Medellin is famously known as the capital of Antioquia province in Colombia. Antioquia is primarily a mountainous region in Colombia. Appropriately nicknamed “The city of Eternal Spring”, Medellin has a temperate weather that lingers for a long time.
After Bogota, the capital of Colombia, Medellin is the second-biggest city. Medellin can be found in the Aburra Valley, which is a central place around the Andes Mountains. With a population of over 3.7 million inhabitants, Medellin is the second most important city in Colombia, both in terms of population and economy.
Pablo Escobar and Crime in Medellin
Medellin was previously regarded as being the most dangerous city in the world to live in. This was due to the war that had been started by drug gangs at the dawn of the 1980s. It was the origin and operational base of the Medellin cartel, a drug cartel that was being bankrolled by Pablo Escobar.
The city was devastated by war that had been between the Medellin Cartel and rival cartels like the Cartel de Cali. But, soon after Pablo Escobar was killed by US-backed troops, the city’s crime rates have reduced drastically and today Medellín is considered to be one of the safest and most modern cities to visit in Colombia. It has a metro, cable car, electric trams making it very easy and cheap to move about the city. However, like most cities, crime is still happening and according to some police that I was talking, drugs are still being produced, just that no one talks about it…
Things to do in Medellin
Visiting Guatape from Medellin
Guatape is actually known as the city with many names having been called a lot of names due to its features. Visitors can spend a day to visit this colourful and evolving city in Medellin. The best part of the trip is typically when you visit the 220 meters high Rock of Guatape, a monolithic rock. While here visitors can get to the top through climbing over 800 vertical steps that were carved into the rock.
You can also take a boat cruise to neighbouring places like La Cruz, Casa Museo, Piedra del Penol, Piedra’s del Martial as well as the ruins of the former vacation home of Pablo Escobar. Most hotels are affiliated with tour companies, so talk to reception and book yours.
Guatape is a full day and includes, transport, a boat ride and also time to climb the rock itself. Defo worth the visit, some gorgeous landscapes and some history. Pablo Escobar’s mansion, which has holes all over it due to people looking for money and had also been set on fire by the Cartel de Cali, people used to organize tours but now it is prohibited as the property is a complete mess and basically on its last legs to crumble. So, no tours are available today…
Graffiti tour of Las Comunas 13
You can get on the cable car – which is a common form of tourist transportation in Colombia to travel uphill and experience breathtaking views within the city. If travelling from the city that is. Uber is also available but illegal as they do not pay taxes like other taxis who if they find them, tend to call the police or chase them off. So, up to you there. While you are at the summit, you could stop for some snacks, drinks, beers and fast food and get on a bus, for a short ride towards the district of las Comunas 13. Personally, I took a taxi as I was staying close by. While there, visitors can begin having the fun and talking with the locals and appreciating the professional graffiti on the walls. You will learn how one of the deadliest South American cities became an icon of a renewed Medellin. At this point, visitors can catch impressive glimpses of the outstanding street art as well as ride on the outdoor escalators towards the observation area, where they can check out awesome views of Medellin.
Visiting La Hacienda Napoles
While at the La Hacienda Napoles, visitors can observe what used to be Pablo Escobar’s former farm. Now a theme park, it is suitable for both adult and kids alike. As soon as you get into Hacienda Napoles, visitors are likely to see large opportunities for entertainment and fun with family pools, the lazy river, a safari that has wild animals, replicas of dinosaur, an aviary world of birds, an African museum and so much more. This is the most expensive theme park in Colombia, it costs about $30USD, which includes hotel pickup, entrance fees and professional tour guide. Sounds kinda boring considering, Pablo Escobar used to own the place no? Plus the trip takes about 4 hours to get there and 4 to get back so… of course, for me I saw this as a Narco tour, the locals do not like people looking at Medellín like that as Escobar died over 25 years ago. However, I was like ok, what is there for when he used to live there?
The tour guide told us the same thing that happened in Guatape, that people came and destroyed the masion looking for anything worth value, so the government replaced the mansion (Also known as La Mayoria) with a children’s entertainment type thingy, and well what used to be the swimming pool where many people we either shot and fall in or simple drowned there or most likely murdered is now a garden, which resembles life. One of the places which was closed off was the landing stripe where Escobar was able to ship his coke our and money is is still there today.
Originally it was 998m long, we jumped the fence and walked the full length of it and when we got to the end a guard asked us what we were doing “as if we went looking for barrels of money” lol and we basically told him we wanted to take some pics and would walk back.
There is also a tennis court, which was used by his wife and friends, which is quite visible, the football field where Escobar placed with his mated and then Colombian football team, the helipad where he last fled from when the cops took over his mansion. There is a rememberance museum from when it all started, some history of the people involved and presidential candidates who died, what the Hacienda Napoles looked like back in the early 80s. The plane he first used to fly drugs to the US used to be on top of the main arch with the famous words “La Hacienda Napoles” was destroyed and a replica rebuilt and brought inside the park as it used to be on the main road, people stopped to take photos and not actually go into the park itself, so the government decided to take it in and “get more money” silly really, but it’s a business so!
Pablo had so many animals, that it is said $300,000USD a month was needed to feed them all and of course he was able to do it. When he left the animals either escaped, died or were stolen and died, basically this specific area’s temperate is similar to that of Africa, 35 to 39º daily, so the animals felt as if they were at home. It is also said that Escobar’s favourite animal was a hippe called Vanesa, she is still there today, you can call her by her name and she will come out of the water and you can feed her carrots, quite funny experience actually. This for me was what it was all about, not necessarily the water parks and that although you will have a dip, have lunch and get on the long bus ride back to Medellín. When the government took over the Hacienda, there were so many animals as mentioned above, they did not have the budget Pablo had to feed all the animals, so many were given to zoos. For me, historically, this was the best place to visit if you are into the “Narcos” stuff.
Pablo Escobar’s Grave
It is funny to think that a graveyard of a person who killed thousands of people or brutally murdered them would be a place to visit, but it is visited by many people who bring flowers and gifts for the “patron”. If you want to visit, which I would highly recommend, it is called Cementerio Jardines Montesacro in Itagüí. Here you can visit the grave of Pablo, which is basically a mass family grave as his mum, dado, younger brother, cousins and also the last sciario to be with him before he was killed in 1993.
Many other drug related people are also buried here too. Train and taxi can take you here. If you guy by tour, they will charge you more and also in $USD if you book online and the only difference is that you have a person to tell you about Pablo Escobar and everyone who is important in the cementary… It really depends on your budget.
La Catedral Prison.
This place must have been amazing as it was more of a 5-star hotel than a prison. Today, the main building is a ruin and is a monastery run by nuns, it is free to go inside, the helipad is still visible and the ruin itself, as it seems they are going to renovate it. Basically the government has replaced these ruins with “life” like the swimming pool in La Hacienda Napoles is now a garden, the Catedral, which Pablo used to murder others. You can see why he chose this place as it takes about 15 minutes to get up from the bottom, he had the vantage point and knew the place back to from, so it was hard for anyone to get close to him and according to Popeye, his “loyal” hitman, there was tunnels where himself and Pablo escaped through when the police and army finally had enough of his bulls**** and entered to extract him, but he was long gone and back on the run. I paid a taxi driver $20USD to take me to the “barrio” which he built and they have a small museum and drawings on the wall, you pay them a fee $USDs to have a look and then to the Catedral and a viewing point in the city called el Parque del Volador” all for $20USD, was quite nice as it took about 3 hours to do all that. Again, I used an Uber driver, which is illegal in Medellín, but this guy then offered to take me to these places for that price and I was like, cool, lets go.
Embarking on a tour of Medellin
You could explore the city of Medellin in various ways. Visitors can take a tour of about 4-hours around the city. They can choose to begin the tour from El Poblado and travel to Ciudad del Rio, which is an urban and recently upgraded location. While there, you could visit some of the most notable places in the city. You could also go to places that had not previously been visited by tourists. There, visitors can climb up the Cerro Nutibara, which is a sacred hill. From this vantage position, you are bound to catch amazing panoramic views of the whole city. While you are in this location, savouring the city’s amazing landscape, you could also get to know about the actual history and evolution of the city, while you are being served a delicious cocktail of tropical fruits.
Then, you can continue your city tour, taking in and appreciating its transformation from a drug-ridden city to a tourist attraction and go to Los Laureles, which is known for its high-grade coffee. It is a traditional neighbourhood. Next, you could visit the City Stadium that has just been renovated, then visit the City hall as well as the symbolic Plazas de las Luce’s. It is really up to you. I spent 7 days here doing as much as possible. I was staying in Los Laureles and basically did a tour each day.
Take a 5 hour food tour of Medellin
Last but not least a food tour of Medellin will see visitors being presented various snacks, juices and fruits that are a staple of the regions within Colombia. Typically, this tour is an opportunity for visitors to try out various flavours, while visiting various establishments with the help of a resident serving as a local tour guide. I did not do this in the end as I did not have any time, but it would be worth it if you like eating different types of food.