By Josh Lew
Lots of places claim to have perfect weather. Of course, the definition of “perfect” is subjective. About 85 degrees and sunny is ideal for some, while others might sprint for the nearest air-conditioned room. And there are those who wish the non-extremes of spring and fall would last forever.
Even though the definition of paradise varies, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would complain about spending every day in the low 70s.
In Loja, Ecuador, temperatures remain in the low 70s during the day, with mid-50s at night. You can expect 70-degree highs in December or June (and during each of the other 10 months as well).
Loja is near the equator, but it’s located in the Andes Mountains at an elevation of about 6,000 feet. Overnight temps can drop to 50 degrees, but the equatorial location means the mercury never falls lower than that. Meanwhile, thanks to the elevation, 80-degree afternoons are almost unheard of.
Loja only has a handful of expats. However, a recent story by U.S. News and World Report outed the city as a climatic paradise that’s perfect for retirees.
A city of no extremes
Loja is dotted with quaintly charming plazas, and the center of town is filled with Spanish colonial architecture. At the same time, there’s a youthful vibe because of the many local universities. The population of about 180,000 gives Loja a not-too-big, not-too-small feel. And the streets are quite safe compared to Ecuador’s larger cities, Cuenca and Quito.
Some tourists say the landscapes outside the city are more attractive than the plazas and old town. The lower Andes peaks here are green, not windswept and barren. And this is equatorial South America, so the valleys are lush and thick with vegetation. Even people who don’t care about easy access to nature will appreciate the fresh vegetables and fruits, which are grown right outside the city and are available year-round.
Music and culture
Along with the ever-pleasant weather, Loja has a lot of culture. Down-to-earth cuisine is accessible and benefits from the fresh ingredients. Yes, the one Ecuadorian dish that everyone knows about, cuy (guinea pig), is on the menu here, but it’s not as common as some other specialties. Fresh fruit smoothies are ubiquitous, as is great-tasting coffee, which is made from beans grown in the nearby valleys.
Around Ecuador, Loja might be best known for its music scene. In fitting with the city’s relaxed image, performances, usually by local bands, take place in small bars and laid-back salsa clubs. These aren’t the kind of places with dress codes and velvet ropes. The classical music scene is also thriving, with respected music schools and a local symphony orchestra that’s often called the country’s best.
A low cost of living
Loja sounds like a great place to relax for a few days while you’re traveling on the South American tourist circuit. U.S. News focused on Loja as a retirement destination (instead of a tourist destination) not only because of the city’s climate, but also the cost of living. Ecuador as a whole is relatively cheap. Loja’s rent prices are figured in the hundreds of dollars, not thousands (if you are converting to U.S. currency). This is even the case for nice villas. Food is cheap and taxi fares are reasonable. However, the center of the city is walkable, so car rides are rarely necessary.
You’ll never please everyone, but most people would probably take a climate like Loja’s over almost anywhere else on Earth. Few other places can give you 70 degrees every day of the year without ever exposing you to the 80s or the 40s. For that reason alone, Loja is worth a trip. There’s never a wrong time of year to visit, and if you believe some of the recent hype, then you might be tempted to stay for longer than just a few days.
So how does an expat who actually lives in Loja see her city? Click here.
Credit: Mother Nature Network, www.mnn.com