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Medellín, Colombia

As overtourism overwhelms Earth’s most popular places, Wide Open World seeks emerging, offbeat but equally compelling destinations.

Once upon a time there was a really dangerous city in a really dangerous country. Then, the city went through a remarkable transformation to become one of the world’s most exciting, emerging travel destinations. During the 1980s and 90s, Medellín was the hub of the narcotics world. It became synonymous with cocaine. The death of the infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar in 1993 and major political shifts in Colombia have brought incredible change. And Medellín is at the forefront. It’s Colombia’s second largest city but considered by many to be the most advanced metropolis, particularly in the areas of healthcare, education, banking and agriculture. You gotta love a city known for flower-growing and a massive summer flower festival. Fittingly, Medellín is nicknamed the City of Eternal Spring for its year-round temperate weather. Starting in the city center, a highlight is the permanent exhibition of 23 huge sculptures by Fernando Botero. Medellín loves art, as evidenced by the numerous outdoor displays. One of the most impressive and expressive presentations is in La Comuna 13. Once the most dangerous neighborhood in the city, it’s now considered safe to visit. Travelers from all over come to marvel at La Comuna’s colorful street art. The neighborhood also has exquisite views. Perched on the mountainside overlooking the city, a series of escalators were installed to make La Comuna 13 more accessible. Medellín spreads across the Aburrá Valley and up the sides of the Andes Mountains. The city boasts one of the world’s most forward-thinking transportation systems. Gondolas, trams and trains are part of an innovative system linking neighborhoods high and low. Factor in a vibrant restaurant scene and some fabulous parks and museums and you’ve got a top-notch destination the world is talking about.

Map   

Medellín is an inland city in northwest Colombia well-served by many airlines.

Best Time to Visit

Medellín lies near the equator and high in the Andes Mountains so it enjoys a year-round spring-like climate. Days are warm and humid while nights are cool and breezy. Seasons aren’t that much of a concern but holidays and festivals are. Crowds will obviously be larger and lodging tighter so be sure to check before you go.

Keep in Mind

Taxis are cheap and plentiful but the cars are usually small, cramped and the driving aggressive. For a more peaceful experience, try the trains, trams and gondolas that makeup the impressive transportation system. Safety precautions here are like any big city: pay attention to your surroundings, be especially careful when traveling after dark, secure money and be discreet about showing cash or cameras and leave the jewelry at home. Because of Colombia’s past, many travelers have understandable concerns. I’ve discussed the topic more in-depth in the Cartagena section.

Links

Visit Colombia is the helpful official website. Travel sites like Frommer’s and Lonely Planet are good to consult, too.

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