that this city is a very different place from what it was in the 1980s, as it’s now a safe place to relocate.

Medellin’s culture of outdoor cafes gives it a European atmosphere and the city is home to a host of artistic and musical festivals. Art galleries, long strings of restaurants, excellent health care and state-of-the-art infrastructure are a few characteristics of Medellin.

This city, too, boasts a warmer spring-like climate all-year round, which makes it ideal for many retirees. Plus, being located between the ranges of the Andes Mountains, free time can be spent interacting with nature through hiking, rock climbing and even camping. Finally, while the Internet is fast and reliable, you’ll still need to brush up on your high school Spanish, as most of the locals don’t speak English.

5.Colombia’s Coffee Triangle

No matter where you hail, the tranquil landscape of Colombia’s Coffee Region is sure to evoke an instantly calming presence. Instilled with the immense hospitality and a healthy dose of regional pride, the Coffee Region’s locals (países) are deservedly considered some of the friendliest people on the planet.

Whether you enjoy reading in a quiet coffee shop, listening to some of the local Vallenato and Bachata music, or examining some of the finely made regional craftwork, there’s something for everyone.

Baby boomers can also spend some of their time stretching their legs in either the luscious Cocora Valley or the more challenging Parque de los Nevados, where scenic terrains of towering wax palms and a still-smoking volcano await.

In this region, the triangle formed by the smaller cities of Armenia, Manizales and Pereira is perfectly situated around an international airport, while each locale is blessed with traditional Colombian haciendas and more modern in-town amenities. Getting a retirement visa in Colombia as a whole is not that complicated either, which makes it even better.

In any case, before taking the plunge, it’s always advisable to visit your city of interest to “kick the tires and do a test run.” Spend at least three or four weeks getting to know the area, talking to expats and locals to see if such a destination fits your interests as a place to retire. And keep in mind that these cities have already proven themselves viable options for tens of thousands of more adventurous seniors …so one of these sites might just work out for you too.

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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