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