Imagine waking up at the foot of Argentina's mighty Andes to blue skies and sun-drenched vineyards as far as your eyes can see. Ripe and luscious, the purple grapes hang heavy on the vines, ready for plucking.
You awake ready for a day of outdoor adventure, followed by an asado (that’s what the Argentines call a barbecue) under a sky full of stars. You’ve never felt so at peace, so rested, and, at the same time, so invigorated and turned on by life itself.
In today's frantic and increasingly worried world, it's easy to forget that places like this exist. I’m talking about San Rafael, Argentina, where the many troubles of the early 21st century seem far away.
In addition to pedestrian-friendly town life, a laid-back atmosphere, and one of the best wine routes of Argentina, San Rafael offers a very low cost of living. But you’ll want to leave room in your budget for an active social life. People in this part of the world adore going out, and, should you decide to come and live among them, regular socializing will become part of your lifestyle, too. The good news is that you should have no trouble affording it. A party of four can enjoy a steak meal with salad, plus a couple of bottles of wine, sparkling water, coffee, and dessert, for about $10 per person. You can buy a good table wine for 10 pesos ($2.50) or a bottle or a reserve for 20 pesos ($5).
Living here, you could also afford to be well taken care of. A friend living in San Rafael for the past couple of years says he is so pampered he feels like a guest in his own home. A full-time housekeeper costs about $400 per month, a full-time nanny (in case the grandkids want to come visit) costs about the same. A gardener’s salary is $100 a month.
For the active retiree, who isn’t ready to sit back and rock on his front porch, there really is no better place than the Mendoza province of Argentina. Sports enthusiasts enjoy skiing, hiking, climbing, bird-watching, white-water rafting, kayaking, or even kite-surfing. And golfers rejoice: Argentina has more golf links than the rest of Latin America combined.
Nature enthusiasts have their share of activities as well. This region of Argentina is home to an abundance of bird life, inactive volcanoes, rivers, lakes, and reserves of guanacos and vicunas (relatives of the llama). After a day on the rocks or the water, you can tango the night away at one of the many entertainment venues or relax at the spas of Pismanta, which offer everything from hydro-massages and mud-therapy treatments to a vaporarium.
Then again, kicking back in a rocking chair on your front porch might not be a bad option either. With breathtaking views of the Western Hemisphere’s highest point—the 6,959-meter-high Cerro Aconcagua—and the rolling vineyards that have made this region popular among wine aficionados across the world, Mendoza’s beauty attracts as many visitors as its opportunities for outdoor adventure.
[Visit the U.S. News Retirement site for more planning ideas and advice.]
Wine, relaxation, and sports provide the recipe for a great vacation. But what about day-to-day living? Mendoza has a near-perfect climate. Its easy-going atmosphere, safe cities, strong infrastructure, unspoiled culture, affordability, and friendly people are drawing the attention of expats from around the world, many of whom are finding this region irresistible.
Tom Phelan, an American living in Mendoza province, came for three weeks and ended up staying three months before he and his wife decided to relocate for good. Tom and Yvonne are delighted with their new life in what they refer to as the “new Napa”. It’s estimated that 400 American families are living in the area today.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.