Medellin Botero Square

Have faith downtrodden destinations. You could end up going from “heck no” to “hell yeah” in a couple decades, just like Medellin, Colombia. Tourism there was up 38% year-over-year in 2015.

I just finished watching Season 1 of Narcos on Netflix and it’s mind-boggling how far the country and Escobar’s cartel base of Medellin have come since the mid-1980s. Back then there were some 70 tons of coke a month being exported. So much money was coming back the other direction that the leader reportedly spent more than $1,000 a month just on rubber bands to wrap the $100 bills. In the early 90s they took him out and over the years there’s been a rebuilding process.

Colombia still has its problems, of course, and it’s not going to turn into an idyllic Switzerland anytime soon. With peace holding up overall though and the weakened peso making it a bargain to travel there, this is a good time to go.

You’ve probably been hearing about Medellin in the travel press or in the news. The fears of a Trump presidency have heightened interest in moving abroad among Americans and this city with a pleasant climate is often one of the top ones on the list for expats. Tourism keeps rising, with flights and new hotels to match the demand. According to the country’s promotion board, “in 2013 The Wall Street Journal and Citigroup recognized Medellin as the world’s most innovative city. The Rockefeller Foundation named it one of the 33 most Resilient Cities, and it received two years in a row ‘South America’s Leading Meetings & Conference Destination Award’ by the World Travel Awards.” National Geographic included it in its Top 20 Must-See Destinations and The New York Times listed Medellin in its “52 Places to go in 2015.”

This is a cosmopolitan city with a reputation for great nightlife and festivals—including the annual flower festival the first week of August.

traveling in Colombia

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Not many of the 11,000 hotel rooms available are luxury offerings, but there are rumors of a Trump Tower coming to town via a deal with a local football club owner. We were not able to confirm that on the Orange One’s websites. In the meantime, we recommend The Charlee.

The change in fortunes for Medellin doesn’t mean you should totally let your guard down when visiting, however. We’re usually the first to say that safety fears are overblown in the news, but three foreigners were murdered in a two-week period this past June. There are still active drug gangs in this city of 2.5 million, so if you’re visiting or thinking of moving there, take the normal precautions you would in any major urban center.

See more on luxury Colombia travel here. Photos courtesy of Colombia’s Ministry of Tourism.