For decades, Medellin was shrugged off by travelers to Colombia and the rest of Latin America, despite its cultural highlights, modern infrastructure, pleasant weather and lively nightlife scene. This was all overshadowed by Medellin's most notorious resident: Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the problems associated with his wealth and power.
However, since the cocaine trafficker's death on December 2, 1993, Medellin has made so many strides in the right direction. From a reputation tarnished by record unemployment, troubling wealth disparity and urban violence, Medellin has emerged as Colombia's cultural capital, and even earned the title of the world's 2012 "Innovative City of the Year", by the Wall Street Journal and Citi.
The last 20 years have been transformative for Medellin, with homicide rates down almost 80% and previously ignored, impoverished neighborhoods finally getting some of the attention they need. Medellin's modern and efficient metro system started operating in 1995, serving as the country's first mass transportation system. Metrocable, a cable car extension of the urban train system, is an important transportation link to the city's poor hillside communities, in addition to being one of the city's tourist highlights providing impressive views of the city from above and a peek into the living conditions and way of life in these neighborhoods. Last year, Medellin was given the Sustainable Transportation Award by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy for its efforts and progress.
That is why it is time to reconsider Medellin.
Medellin has so much to offer travelers in search of culture, art, fashion, nightlife, nature, and more. Medellin-born Fernando Botero, Colombia's most famous artist, is known for his depiction of chubby figures and exaggerated perspective. Botero's sculptures are displayed in Parque Berrio and inside the renowned Antioquia Museum, which also features a collection of his most famous pieces of artwork and other Colombian art, from pre-Columbian and colonial times to the present.
For such a metropolitan city, Medellin also has its fair share of green spaces and parks, providing many natural escapes. The city's botanical garden is another highlight, with shady spaces, a small lake, and a variety of orchids and regional vegetation. At the very top of the Metrocable cable car, you can get off and explore Arvi Park, a 16,000-hectare nature preserve; the forested area has kilometers of nature trails and encompasses an archaeological site.
El Poblado neighborhood is one of the city's richest districts and has a residential feel. Parque Lleras, in El Poblado, is the heart of Medellin's flourishing nightlife and restaurant scene. Medellin is home to the bandeja paisa, Colombia's most characteristic dish - a generous platter of ground meat, rice, beans, fried plantains, arepas, a fried egg, avocado and more. The city also hosts several interesting festivals, including the Festival of Flowers, the International Poetry Festival, the International Tango Festival, the International Jazz Festival, and an annual Book Fair where national and international authors participate.
Overall, Medellin is a thriving metropolis and an exciting travel destination for people with varied interests and travel objectives. And now, it is easier than ever to get to Medellin; Jet Blue recently launched direct flights between Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Medellin. These flights last approximately 3.5 hours, making travel to Colombia a total cinch! Avianca also offers direct flights between New York and Medellin (about 5.5 hours).
We recommend staying at Hotel Park 10 or The Charlee, two of the Medellin's finest boutique properties.
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