When it comes to defining the perfect climate, a multitude of factors have to be considered Do you prefer rain or snow? Are you a sunbather or a snowboarder? Do you enjoy the sauna-like heat of the desert? Or would you prefer that your hair poof out like a cloud every time you walk outside?
While it's true that many people favor low humidity, little rainfall, mild temperatures and a high percentage of sunny days, obviously not everyone agrees. Otherwise, we'd have all of nearly 7 billion people crammed onto the 177-square-mile (459 square kilometers) island of Palau.
So rather than follow the lead of popular opinion and risk excluding the non-beach lovers among you, we at aim to please by selecting 10 countries with a little something for everyone. Whether you're a sun worshipper or a puddle stomper, a surfer or a skier, the following countries will have you covered.
In our first country, you can even hit the surf and the slopes in the same day.
If you like hot and humid, you'll love Argentina.
Then again, if you like the cold and lots of snow, you'll also love Argentina.
This South American country's range of elevations -- it lays claim to both the Western Hemisphere's tallest peak and its lowest point -- practically assures a variety of climates to suit most every taste [source: CIA World Factbook]. The elevation difference is so great that average summer temperatures can differ by as much as 40 degrees F from north to south [source: Summerfield].
If it's snow you seek, you'll want to stick to the 3,000-mile-long country's southern end, where you'll find mild summers and cold winters with abundant snow. The higher elevations of the Andes mountains in the west also guarantee arctic-like temperatures.
Sun lovers can choose from one of the country's many coastal beaches in the east or head farther north to the tropical rainforests. Here the summers are hot and humid and the winters mild and dry.
Argentina's range of climates is matched by its range of landscapes. Home to 47 major glaciers, fertile grasslands and tropical rainforests, this second largest country in South America is an adventure junkie's dream [source: National Geographic]. From Iguazu falls in the lush jungles of the north to the volcanic peaks, valleys and marshes of windy Patagonia in the south, Argentina truly does have something for everyone.
While you may not want to leave this South American paradise, you won't have to travel far to find the next country on our list. But be prepared to stay: It was ranked the top place to retire by International Living Magazine in 2009.
Don't let this country's name fool you. Despite its location on the equator, Ecuador's elevation helps temper the heat. The city of Cuenca, which is located 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) high in the Andes and was ranked as the top place to retire by International Living Magazine in 2009, has spring-like weather year round [source: MSN Money].
But if spring weather isn't your thing, don't stop reading just yet. Due to the country's varied landscape, climate is dependent in large part on where you are in relation to the Andes Mountains, which bisect the country from north to south. The country has four distinct geographical regions. To the west of the Andes lie the coastal plains and a more tropical climate. These gradually rise to form the Sierra, or Andean uplands, as you move east. Here the climate is much cooler. East of the Andes are the Amazonian jungle lowlands, where the climate is tropical.
Finally, nearly 600 miles (960 kilometers) off the country's west coast, lies Ecuador's crown jewel: the Galapagos Islands. These volcanic islands are home to a plethora of wildlife found nowhere else on Earth, though the mainland has its fair share as well. While Ecuador occupies only .02 percent of the world's landmass, it contains a whopping 10 percent of its plant and animal species [source: International Living Perfect Place]. That many creatures can't be wrong: If they find Ecuador a hospitable place to live, perhaps you would too.
But don't get too comfortable. South America is home to yet another climatic paradise. Prepare to visit the "rooftop of the world."
Like the previous two South American countries, this mountainous, landlocked country located in the heart of the continent has a climate that varies with its elevation. With nearly 21, 300 feet (6,500 meters) separating its highest and lowest points, that's a lot of variation [source: CIA World Factbook].
Most of Bolivia's residents live in the capital city of La Paz, next to Lake Titicaca -- the world's highest capital and the world's highest lake, respectively. At 11,800 feet (3,600 meters), La Paz would be inhospitable without the tempering effect of the warm air coming off the lake [source: National Geographic]. Nestled among the snowy peaks of the Andes, La Paz is ideal for those seeking their weather on the cold and dry side.
To find warmer weather, you need only travel northeast to the Amazon basin. Here, the weather is humid and hot, and snow is unheard of. A wide range of unique species occupies the rainforests in this region, including numerous species of monkeys, jaguars and macaws.
Argentina also hosts an astounding diversity of ecosystems, from moist evergreen forests and tropical jungles to dry Andean valleys and savannas. Within the country's approximately 4.7-million-acre Madidi National Park alone you will find everything from glacial peaks to Amazonian rainforest. According to Parks Watch, a conservation group run by Duke University, Madidi is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet [source: Parks Watch].
If you think Bolivia's altitude variation is impressive, prepare to be amazed. For our next stop, we're heading to the country with the most altitude variation on Earth.
While at first glance this landlocked country between China and India may seem out of place on a list of places with perfect climates, its altitude variation creates such a range of weather conditions that at least one of them is sure to satisfy. To find one that suits you, all you have to do is start at sea level and work your way up. Considering that Nepal is home to eight of the world's 10 highest peaks, though, that may take you a while [source: CIA World Factbook].
If you're like most of the country's residents, you'll settle in the central hilly region of the Kathmandu Valley or in the southern plain where summers are warm and winters mild. For cool summers and severe winters, you'll head north to the Himalaya Range and Mt. Everest, which, at 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) high, is the world's highest [source: CIA World Factbook].
A large part of Nepal is hit by monsoons during the summer season, but if you're averse to rain, all you have to do is position yourself on the northern side of the mountains. When the bulk of the country experiences torrential downpours, the region of Mustang in the north stays high and dry.
Next, we head to a country that at times seems to have more animals than it does people.
The largest of the East African countries, Tanzania is perhaps most well known as the home of Serengeti National Park, host to the longest wildlife migration on the planet and the most diverse collection of land animals [source: Serengeti]. An impressive 14 percent of the country's land area is set aside for conservation, making Tanzania a haven for the wildebeest, zebras, elephants and other animals that rely on the African plains [source: Government of Tanzania].
Tanzania can be divided into three distinct regions: the coastal plains, which are tropical; the central plateau; and the highlands. The last two are both fairly temperate. Temperatures in most of the country stay above 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) at all times, while those in the highlands range between 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) and 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) [source: Government of Tanzania].
Despite its proximity to the equator, Tanzania is able to avoid extremes in heat thanks to the cooling effects of the Indian Ocean on its eastern border as well as the breezes from 19,341-foot (5,895-meter) Mt. Kilimanjaro, which has a perpetual cover of snow and is the highest point on the African continent. Although you won't find snow anywhere else, you can always cool off in one of the country's many impressive bodies of water, including the world's second largest fresh-water lake (Lake Victoria) as well as its second deepest (Lake Tanganyika) [source: CIA World Factbook].
For our next three countries, we head north to Europe. First up: France.
The largest country in Western Europe, France has topped International Living's Quality of Life Index three years in a row [source: International Living Perfect Place]. From its sprawling grape orchards and numerous beaches to its snow-capped peaks and gently rolling hills, France does seem to have it all. Where weather is concerned, at least, it does.
With two mountain ranges and water bordering three of its sides, France is practically guaranteed to have climatic variation. In the north, the weather is on the temperate side, with cool winters and mild summers, but as you near the Mediterranean coast, the summers get much hotter. The mountain regions in the Pyrenees and the Alps, meanwhile, experience heavy snow and much colder temperatures. Winter in these regions is so idyllic that the country has been host to three winter Olympics, including the first one in 1924 [source: Olympic.org].
The climate is appealing to more than just France's people, too. With more than half of its land under cultivation, this agriculturally- rich country is the leading exporter of food in the European Union and the largest wine producer in the world. [source: National Geographic].
If you think a nice pasta dish would complement your wine, you're in luck. Next, we head to France's southern neighbor.
Italy may be better known for its pasta than its idyllic weather, but the climate of this boot-shaped peninsula in Southern Europe has been called among the best on the continent by the editors at International Living [source: International Living World's Best].
While much of Italy is mountainous, you'll also find lowland plains and gorgeous coastlines. The Amalfi Coast, along the southwestern edge of the country, has even been recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage site [source: National Geographic]. Apart from the mainland, Italy also includes more than 70 islands, including Sicily and Sardinia, and is home to the only active volcanoes in Europe [source: National Geographic, Topinka ].
For the most part, Italy has warm, dry summers and mild winters. But in the north, where the Alps are located, the climate is cold and wet. And in the far south, it's hot and dry. The warm south is also the country's agricultural center and is known by the Italians as the Mezzogiorno, or the land of the midday sun.
Our last European stop is just a short trip to the west.
Located in southwestern Europe just north of Africa, Spain continues the trend of the previous countries and offers a little bit of everything. It borders three different bodies of water: the Bay of Biscay to the north, the Mediterranean Sea to the east and the North Atlantic to the south. It features the towering Pyrenees along its northern border with France, and it possesses many island communities scattered throughout the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
One of those groups of islands is, in fact, what landed Spain on our list. Located off the northwest coast of Africa, the Canary Islands are a top tourist destination due to their consistently pleasant temperatures that average between 64 degrees F (15 C) in winter and 75 degrees F (24 C) in summer [source: Strawberry World]. Yet they also play host to five distinct environmental zones, from sea level to snowy peaks, ensuring that the cold weather seekers won't go away disappointed. Mount Teide, a 12,198-foot (3,718-meter) volcanic peak on the island of Tenerife, for instance, is a popular skiing destination that gets up to three months of snow per year [source: CIA World Factbook, Strawberry World].
You'll also find snow in the next country on our list, along with fertile plains, deserts, mountains and rainforests ….
The third largest country in the world, the United States is perhaps best summed up by one word: diverse. Not only is it home to more immigrants than any other country, but it's also home to some of the world's largest canyons, longest rivers, deepest valleys and largest lakes [source: Ratha, National Geographic].
Composed of 50 individual states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. is home to every climate imaginable. You have your tropical beaches in Hawaii and Florida, arctic tundra in Alaska, arid deserts and prairies in the west, fertile plains in the heartland, humid forests in the east and everything in between. If you can't find a climate you like it's because you're not looking.
To make it easier, the country is divided into six regions based on climate and geography. Scattered among them you'll find the Grand Canyon, the mighty Mississippi River, the majestic Rocky Mountains and the Great Lakes. You'll also come across Death Valley 282 feet (86 meters) below sea level and Mt. McKinley 20,335 feet (6,198 meters) above, as well as the tropical rainforests of Hawaii, where 89 percent of the plants and 97 percent of the animals are found nowhere else on Earth [source: CIA World Factbook, National Geographic].
Another country with an amazing presentation of diversity is our next and final stop. Prepare to head to the south-western corner of the Polynesian triangle.
Once you've seen New Zealand's stunning variety of scenery it comes as no surprise that film director Peter Jackson chose this incredibly beautiful nation as the backdrop for his "Lord of the Ring" film trilogy. The country's volcanic peaks, rolling pastures, lush forests and icy glaciers lend themselves beautifully to the mythical world described by J.R.R. Tolkien.
But this series of mountainous islands in the southwestern Pacific Ocean is more than just a good stand-in for Mordor. The variety of landscapes and climates found here is more befitting of a much larger country, not one barely the size of the state of Colorado. Highly conservation-minded, New Zealand can at times appear to be simply a series of one national park after another. The remote Te Urewera National Park on the North Island is famous for its lakes and forests while Rakiura National Park in the country's southern reaches is prized for its sandy beaches and inlets. In between, you'll find parks featuring everything from geothermal vents and rainforests to deserts and glaciers.
With all this variation, it's obvious that the climate is equally diverse. While much of the country has a temperate climate, there are sharp contrasts depending on the region. It's warm and tropical in the north, for instance, becoming more temperate as you go south. The mountainous regions have alpine conditions, with areas west of the mountains being much wetter than those in the east.
So wet or dry, cold or hot, windy or calm, these 10 countries with perfect climates should satisfy even the pickiest among you. Take your pick: You can't go wrong.
For more on ideal climates and related topics, peruse the links on the next page.
When an aurora lights up the Northern Hemisphere, the same pattern should erupt in the Southern Hemisphere, too. HowStuffWorks explains why it doesn't.
More Great Links
- Carpenter, Mackenzie. "Where's the most perfect climate?" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 9, 2006. (August 25, 2010) http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06190/703926-37.stm
- Central Intelligence Agency. "The World Factbook." 2009. (August 25, 2010) https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html
- Government of Tanzania. "The United Republic of Tanzania National Website." 2010. (August 25, 2010)http://www.tanzania.go.tz/naturalresourcesf
- International Living. "Find Your Perfect Place to Live Overseas." 2010. (August 25, 2010) http://www1.internationalliving.com/sem/lifestyle/where-to-live/report/ppc.html
- International Living. "The World's Best Climates." 2010. (August 25, 2010) http://www1.internationalliving.com/sem/lifestyle/best-climate/report/ppc.html
- Lonely Planet. "Canary Islands." Oct. 22, 2009. (August 25, 2010) http://www.lonelyplanet.com/canary-islands/weather
- Mackintosh, Lesley. "Overview of New Zealand Climate." National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. 2008. (August 25, 2010) http://www.niwa.co.nz/education-and-training/schools/resources/climate/overview
- MSN Money. "The World's Best Places to Retire." Oct. 13, 2009. (August 25, 2010) http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/RetirementandWills/RetireInStyle/the-worlds-best-places-to-retire.aspx
- National Geographic. "Countries." 2010. (August 25, 2010) http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/countries/?source=NavTravCount
- New Zealand tourism guide. "Lord of the Rings: New Zealand." 2010. (August 25, 2010) http://www.tourism.net.nz/lord-of-the-rings.html
- Olympic.org. "Olympic Games." 2009. (August 25, 2010) http://www.olympic.org/en/content/Olympic-Games/
- Parks Watch. Madidi National Park and IMNA." 2004. (August 25, 2010) http://www.parkswatch.org/parkprofile.php?l=eng&country=bol&park=mdnp&page=inf
- Ratha, Dilip and Zhimei Xu. "Migration and Remittances Factbook." World Bank. 2006. (August 25, 2010) http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPROSPECTS/Resources/334934-1181678518183/Top10.pdf.html
- Serengeti National Park. "Serengeti." 2000. (August 25, 2010) http://www.serengeti.org/index.html
- Summerfield, Margaret. "How to Find the Perfect Climate." PathFinder. Feb. 10, 2010. (August 25, 2010) http://www.pathfinderinternational.net/news/view/how_to_find_the_perfect_climate/
- Strawberry World. "Tenerife." 2010. (August 25, 2010) http://www.canaries-live.com/UK/index.html
- Topinka, Lyn. "Italy Volcanoes and Volcanics." United States Geological Survey. August 16, 2000. (August 25, 2010) http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Italy/description_italy_volcanics.html
- UNESCO World Heritage Centre. "Teide National Park." 2010. (August 25, 2010) http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1258