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Once infamous for dangerous gangs and drug activity, Medellin has been transformed. It’s now a vibrant destination for travelers seeking a culturally rich vacation. Medellin rises proudly from the belly of the Aburrá Valley, and its natural beauty makes a perfect setting for hiking, zip lining and horseback riding. Travel through lush jungle to Piedra de Penol, then climb the 740 steps to the top—a journey within a journey that rewards you with unforgettable views.
Renowned for its modernist lines and futuristic design, Brasilia is a study in urban planning and the only city built in the 20th century to be counted among UNESCO's World Heritage Sites. Where only five years before its inception there was desert, now there are innovative buildings and imaginative monuments, ranging from the hyperboloid Cathedral of Brasilia to the lunar-esque Complexo Cultural da Republica to the glass-box Palacio da Alvorada.
The French-inspired Botanical Garden of Curitiba is one of the Brazilian city’s most popular attractions, its colorful flowers, ponds, paths, and art nouveau greenhouse creating a sweet-smelling fairyland. After a floral stroll, continue to explore Curituba’s lovely landscapes at Parque Estadual de Vila Velha and Parque Tanguá. Visit the Museu Oscar Niemeyer, a celebration of the architect’s bold, abstract works, then enjoy a performance at the marvelous Ópera de Arame, built to look like it’s fashioned out of wire.
The "Mother of Cities" was founded in 1537, and declared independence from Spain in 1811. The charming historic section can be explored on foot. The friendly Paraguayan capital, gateway to the grassy Gran Chaco region, has long been a center of music, poetry and the arts, but only in recent years has Asunción been able to escape its long history of dictatorship rule. Sites to visit include Panteon Nacional de los Heroes, Casa de la Independencia and Catedral de Nuestra Senora de Asuncion.
Sitting in a valley in the Andes Mountains, La Paz is the city that touches the clouds. The de facto capital of Bolivia, and sitting between 3300 and 4100 meters above sea level, La Paz is the highest capital city in the world. Rich with 19th century churches, museums of artifacts from the pre-Conquest era, precarious overlooks, and colorful markets, La Paz is truly unique. The Witches’ Market, in the center of the city, sells charms and potions for Aymara rituals, as well as souvenirs.
Vibrant Salta is a mashup of old world architecture and modern fun—a truly sophisticated bohemia! Marvel at the intricate façade of the old town hall—a Salta focal point—as you stroll from museums to markets. Savor the vintages at local wineries or take a train to a tiny village that's perched "at the top of the clouds." Thrill seekers will love the adventure sports and archaeological explorations that await at nearby Cabra Corral Dam.
Founded in the 1530s, Ecuador's largest city and main port is the top access point for Galapagos cruises and home to a bustling import-export business. Tourism is on the rise as well, thanks to a new international airport and urban renewal projects along the River Guayas promenade and in the historic neighborhood of Las Peñas. The 465-step climb to the top of Santa Ana Hill provides sweeping views and a chance to stand on the site of the city's birthplace.
The site of the 2013 World Games, Cali is the sporting epicenter of Colombia. Pristine golf courses and countless opportunities for adventure sports in local parks, mountains and deserts are a big draw. Cultural attractions in Cali reflect the area’s rich indigenous history and European influence. Visit an archaeological park to experience tombs, ruins and cave paintings, or celebrate with the locals at a cultural festival. Show off your salsa in a lively nightclub, then spend the next morning recovering with an aromatic cup of that famous Colombian coffee.
Writers and poets have long flourished in arts-oriented Cuenca, the country's third-largest city and the capital of the Azuay province. Cafes and galleries are tucked among the narrow cobblestone streets. The main plaza hosts both the old cathedral, started in 1557, the year the city was founded, and the blue-domed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, dating to 1885. Locally made Panama hats get top billing at the markets, with centrally located Casa de la Mujer a shopping standout.