a quick and dirty guide to awesome tours offered in Medellin, Colombia.
*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
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.
Less than desirable breakfast
Bus ride to Guatapé
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
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.