Travel Guide to Medellin's Comuna 13 Escalators

 

Note: I wrote a travel essay about my experience in La Comuna 13 that explores the history of the neighborhood here.

A tour group in Comuna 13. 

A tour group in Comuna 13. 

Some of the spectacular graffiti in the neighborhood.

Some of the spectacular graffiti in the neighborhood.

Some of Aaron's new soccer buddies. 

Some of Aaron's new soccer buddies. 

In 2014, walking tours started of La Comuna 13. The tours of this "once most dangerous neighborhood in the country" have grown immensely popular in the past 2 years. There are currently three companies giving tours: Comuna 13 Tours, Walking Tours Medellin, and Toucan Café. I highly recommend Toucan Café, because part of the proceeds for this company directly supports local education initiatives, and Toucan Café’s tour is led by the group of artists who are responsible for over 90% of the graffiti art you’ll see in the neighborhood. In addition, their tour is only $50,000 COP compared to Comuna 13 Tour’s price of $70,000 COP.

Unfortunately the Toucan Café tours were booked when Aaron and I were visiting, but we didn’t let that stop us from seeing the neighborhood. If you’re interested in the formal tour, make sure to book ahead. If you want to explore the neighborhood on your own, read on. 

Medellin's Metro Map 

Medellin's Metro Map 

Map showing the route from the San Javier Metro Station to the start of the Escalators in Comuna 13. 

Map showing the route from the San Javier Metro Station to the start of the Escalators in Comuna 13. 

How to get there: Take the Metro to the San Javier station. You can wait at the bus stop right outside the station until you see a bus labeled “Escalas Electricas” or walk from the metro station using the map above. 

A photo of the bus to look for; notice the sign in front says, "Escalas Electricas." 

A photo of the bus to look for; notice the sign in front says, "Escalas Electricas." 

Safety Precautions: This was formerly one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellin. There is currently a ceasefire between gangs in the area, but all it would take is one shooting for the peace to end. Because of this, it is still a very dangerous place to visit, and serious precautions should be taken. I advise the following:

  • Before visiting on your own, search ColombiaReports.com for Comuna 13 for up to date news on the current situation. 
  • Only go during the day.
  • Only bring what you absolutely need, and dress conservatively.
  • Don’t go alone. If you don’t have a travel companion, time it so that you walk up around the same time as the tour groups and try to stay within a couple blocks of the group. Check the schedules of the company’s linked above to figure out their departure times.
  • Don’t wander too far off the route to and up the escalators; this is where the security team patrols.
  •  Know basic emergency Spanish phrases & Colombia’s emergency numbers: 112 or 123.  
  • Know where you’re going; study the map ahead of time. In the case of a robbery, remember your life is worth much more than your wallet.

Visiting La Comuna 13 was my favorite afternoon in Medellin. The neighborhood is filled with a contagious and hopeful energy and some truly spectacular street art that's always changing. From the top of the escalators, you can take in a breathtaking view of the city, chat with a member of the surveillance team about the neighborhood's history, join an impromptu soccer game with the local kids, and enjoy an ice cream from one of the small shops. 

 
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Ashley Peak

Teacher & traveler seeking bright sides and adventures. I recently left my position as a Title 1 middle school teacher in Spokane, WA for a position in Manizales, Colombia teaching English and Geography at a bilingual private school. I'm passionate about education in action, the power of literature, and traveling the world. Optimism Rampage is a place for me to reflect on the adventure. “Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds. see the world. It's more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that . Shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.” -Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451