From Cocaine to Cable Cars, Medellin’s 20 Year Turnaround

Once the world’s most murderous city, Medellin is fast becoming Colombia’s most innovative and urban metropolis, eager to leave behind its cartel and drug fueled past.   Twenty years ago tourists were kept at bay as Pablo Escobar and his motorcycle hit men ruled the streets, gunning down cops and innocent bystanders alike. Today you can safely walk the streets and learn about the city’s past, enjoy the ample park space, pleasant climate and great food.

Medellin, Colombia, Views from the Metrocar
Views of the ever changing Medellin, Colombia

If you’re on the gringo trail, you’ll likely find yourself at one of the many new backpacker hostels in El Poblado. With international eateries, shopping malls and its central location next to the Zona Rosa bar district, it makes a good base for exploring the city and is safe to walk around at night. Just be sure you don’t put back to many Aguila’s, Colombia’s national beer, so that you can still find your way home.

One of the fastest growing tourist attractions in Medellin is the insightful Pablo Escobar tour. There are a few different versions of the tour to choose that will take you around the city to many of the historical sites related to Escobar’s drug dealings.  Along the way you’ll see where Escobar grew up, locations of car bombings from opposing cartels, his previous building holdings, gravesite and where he was finally gunned down on the fateful December 2, 1993. The tour offers a great way to learn more about Colombia’s cartel past and the struggles that still continue today.

Death of Pablo Escobar, Rooftop where Escobar was shot
The famous rooftop where Pablo Escobar was killed

As we happened to be on the tour on the 20th anniversary of Pablo Escobar’s death, a slew of reporters were at his grave offering a look back on Pablo’s life and interviewing his still living family members in the area.

Grave site of the infamous Pablo Escobar
Grave site of the infamous Pablo Escobar

Once you’ve checked the Pablo Escobar tour off your list another urban city attraction is the Museum of Antioquia which displays over a hundred works from the famous sculptor and painter, Fernando Botero. Even if you’ve never heard of him you’ve likely seen his work. He paints and sculpts both men and women in an exaggerated voluminous form that depict both real and imagined events.

Plaza de las Esculutras, Botero, Medellin
Plaza de las Esculutras works by Fernando Botero

He is also the artist of the well-known painting of Pablo Escobar being shot down on his rooftop as seen below. Even if you don’t make it to the museum you can stroll through the Plaza de las Esculutras do see a number of his most popular works.

Botero Painting of Pablo Escobar
Botero’s famous painting of the death of Pablo Escobar

For stunning views of the city, tourists can take the newly installed Metrocable that connects the metro line up into the hills where you can enjoy the many viewing platforms and walking paths overlooking Medellin below, all included in the price of a single metro ticket.  Medellin’s metro system is safe, clean and a great example of the new technology and infrastructure that is at the forefront of the city’s makeover.

Medellin Metrocable
Enjoy the views of Medellin from the newly installed cable car system

Girl Gone Gallivanting Review:  No longer ruled by drug lords, Medellin has made a fast comeback and is a safe, friendly city with lots to offer travelers. From modern museums to parks, glitzy shopping malls and refined restaurants, Medellin has well emerged from the shadow of Pablo Escobar.

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