Top 5 tours in Medellin

a quick and dirty guide to awesome tours offered in Medellin, Colombia.

 

  1. Pablo Paintball tour
  2. Guatapé tour
  3. Comuna 13 tour
  4. Pablo Escobar tour
  5. Cable cars and other tours to consider (2000 meter decent tour, botanical garden)

*You may notice that I start with number 1 instead of 5… that’s because I value your time, hate that reverse order crap. As if information is a grocery store, they put the stuff you want in the back… anyway

1. Pablo paintball tour

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On this tour, you paintball on the property owned by the infamous Pablo Escobar that was destroyed by Los Pepe’s years ago. The property now stands as a scorched and hole-ridden tourist attraction owned by a former employee of Pablo. Upon arrival, you will eat lunch. Afterwards, half will paintball the other half will explore the property (switching later on) and learn not only about Escobar and the property but how it was like to grow up in Medellin during the peak of cartel violence. Mentioning things such as how people would drive with their interior cabin lights on at night to prevent being confused with someone who was to be assassinated. Paintball takes place at the stables where you will find a very nice “call of the duty” apocalyptic environment.

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Included 

Less than desirable breakfast

Bus ride to Guatapé

Good Lunch

Tour of the property and history of Pablo as well as how it affected those living in Medellin during the time.

Boat trip down Guatapé

Paintball (4 rounds altogether if you run out of paintballs, you can purchase more)

Visit Peñol rock (REALLY COOL)

Coffee in the town of Peñol

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Town of Peñol gathered around street performers

2. Guatape tour (and Peñol Rock)

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Guatapé is an unforgettable experience. The thing that stood out the most to me was how vivid and saturated the colors seemed to be. The green plant life in contrast with the bright orange dirt that touched the glassy blue water was stimulating to the eye. Jet skiers can be found exploring the seemingly endless coves. It’s no surprise Pablo bought himself along with every member of his family property here within view from his own. I went here 3 times. Similar to (#1) Pablo Escobar paintball tour you will receive lunch, a boat trip through Guatapé, coffee in Peñol, visit Peñol rock. The boat trip and time spent at Peñol Rock is longer. Perfect for those who don’t care to paintball and want to spend more time exploring Guatapé. If you want to kick up the excitement a notch you ride a motorcycle from Medellin to Guatape. Look at the bottom of this page.

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Peñol Rock is located in Peñol which is in the larger area of Guatape.

3. Comuna 13 tour 

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Comuna 13 was once a very dangerous place but now it is safe and you can even go there without a guide if you prefer (brief history here).

Brief History

The 1980s-’90s: The neighborhood was controlled by groups loyal to Pablo Escobar, the notorious drug lord who lived in Medellín. Illegal activities remained rampant after his death in 1993, as drug cartels sought control of the area.

2002: One of the most pivotal events was on Oct. 16, 2002, when the Colombian military carried out the controversial Operation Orión, a strike to overthrow all rebel groups in Comuna 13. Over 1,000 policemen, soldiers, and aircrew in helicopters attacked the area (comprising of roughly 100,000 inhabitants). Nine people were killed (three children), and hundreds were wounded. The siege made it impossible to seek medical attention for the wounded, and the community took to the streets in solidarity flying white rags. With that action, the fighting stopped.

Post-2002: Residents voiced their discontent and anger with the violence that occurred in 2002 through art and community events. Striking street art around the neighborhood depicts scenes with the white rags raised for peace and solidarity.

Today: Residents are no longer afraid to leave their homes and their quality of life has changed positively. As we walked through the narrow roadways, kids were playing soccer in the streets, vendors were selling fruit and empanadas, and we laughed with friendly shopkeepers who let us sample their signature green mango ice cream topped with lime and salt. We felt comfortable visiting the area. However, a full transformation of this neighborhood will be slow and gradual, spanning decades. The situation is still tenuous and there’s still work to be done.

source of history can be found here

Now it serves as an artistic tapestry that stretches across a portion of the province. The graffiti art on the walls was done by people from the community, some of which you can follow on Instagram such as @chupa_13. The wall is constantly changing.

Outside escalators were installed recently to allow you to enjoy the area with ease.

Below is a video shot with my drone with some local and a friend from travelundertheradar.com

4. Pablo Escobar tour

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Of course, you knew I would mention the Netflix original narcos. Did you know that the guy who plays Pablo is actually Brazilian? Thus he speaks Portuguese and not Spanish? He doesn’t roll his r’s and this explains why he is a man of few words in the show. Colombians hate this, haha. Anyway, I really enjoyed hearing and seeing the real story. During the tour, you will visit the prison Escobar built for himself (pictured above) Afterwards you will go to a soccer field Pablo bought for the people of Medellin during his “Robin Hood era”. You will visit a fortified clubhouse Pablo had built right across the street from a club that rejected his membership (coincidence?…no). Attempted bombing was made on his fortified clubhouse, thanks to the reinforcement you could never tell. You will even see where Pablo, Gustavo, Límon, and The Black Widow (featured in cocaine cowboys) are buried. I will say that the highlight of this tour was the prison but, personally, I really enjoyed what I learned during the paintball tour more from the guy who was a kid in Medellin during the time mentioned much more factual history about Pablo.

Sidebar: Just want to mention here that the Colombian people never praised Pablo during my time there. To me, it seems they look at him as a scar on their reputation as well as murderer causing much grief and terror. All Pablo Escobar represents now is a marketing effort for tourist.

I felt like the Pablo paintball tour guides did a better job of encompassing Pablo’s life and how it affected the life’s of those in Medellin.

5. Cable cars tour

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photo credit pinterest

I did not take this tour personally, however, I heard good things from many who went. Aerial cars that ascend above and over the city for an amazing view of the vast city for a couple of bucks. You can pay additional to take the cable cars up to a park in the forest. I heard that the park isn’t much but the view over the canopy of tree for roughly 20 minutes makes it all worth it.

Worth mentioning…

Rent a motorcycle and do a day trip to Guatapé!!

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The big highlight of my trip to Colombia was taking a motorcycle to Peñol Rock. There is a guy named Jon who rents the coolest bikes in Medellin. You can find him debating which cryptocurrency to get onboard next at Rango hostel boutique. For around $40-50 dollars a day (depending on bike) you can have your pick between a 150, 250 or 400cc. They are enduro so they come with nice knobby tires. The trip from Medellin to Peñol Rock (as well as the city will take roughly 2 hours. I suggest you rent a smartphone cradle from Jon before you go so you will not need to stop along the way. Hostels can be found in Peñol at very affordable, however, they are often booked so make a reservation when you can.

 

2,000-meter Descent tour

Another tour for you thrills seekers is called the 2,000-meter decent tour. Where they take you all the way up a mountain and provide a nice “Trek” brand mountain bike you can use to descend.

Learn more about the tours listed above at Top10MedellinTours

They are very prompt and professional with inquiries.

The time I lost my phone in Palomino, Colombia and got it back with Find my iPhone

This story starts in Costeña beach about a 40-minute bus ride from Palomino.

Long story, short. I ate some bad chicken quesadilla and reserved a hammock. Hammocks rarely work out for me but I really wanted to sleep outside near the beach and fall asleep to the waves. I never ended up sleeping that night, thanks to food poisoning. As much as I wanted to stay I figured I should get to the pharmacy. So I started my long miserable trek back to palomino. Costeno is about a 30-minute walk from the road so I made the voyage, waited 15 minutes for a bus and headed towards palomino. After arriving I promptly went to the drug store to pick up some antibiotics and found a nearby moto-taxi to take me down the road to my hostel so I could relax and after being up all night, horribly sick and all this immediately after hiking Tayrona National Park so I was pretty sore from top to bottom. After taking a seat and feeling a flush of relief I reached to grab my phone. Not in my left, not in my right, not in my fanny pack. A rush of anxiety shoots across me. I don’t put in my phone in any other place! I had just lost my 256gb unlocked iPhone 7 Plus In Colombia.

I immediately begin to retrace my steps and remember using it at the drug store for translation. “I must have left it at the drug store,” I thought. I rush out of my hostel racing towards the nearest moto Taxi I see.

He takes me to the drug store. The man I spoke to earlier is dealing with another customer and I am doing my best to be as patient as possible. I burst and ask the man if he has seen my phone, he said he has not seen it. It was this moment I was pretty certain it was gone forever. However, there was still one more place to look and that was on the dirt road I paid the moto-taxi to take me down to get to my hostel. I walked the dirt road eyes on the ground. Got all the way to my hostel without a trace.

I had to resort to Find my iPhone if I was going to have any luck. So I grabbed my iPad which was having problems connecting to WiFi, so I grab my laptop. Same issue no wifi…  Hostel networks aren’t the most consistent. I go two hostels down where my friends are staying at. I jump onto iCloud.com on my laptop and begin to track the location of my phone. I locked and sent a message to my phone in English and Spanish informing the possessor of my location at Tiki Hut hostel, including their phone number and the promise of a reward upon return. Thankfully my phone was still on and I was locating my device on the map which was vague however I could see movement, up and down the length of the dirt road. 5 minutes or so went by with no response or arrival: I grew tired of waiting and decided as a final last-ditch shot in the dark effort I would play the sound and waltz down the road in hopes of hearing it. So I did just that, played the sound walked outside the hostel, didn’t get but 20 ft before I heard a muffled “ping, ping, ping”. I hear it once “Ping Ping Ping” more as I close in on a group of moto taxi’s under a shady tree. They look at me guiltily and awkwardly as I’m now directly not front of them when I hear “PING PING PING”. I reach out my hand curling my fingers in the “hand it over” gesture. He reaches into his bag and pulls it out and promptly hands it over. His friend said something in Spanish I could only assume translated into “where is the reward?”. I handed over decent cash but didn’t pay out like I would have had I not needed to hunt down my phone. Make sure to download and turn on “Find my iPhone”. It may be the only tool you have to get it back.

For a list of other great apps to have when traveling check out my TOP 20 apps for backpackers

How to Pack/BackPack/Travel with Mavic Pro in Colombia.

I wanted to share my experience during my 2 months traveling with my Mavic Pro in Colombia.

Before I left I was struggling with how to pack my Mavic Pro. I was looking at my beautiful DSLR camera backpack that came with my used Mavic Pro, debating whether to take it or not. The bag was capable, the problem was… it looked like an expensive bag meant to carry a lot of expensive tech equipment… not the attention I wanted in South America. After months in the country, I can say with confidence that I have a very discreet and effective way to travel with your precious drone.

For long backpacking treks you always want flexibility.

Another thing that held me up is whether I wanted one bag for my Computer and Mavic Pro separate. I decided to keep em’ separated so I can have the flexibility of lighter loads for day treks (instances where I just want to shoot and be light for a long trek, without bringing all the gear or big backpack designed only for tech devices.)

My requirements for my bag of choice was clear, I needed the bag with the smallest footprint. Luckily for most you reading this, you already have it. The DJI fly more combo bag is as compact as you’ll find. I can fit all 4 of my batteries in the bag along with RC, replacement propellers, cleaning cloth, iPhone, Nd filters, 4+ microSD cards, microSD to SD Adaptor, and battery-to-USB Adaptor!

To fit 4 batteries in this bag. You can put one in each side pouch, the pouches are deep and the elastic fits over the batteries snuggly  (I know what you are thinking -Rain/Dirt-hang in there).

You have the third battery in the Mavic and then after you put the controller (with the guard, more on this in a moment) you have just enough room to lay one more down, flat, on top of the controller.

So we now have everything we need in the nice and tight fly more combo bag. However, that black leather bag is likely to get some looks. It looks like a DSLR camera bag and Camera’s are easy to resale.

The BEST TIP, I can give you when you travel to Colombia is to use one of the very popular handmade Colombian bags to act as a cover for your fly more combo.

 

While you are traveling around Colombia you will see a variety of bags with a similar round shape with an open drawstring top with long straps. You will most likely see many people walking around with them.

FUN FACT: The design of the handmade bags are unique to the city you are in. They are not mass produced so take a moment to acknowledge the differences. Despite their different designs, they are found everywhere in Colombia roughly the same 2-3 sets of dimensions, The ones I’m referring to is the most popular size.

These bags are the perfect size for the fly more combo bag to slip into. With enough room on the top of the charger and hub as well enough room to slip PolarPro ND filters Case between.

I have a foldable rainproof jacked that o rest on top of everything.I tighten the drawstring so that the flooded up jacket pouch is the only thing visible.

 

How to travel when concerned about rain

 

 

A nice touch to this set up is that I can completely be covered in rainy environments. If it begins to rain. I remove the foldable rainproof jacket on top, unfold, and put on. The jacket is long enough (and wide enough) that it covers the top of the bag, preventing water from getting inside. The bottom of the bag may peak out a bit but the bulge it creates irrigates water away from it on your jacket so it hasn’t been an issue despite some exposure.

How I travel on the plane:

Fly more combo bag is personal item,

My backpack (laptop, hard drives etc) is carry-on.

I have a fanny pack that I slip into my backpack during security.

Check the non-electronics.

How I travel on the bus

Similar to plane the Mavic Pro bag and my backpack containing my laptop, iPad, external drive, adaptors, cables, chargers… never leaves my sight. I have a large Fannypack that contains things I need handy (GoPro, passport, batteries, sunblock, etc) These three bags are always with me. I put the Mavic Pro bag and computer close to my feet always as I have nightmares of people throwing their bags on top of mine or a scenario where it shifts in an overhead cabin and comes crashing down when someone opens it. My large trekking bag goes underneath the bus.

Accessories I couldn’t trek without.

Multi-Hub

The most important thing to bring if you ask me is a multi-battery charge hub. I have a metallic blue one that charges batteries simultaneously. Unfortunately, the size of it was not meant for travel and I figured that I could compromise speed for size. So I opted to get a 4-battery hub that simply attaches to your single battery charger. This way you aren’t waiting around for a battery to finish charging to put the next one on.

 

Mavic RC joystick and screen protector

Worth its weight in gold if you ask me. This is a must if you plan on using fly more combo bag.

4th Battery

Buy an extra battery. 4 is the magic number, 3 is good, 4 is better. You can fit all 4 and charge all 4 believe me you will need all 4 when you start to travel.

ND filters

Bring your top three, I recommend PolarPro.

SD cards

Bring 3-4,16gb, preferably 32gb cards. Why not bigger? No need, until we get a battery that keeps our drone in the air for longer than 25 minutes we will have our hands on the drone to swap batteries often, not much more work to swap cards. This method also protects your data. As you will be distributing footage among many cards so if your drone gets lost you can at least have some footage to recover and it also incentivized you to perform attentive media management, meaning moving your data to external hard drives and “locking in the vault” so to speak. Number your SD cards so you know which ones have the footage you took and need off-loading. Remember, The data is only safe once it reaches your external and even then some would argue that is not enough. Also, bring MicroSD to SD card Adaptor. It’s feather light and may come in handy.

External Hard Drive (1 TB or higher especially for 4k footage)

You can’t rely on the cloud to back up your footage in South America. Few places have the upload bandwidth needed. Get yourself a nice terabyte hard drive (or larger). Better yet if you can swing the extra cash… If you asked me which you should get… I would suggest one with Wifi capability, and a slot so you can plug your MicroSD directly into the external drive and port over your files this way. Disclaimer: In my experience with an older model (older wifi WD Passport), it was inconsistent and slow but this would be the ideal drive to have. Especially if you do not intend on traveling with your computer.

 

 

Cocora Valley Drone Footage

Near the small mountain town of Salento within the coffee belt in central Colombia lies a valley called Cocora, famous for the enormously gigantic wax palm trees growing there. This type of palm tree can grow up to a height of 60 meters (200 ft) and is recognized as the national tree of Colombia.

 

see more TINY PLANETS

Peñol Rock in Peñol, Colombia

On the northern face of the stone, there are painted large white letters “G” and an incomplete “U” (only the single vertical stroke was completed). The towns of Guatapé and El Peñol had long disputed ownership of the rock, and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters. It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work, and a large mob was assembled to stop it. Only the “G” and part of the “U” were completed.

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Peñol Rock, Colombia Drone Footage

On the northern face of the stone, there are painted large white letters “G” and an incomplete “U” (only the single vertical stroke was completed). The towns of Guatapé and El Peñol had long disputed ownership of the rock, and the residents of Guatapé decided to settle the matter by painting the town’s name on the rock in huge white letters. It did not take long for the residents of El Peñol to notice the work, and a large mob was assembled to stop it. Only the “G” and part of the “U” were completed.

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Tayrona National Park, Colombia

 

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This time the park will close on January 28 and remain closed for one month until the end of February. Tayrona will reopen on March 1. As before, not even employees of the park will be allowed access to Tayrona during the month in question; only members of these Indigenous groups, of whom several families live permanently within the park

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Tayrona National Park

 

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This time the park will close on January 28 and remain closed for one month until the end of February. Tayrona will reopen on March 1. As before, not even employees of the park will be allowed access to Tayrona during the month in question; only members of these Indigenous groups, of whom several families live permanently within the park

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