Photograph by Javier Larrea, AGE Fotostock / Getty Images

 

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Pueblito Paisa is situated on a hill in the center of Medellín, Colombia.

Photograph by Javier Larrea, AGE Fotostock / Getty Images

 

Discover the Best of Medellín

Plan your South American getaway with these top 10 tips.

Bear witness to the metamorphosis of Medellín into a modern and progressive metropolis as it emerges from the shadow of its dark past.

Wildlife

Medellín's white-footed tamarins are the only city slicking simians in Colombia. They can be observed on the Universidad de Antioquia campus and near the Parque Robledo. Because the primates face the daily risk of electrocution on power lines or being run over when crossing busy streets, the Ministry of Environment recently installed a 65-foot-long suspension bridge in the Robledo neighborhood to provide safe passage for wildlife moving between habitats across Carrera 86.

Archaeological Site

Some of the hiking trails weaving through the 4,500-acre Parque Arví, located high above Medellín in the village of Santa Elena, have been used for more than 1,500 years. A restored section of the stone path known as the Camino de la Cuesta connects with pre-Columbian routes extending from Mexico to Chile, making them the Pan-American Highway of the ancient world.

Cultural Site

The Casa de la Memoria (House of Memory Museum) pays tribute to the victims of drug violence and armed conflict in Colombia's recent past through an interactive timeline of events told by those who lived through them, including the perpetrators. The visceral result leaves an indelible mark on the psyche of those who visit.

Best Day Trip

Easily one of the most colorful places in all of Colombia, the walkable pueblo of Guatapé, located two hours from Medellín, features rainbow-hued houses decorated with unique bas-reliefs, or zócalos, which depict the business or interests of the families who once lived there. Eat artisanal chocolate in the Plazoleta de Zócalos, take a boat ride on the reservoir, or tackle the 740 steps to the top of El Peñón de Guatapé, the monolithic rock rising from the nearby countryside.

Off the Beaten Path

Envisioned as a barrier to urban sprawl while creating areas for recreation and agriculture, the Metropolitan Greenbelt will eventually extend for 46 miles along a ridgeline east of Medellín. See some of the social initiatives while hiking a section of the seven-mile path known as El Camino de la Vida, which winds its way to the top of Cerro Pan de Azúcar for some of the best views of the city.

Most Iconic Place

Medellín's native son Fernando Botero, internationally renowned for his paintings and sculptures of rotund figures, donated 23 larger-than-life bronze works of art that are on display in the Plaza Botero in La Candelaria. While there, don't miss the Botero collection inside the Museo de Antioquia, which also includes works of pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern art.

Late Night

Cali may be the salsa capital of Colombia, but Medellín has its share of high-energy salsa clubs that are perfect for dancing the night away with friendly strangers who are happy to take novices for a spin on the dance floor. Some of the more popular places among foreigners include El Tíbiri and Son Havana in the Laureles neighborhood.

Historic Site

After a bomb detonated in the Plaza San Antonio in 1995, killing 23 and damaging a bird sculpture by Fernando Botero, the park went from a place for recreation to a space for reflection. Botero donated a second bird to stand next to the original and the pair, known as the "pájaros de paz," have become a symbol for Medellín's peace process.

Neighborhood to Explore

Europeans first settled the Aburrá Valley in 1616 in what is now El Poblado. The upscale neighborhood continues to be the go-to destination for travelers who want to experience the vibrant nightlife of the Zona Rosa, shop along the Golden Mile, admire public art, or kick back and relax in a café.

People-Watching Spot

The free Botanical Garden of Medellín highlights the region's biodiversity within a 35-acre urban green space in the heart of the city, where friends and family gather to relax. The shady Orquideorama, a 50-foot-high canopy of wood and steel designed to look like a forest, provides shelter for people, not to mention orchids and other delicate plants.