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Medellin, Colombia, is earning quite the reputation these days. Specifically, it is getting recognition as one of the most cutting-edge, energy-friendly and environmentally responsible cities around. The Wall Street Journal, Citi and the Urban Land Institute named Medellin their Innovative City of the Year for 2013 for its progress, potential, culture and strides in urban development.
The city is in the center of emerald-green hills, with a central downtown and neighborhoods covering the hillsides. Throughout the city are numerous green spaces and public parks, many of which have free Wi-Fi access. An efficient subway system runs through the city, connecting to a metro cable car system and an outdoor escalator that runs up steep hills to connect once-isolated neighborhoods with the rest of the city.
One of Medellin’s most beautiful spaces, Parque Arvi, is located at the top of the cable car system and boasts 1,761 acres of lakes, trails, forests and fields. The park is filled with families enjoying picnics, horseback rides, and boating. Visitors can also venture up the many hills surrounding the city and take a running leap off of a cliff to paraglide over the modern architecture and traditional farms that still make up the city’s topography.
Known as the City of Eternal Spring, Medellin enjoys one of the most refreshing, sunny and consistent climates in the world. Visitors can hike up to the top of El Cerro Nutibara, where a small traditional plaza offers sweet vendors, shops selling traditional handicrafts and cafes where you can sip coffee and enjoy the views. There is also a museum about the history of the city here, though, when there’s a breeze, it’s hard to resist the simple pleasure of flying a colorful kite on the hilltop. The peak is also reachable by taxi for those who would rather not take the steps built into the hillside.
If that isn’t enough for one city, Medellin is also famous throughout the world for its annual summer Flower Fair and its Christmas lights display. During the Flower Fair, the streets fill with parades of paisas — the name for those who hail from Medellin — draped in fresh flowers. During December, it seems that no one loves Christmas like the paisas of Medellin. Beginning Dec. 1, nearly every house blasts Christmas tunes, paints the streets with Santa Clauses and sends up miniature hot-air balloons and fireworks. The city’s official lights display lines the river and many public spaces with enormous lit-up creations that are themed every year. And, because this is the City of Eternal Spring, you don’t even need to slip on a sweater to enjoy the holiday season. Just get a cup of the city’s traditional hot chocolate with hunks of white, salty cheese in a steaming mug, and strap on your sandals to explore the city on foot.
Christmas Lights Display and Flower Fairwww.colombia.travel
Zona de Vuelo Paraglidingwww.hosteltrail.com