Pablo Escobar remains a highly controversial figure in Medellin nearly 25 years after his death. The popularity of the brilliant Netflix show Narcos has only heightened this controversy. By the way, do make sure you watch Narcos before you head to Medellin – it will greatly add to your experience and it is such a good show!
When it comes to what to do in Medellin a Pablo Escobar Tour Medellin is now high on the list for most travellers.
Pablo Escobar Tour Medellin – Background
One of the first things I was told during my month-long stay in Medellin was don’t mention Pablo Escobar’s name loudly in public areas. The people of Medellin have strong opinions on Pablo Escobar and are not afraid to share them. This is a big thing on the many wonderful walking tours in Medellin. Guides will be interrupted by locals taking umbrage with how they are explaining Pablo Escobar and offer heated differing views.
The majority view is that Pablo Escobar was a terrible terrorist and caused huge damage to Colombia and its people and they want him forgotten. The average Colombian is horrified by the fact that their beautiful country, is, unfortunately, most associated with a drug lord and cartels by the outside world.
There are few people in Medellin who were not personally touched by some of the destruction wreaked by the Narcos so this is understandably still a highly sensitive topic.
On the other hand, there are many who still see Pablo Escobar as a Robin Hood type figure to be worshipped – indeed there is a neighborhood in Medellin named after Pablo Escobar and the Pablo Escobar grave is still tended with fresh flowers daily.
Pablo Escobar did give a lot of money to the poor of Medellin and funded infrastructure and churches – none of which was being provided by the Government.
Many of the key events of the age of the Narcos are still shrouded in mystery – particularly events like the hostage situation in the Palace of Justice in Bogota. There is no clear factually based story of what took place during these events and where responsibility lies. As a result, there are many theories – and many passionate holders of those theories.
⇒ Bogota is a fascinating city and well worth a visit – check out my post on The Best Things to do in Bogota
All this means that the growing Pablo Escobar tour industry is highly controversial. Many see the operators of these Pablo Escobar tours Medellin operations as profiteering from the bloody reign of the Narcos and see this as reprehensible.
Many are desperate to be free of Pablo Escobar’s taint on Medellin and see Pablo Escobar Tours in Medellin as contributing to the Escobar association and not allowing Medellin to move forward. And then others disagree with the version of events covered in the Pablo Escobar tour in Medellin.
However, there is a huge demand for Pablo Escobar Tours Medellin– again mostly fueled by Narcos. And where this is unmet demand there will be entrepreneurs. Even the surviving members of the Escobar family are involved in some of the Pablo Escobar tours.
The Medellin Pablo Escobar tour options tend to take one of two forms. The most common is the half-day trip to cover some of the key areas associated with Pablo Escobar. The second is a full day trip that takes tourists out to Hacienda Napoles which is now a theme park in a bizarre turn of events!
⇒ And if you’re staying in Medellin don’t miss my post on Restaurants in Medellin: The 10 Restaurants & Cafes Not to Miss!
Pablo Escobar Tour – Half Day Options
Pablo Escobar Half-day tours are based around Medellin. They tend to include the following key sites:
Pablo Escobar Prison
When the Narcos troubles hit fever pitch in Medellin Escobar offered the Colombian government a deal. If they did not allow the US to extradite drug traders he would surrender and go to prison for an agreed period of time.
However, due to Pablo Escobar’s reputation, he insisted that if he went to a normal prison he would be killed and therefore offered to build a prison for himself – so generous!
⇒ Planning on travelling solo to Colombia? Make sure you read my post on how to have a fantastic time travelling solo.
Pablo Escobar’s prison was in the hills of the Medellin valley. It is actually a beautiful area – apparently, Pablo Escobar spent his youth exploring these areas. This offered him high security as it was a difficult area to access. He entered his own Pablo Escobar “prison” in 1991 for what was supposed to be a 5 year period.
The “prison” quickly became a luxe resort with a casino, billiard tables, and constant visitors. He even hosted a wedding here! The landing square for helicopters is still in place.
Pablo Escobar’s prison is now owned by monks and is an old people’s home. So many people have taken souvenirs from the buildings that there are now structural issues. Changes have been made but it is a very interesting place to visit if you have watched Narcos.
It is also a beautiful area. There are rumors that some Pablo Escobar money was buried around here but I think that ship has sailed!
Pablo Escobar’s house in El Poblado
It is only possible to see the outside of what was the Pablo Escobar House Medellin. Pablo Escobar had several floors of this building and it housed both his family as well as some of his more gruesome and decadent activities.
Update: I have heard that this building has now been destroyed due to the number of visitors. so it is no longer possible to do a Pablo Escobar house tour in Medellin.
Pablo Escobar Grave
Pablo Escobar’s grave is a quite large plot in a cemetery in central Medellin. Fresh flowers are placed on his grave every day. No one is sure who does this but it always happens. Your guide will talk you through the event that was Pablo Escobar’s funeral.
Where Pablo Escobar was captured and killed
The end came for Pablo Escobar in a nondescript house in a nondescript Medellin neighborhood. The story is that he was escaping and on a roof (which now houses a tour company) when he was caught and Pablo Escobar killed. Again there are many different views of Escobar’s capture – and no clear facts. You can learn about this from your tour guide.
Which Half-Day Pablo Escobar Medellin Tour should I take?
⇒ This Pablo Escobar Private Half-Day Tour covers the Monaco Building in El Poblado, the prison, the cemetery and the roof where he was caught – all for a very reasonable price considering it is private.
⇒ If you are more interested in learning about Pablo himself this Pablo Escobar Dark Days half-day tour swaps La Catedral for Escobar’s birthplace La Paz and then also covers the Monaco Building, the cemetery, and the roof.
⇒ If you are after a really great value option this Pablo Escobar half-day tour combines the key Escobar sites in Medellin with the fantastic Communa 13 – Medellin’s outdoor street art gallery.
⇒ Finally, if you’re after something different try this Half Day tour that is led by a former SWAT team cop who was actually deployed to help capture Escobar during his reign.
Medellin Pablo Escobar Tour – Full Day Trips
The full-day Pablo Escobar tour is normally based around Hacienda Napoles which is 4 hours from Medellin. This was Pablo Escobar’s massive farm which encompassed several buildings, a bullring, exotic animals etc. There is now a new safari park on this site – there are rides, a water park, and a butterfly garden.
For an exhaustive Pablo Escobar experience plus being able to see the lovely Guatape this Full Day Pablo Escobar tour offers Pablo’s birthplace La Paz, the Monaco Building, the La Catedral Prison plus a visit to Guatape and a boat trip to Pablo’s abandoned mansion in the area.
⇒ If you’re interested in Guatape – which you really should be as it is fantastic – check out my Guatape Day Trip post
Pablo Escobar Tours – the Big One
So you’re really fascinated by Pablo Escobar? Well, the 3 Day Great Pablo Tour is for you! Day One is Medellin including La Catedral and covers every Pablo Escobar site. Day Two takes you to Guatape and the mansion Pablo owned in the area. Then day three is Hacienda Napoles. And it includes a potential chance to meet Pablo Escobar’s brother!
I don’t think there is such a thing as the best Pablo Escobar Tour Medellin. It really depends on what your level of interest is in Escobar. There are many great Medellin tours but I do think a Pablo Escobar tour helps to understand the modern history of Medellin. Check out the reviews on Trip Advisor to help you make your decision.
NB: The tours are usually conducted in English.
Read more about Visiting Colombia
I have written about Colombia for several websites:
⇒ The fantastic don’t miss it Communa 13 Tour
Medellin Boutique Hotels:
I would highly recommend staying in the El Poblado area for first-time visitors as it is full of great restaurants and shops and easy to get around. It is also very tourist-friendly and just makes life a bit easier so you can enjoy Medellin.
I had a fantastic stay in the Art Hotel Medellin – read my review of Art Hotel Medellin here.
I also used the gym at the Charlee Hotel and it was lovely! It also has a great central location in Medellin and a fantastic rooftop bar and pool! The rooms are gorgeous and they also have a great restaurant on the ground floor. The Charlee is one of the best hotels Medellin has on offer.
For a quieter option in the centre of town check out The Sites Hotel Medellin
And Hotel Loyds Medellin is another good option in El Poblado.
How to Get To Medellin:
Medellin has an international airport – however, there are not a load of international flights in and out! Iberia flies direct from Madrid (see my review of Iberia Business Class) but generally, you will go via Bogota. There are however loads of domestic flights in and out of Medellin.
As Colombia is large and hilly flying internally is common and very reasonably priced. I used the national carrier Avianca several times and found them very safe, good service and quality and very reasonably priced.
The airport is about 45 minutes by car from El Poblado – the main tourist area in Medellin. It is a long and windy trip down a mostly single lane road. They are currently building a tunnel from the airport into Medellin but that is still under construction.
A private taxi will cost you about 70,000COP. It is not recommended to use one of the taxi apps to and from the airport as they have been stopped and not allowed to continue.
⇒ If you’re planning your Colombia Trip don’t miss my 2 Week Colombia Itinerary post
A shared taxi can be taken from the Taxi Colectivo Aeropuerto near San Diego Mall. It will cost you less than 20,000 COP but will not leave until it is full (4 passengers). There is an airport bus which goes from a stop on Palmas near San Diego Mall and this costs about 10,000COP.
Click here to see Car Rental Options from Medellin
Organised Group Tours of Colombia
If you are travelling solo and looking for tours of Colombia try these options:
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Who Paid for What with this Post
I paid for everything! This was completely me traveling and not working with any tourism boards or hotels etc.
However, this post does contain affiliate links. That means that if you click through on them and make a purchase I may well receive a small commission. I just wanted to make sure that you knew.
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Also published on Medium.