Not all parts of South America are ideal for people with asthma. In certain regions, the poor air quality, high pollution, and inefficient health care system combine to make life extremely difficult for those with respiratory problems. Does that mean South America is off-limits to anyone with an inhaler? Not at all. Look hard enough, and you'll find plenty of places that won't leave you struggling for breath. Without further ado, here are the 20 best places to live in South America if you have asthma.
20. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Ecuador
As the oldest permanent settlement in the Galapagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is a fascinating city that combines history and culture with amazing outdoor adventure. Surrounded as it is by some of the most sublime scenery in South America, it's a hotspot for eco-travelers keen to acquaint themselves with the thousands of species of flora and fauna that call the island home. Thanks to its crystal clear air, it's also a very attractive destination for those who want to skip the pollution and breathe some of the cleanest air in Ecuador.
19. Rosario, Argentina
As the largest city in the central Argentina province of Santa Fe and the third-most populous city in the country, Rosario is the kind of big, industrial town that you'd expect to produce a lot of pollution. In fact, it has some of the cleanest air in the country. Combine that with a great healthcare system and you can see what makes it such an attractive destination for people with asthma.
18. Chiguayante, Chile
Chile has one of the most well-developed healthcare systems and economies in South America. As poverty and an absence of appropriate health care are both aggravating factors in the successful management of asthma, it should have a natural advantage over other countries in the region. Chiguayante illustrates why that's more than just theory. As breathelife2030.org reports, the town is part of a local effort to preserve biodiversity in the Nonguén Natural Reserve. As a result, it's implemented numerous clean air initiatives to reduce the pollution load on both the ecosystem and the city's inhabitants.
17. Vilcabamba, Ecuador
Vilcabamba is a quiet little town that despite being a favorite destination with backpackers and travelers, has managed to stay mercifully untouched by the effects of mass tourism. Surrounded by mountains and natural beauty, the town is an outdoor lover's dream. Until a few decades ago, it was almost completely cut off from the outside world, with the result that pollution was unheard of and both the water and air quality were second to none. These days, its connection to the rest of the country has improved, but fortunately, its air remains as pure as ever.
16. Cuenca, Ecuador
If any pollution gathers around Cuenca, the refreshing winds that circulate the city won't take long to whip it away - something that may account for why it has some of the best air quality in Ecuador. In the past few years, its infrastructure has developed rapidly, and it now boasts an efficient transportation system, good healthcare facilities, and the full complement of amenities and facilities. While the air quality is already good in comparison to many of the country's other cities, it's poised to get even better thanks to numerous clean air initiatives. According to cuencahighlife.com, the city's plan to encourage residents to ditch their cars in favor of trams and buses now means the city has five times fewer cars per capita than US cities of equivalent size.
15. Armenia, Colombia
If you haven't heard of Armenia, you're not the only one. Despite forming part of Colombia's famous coffee triangle, the city is often overlooked in favor of the country's bigger cities - something that, in many ways, is a good thing. Untouched by the effects of mass tourism, Armenia is a gorgeously authentic slice of rural Colombia. Surrounded by coffee plantations, ranches, and forests, it's a winner with nature lovers. Thanks to its temperate climate, its lack of heavy industry, and its great air quality, it's a sure-fire hit with asthmatics too.
14. Loja, Ecuador
Loja is often called “the most overlooked city in Ecuador.” For asthmatics (and actually, everyone else), that's a shame. This smallish city is bursting with attractions, with a charming colonial center, gorgeously shady plazas, plentiful parks, and a friendly, diverse community. It also has some of the lowest amounts of pollution in the country, making it a great choice for newcomers with respiratory problems.
13. Salvador, Brazil
Air pollution is a serious problem for most of the world's population, and it's getting worse. Nine in ten people now breathe air contaminated with high levels of pollutants, resulting in the death of around 7 million people a year. While Brazil hasn't escaped pollution, some of its cities are doing a fine job of keeping on top of the problem. According to the World Health Organization, Salvador is now one of the cleanest cities in Latin America, with just 9 micrograms of PM 2.5 per cubic meter. If the excellent air quality wasn't enough to convince you to head there, its dynamic culture, thriving arts scene, and colorful architecture just might.
12. Cali, Colombia
Cali used to be a city blighted with drugs and violence. In the last couple of decades, it's shaken off its inglorious past to emerge as a vibrant, thriving city with a lot to offer.... not least a very refreshing sea breeze that does a great job of whipping away pollution. Despite being the third-largest city in Colombia, Cali has among the best air qualities around. Add in the good healthcare and the booming economy, and it has all the makings of a very attractive home for people with asthma.
11. Chupaca, Peru
Peru might be one of the most polluted counties in Latin America, but not every city or town in the country is struggling to breathe under a layer of smog. Case in point - Chupaca, a small town with a big (and justified) claim to having some of the lowest pollution levels and the purest air in the country.
10. Santiago, Chile
Santiago is the capital and largest city of Chile. It also happens to be one of the largest cities in the Americas, with a population of over 6 million in the city itself and over 7 million in the greater Santiago area. Typically, you wouldn't expect a city of that size to make it to a list of the best places for people with asthma to live. In fact, Santiago has a lot to recommend it, including low particle pollution, a great healthcare system, a strong economy, and low poverty, all of which are indicated in successful asthma management. If all that wasn't enough, it also happens to be one of the safest (not to mention fascinating) cities in the region.
9. Arica, Chile
Atenas is a large city of just over 222,000 inhabitants that's best known by its nickname of 'the city of eternal spring.' As the nickname suggests, it's got a huge amount of appeal. The climate is wonderful, the parks and green areas are bountiful, its air quality is among the best in the country, and its residents don't have much to worry about when it comes to pollution and fumes. If you like outdoor adventure as much as the thought of pure, fresh air, rejoice: the city is surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches and scenery in the country.
8. Antofagasta, Chile
Even in a country known as being one of the cleanest in South America, Antofagasta stands out. At the time of writing, the city's air quality on iqair.com ranks as the cleanest in the country, a remarkable achievement considering the prevalence of mining and industry in the area. Along with clean air, it also offers numerous other advantages that make it one of the best places in South America for asthmatics, including an excellent health care service and low levels of poverty - in fact, Wikipedia assigns it the highest GDP per capita of Chile and 3rd place for Human Development Index.
7. Grande Vitoria, Brazil
Grande Vitoria, Brazil isn't free of pollution, but as a city that consistently scores a 'good' on the Air Index Quality, it has fewer problems than most. Factor in a good health care system, a thriving economy, and numerous clean initiatives, and it's easy to see what makes it one of the most appealing cities in Brazil for people with asthma.
6. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Argentina doesn't tend to do well on the air quality index. According to iamat.org, the country's annual mean concentration of PM2.5 (the type of particle pollution you really don't want in your air) is 13 µg/m3, a full three points above the recommended maximum of 10 µg/m3. Despite that, its capital city still ranks as one of South America's best place to live for asthmatics, thanks at least in part to bold new initiatives that aim to encourage people to give up their reliance on cars (one of the main contributors to pollution in the city) and get on their bikes instead. After increasing the number of cycle lanes dramatically over the past year, the city is well on course to achieving its goal of 1 million daily bike rides by 2023.
5. Campinas, Brazil
Campinas is the kind of lively, vibrant university town that has it all. The nightlife is electric, the coffee shops are immense, the shopping opportunities are varied, and the restaurants are as forward-thinking and innovative as they come. Yet just a short drive away from this very 21st-century city is a plethora of historic plantations and ancient parks. Even if you've never struggled to take a breath in your life, it's an outstanding place to live. For asthmatics, it's even better, with low air pollution, high air quality, and a very well-respected healthcare system.
4. Curitiba, Brazil
In fairness, the air in Curitiba isn't exactly alpine fresh. But then again, you wouldn't necessarily expect the pollution levels of one of Brazil's latest cities to be on a par with some idyllic little Swiss village. Even so, the city still ranks as one of the best places for people with asthma to live in South America, a fact that's largely attributable to its superb urban planning. As Lonely Planet writes, back in the 1970s, its three-term mayor, Jaime Lerner, began introducing numerous initiative to transform the city landscape, including turning a six-block length of downtown into a pedestrian zone, creating express-bus avenues, planting trees and creating parks on an epic scale, and encouraging recycling and sustainable design long before such concepts had hit the mainstream. The result is a green, clean city with some of the lowest levels of air pollutants in the country.
3. Montevideo, Uruguay
If you're considering making the move to Uruguay but are concerned about what the pollution might do to your lungs, there's one place in particular worth considering - Montevideo. The capital and chief port of Uruguay may be a big, sprawling metropolis, but despite the industry and traffic, it boasts some of the cleanest air in the country.
2. Quito, Ecuador
Air pollution is a major contributor to asthma and other respiratory conditions. Fortunately, it's one thing the residents of Quito in Ecuador don't need to worry about too much. According to the World Health Organization, the city has some of the lowest levels of air pollutants in South America. Considering the size and scale of Ecuador's capital, that's really quite the achievement. As you'd expect of such a large city, there's a lot going on, with enough shops, bars, restaurants, and recreational opportunities to keep boredom at bay. If all that wasn't enough to tempt you, maybe the thought of living in the first city to ever be named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO just might.
1. Ibarra, Ecuador
According to latinamericanpost.com, Ibarra has some of the least contaminated air in South America, with low pollution, low PM 2.5 and PM 10 (the kind of particles that are best avoided if you value your respiratory health), and an absence of heavy industry all contributing to making it one of the healthiest places for asthmatics in the country. A small, colonial-era town with charming cobbled streets, lively markets, and a relaxed lifestyle, the town's 45-mile distance from Quito makes it a good option for people looking for a peaceful, clean environment that's still within easy reach of the big city lights.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn