Medellin

Thirty years ago, Medellin had a rep as one of the most dangerous cities on Earth. No more. Today the one-time base for drug cartels led by the notorious Pablo Escobar has morphed into a leafy modern metropolis, with a bustling economy and abundant green spaces. Nowadays, the only thing the former drug capital is high on is its own youthful energy.

That energy can be felt everywhere: by day, in the city’s lively public parks, and at night, in a bar-and-club scene that’s second to none in Latin America. Stroll through the sun-dappled paths of the Parque Bolívar, or head out to dance salsa in the discos around Parque Lleras; you’re sure to be infected by the joyous local vibe.

Colombia’s number-two town is also the flower-producing capital of the world. Every August, in the famous Festival de Flores, the paisas (Medellin natives) put on the continent’s most spectacular floral parade, with antique cars, equestrian displays, and floats in the shape of butterflies and chiva buses. Can’t make it for the week-long blowout? The city’s lush botanical garden is home to over 600 plant species, covering 33 acres.

Flowers aren’t the only thing of beauty in Medellin. The surrounding hills offer lookouts with breathtaking views of the Aburra Valley, where the city is situated. If you’re looking for an ideal day trip, the nearby Parque Arví offers a butterfly sanctuary and cable-car access to its hilltop parkland, while art lovers back in town will delight in the chubby loveliness of statues by native son Fernando Bolero.

Medellin has undergone a renaissance. Today, the biggest danger for visitors to Colombia’s “city of eternal spring” is that they’ll never want to leave.

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