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Introducing Medellín

Forget everything you've read about Medellín - it's probably old news by now. Yes, the city was the headquarters and principal killing grounds for Colombia's cocaine cartels. But the world press forgot to report Medellín's remarkable turnaround. Today, it's one of Latin America's safest big cities, and also one of its most pleasant.

Although Medellín may lack the sophisticated edge of Bogotá or the sumptuous languor of Cartagena, it has its own unique set of guiles to win over the traveler. Surrounded on all four sides by rugged peaks, there seem to be stunning views wherever you look. With mild temperatures year-round, Medellín deserves the nickname 'City of Eternal Spring.' A dynamic economy, driven by the huge textile industry as well as very brisk business in cut flowers, helps support a lively cultural scene. The narrow streets of downtown, safe once again, are supercharged with pedestrian life. Above all, it's the people who will win you over. Even in ultra-friendly Colombia, they are known for their graciousness and warmth.

Life isn't perfect by any means. The slopes around the city are crowded with makeshift slums, a constant reminder of the inequality that plagues not just Medellín but all of Latin America. Still, the city's residents have a special knack for enjoying themselves, and they're more than happy to have you join in. Medellín is rivaled only by Cali as the capital of Colombian nightlife. And like Cali, plastic surgery carries no stigma whatsoever. Some say all the fake boobs are a lingering reminder of the profound influence drug lords long exerted on Medellín's culture and aesthetic.

Note that there are no distinct wet or dry seasons, though there does tend to be more rain from March to May and September to November.