Once upon a time, people stood away from Colombia due to the dangers associated with high drug trafficking. Today, it’s almost the complete opposite. Tourists are finding themselves flocking to the infamous country because of its history, and it’s all thanks to the Netflix series Narcos.
Die-hard fans are hard-pressed not to visit the sites traversed by the notorious Pablo Escobar. Visitors are enticed to explore the streets of Medellín, the city that birthed one of the largest drug trafficking empires in the world. If you’re planning a sabbatical so you can follow the Narcos story throughout Latin America, this post is for you.
In most of the country, Pablo Escobar is regarded as a terrorist who destroyed Colombia and left dead anyone who opposed him. That opinion is split in his home city of Medellín; there’s one particular neighborhood where he’s revered as a saint. Escobar invested an abundance of blood money into the development of Barrio Pablo Escobar.
The residents in the neighborhood still honor him with saving them from living out a poverty-stricken existence and some even maintain alters in their homes and light candles in his name. This is one neighborhood where being a Narcos fan won’t cause animosity.
After 16 months on the run from the police, Escobar was found in a hideout near Estadio Girardot - the city’s soccer stadium. A traced phone call led hundreds of soldiers and police to engage in a shootout with Escobar and his bodyguard. The police force claimed success in shooting down Escobar when he tried to escape over a rooftop. However, there are conflicting stories. Some say Escobar was actually shot and killed by the rival Cali gang, while his friends and family maintain it was a suicide. Gunshot wounds were found in his leg and torso, but the shot that ended it all was through the ear. Escobar’s brother insists that Escobar planned to kill himself with a shot to the ear if he were ever cornered.
Headed by Pablo Escobar’s brother, owned and operated by his brother Roberto Escobar. This stop is a touchy tourism spot that’s accused of glorifying a man of violence. The family aims to share their own story about Pablo Escobar’s rise and fall, and all the ways he’s contributed to Colombia.
Visitors get an up-close look at some of the items owned by Escobar including motorcycles, classic cars, and other artifacts used for transporting drugs. A small souvenir shop can also be found in the museum and entrance fees are $30.
When the hunt for your assassination has led to close friends and associates being murdered by rivals and gun wars with the police, what do you do? Well, if you’re Pablo Escobar, you secretly negotiate with the Colombian government on designing a luxury jail that you’re comfortable enough to turn yourself into. The prison was called La Catedral, but not because of any religious associations. Instead, it was named for its grandeur and was unofficially deemed “Club Medellín .”
His room boasted a circular rotating bed and jacuzzi, and the property featured a soccer field, a club, and a bar where he threw lavish parties filled with booze and drugs. He was even granted access to a cell phone and fax machine to allow him to continue doing “business.” The party came to an end when he had 4 of the lieutenants tortured and murdered. When the government decided to move him to the national prison system, he escaped.
Netflix received special permissions to film inside of the presidential palace during the first and second seasons. Specifically, scenes that featured meetings between the Government and DEA with plans to capture the head of the Medellín Cartel.
The palace is also featured when President César Gaviria declares a state of emergency after destruction ensues as a result of narcoterrorism headed by Escobar. Guided tours of the inside of the premises can be booked by completing the requested registration form and confirmation of a booked tour will be provided within 5 days of the request.
Just a short walk from Casa de Nariño, you’ll come to Bogotá’s main square. Several scenes from the series were shot in this area so the structure and architecture should look familiar. Here, you’ll also find the Palacio de Justicia. The Palacio de Justicia is the government building that was raided by the M-19. It’s theorized that the raid was financed by Escobar’s cartel in order to destroy evidence against him, and was featured in one of the Narcos’ episodes. The siege was one of the deadliest attacks in Colombia.
Here, you’ll find the grave of Sir Pablo Escobar. It is a touchy subject for a lot of the locals who have seen it become a top tourist attraction. For many, Pablo Escobar represents a time of violence and death, and many are victims of his attacks.
The people are eager to put this history behind them and move forward in a more positive light. Therefore, if you choose to visit this grave site, be respectful. Go to learn the history, but try not to honor the man who has contributed so much pain to his people and country.
The famous estate, built and owned by Pablo Escobar originally maintained a Spanish colonial house, a sculpture park, and a zoo that housed exotic animals from around the world. After Escobar’s death, the family attempted to claim the property but lost it to the Colombian government.
The zoo was too expensive to maintain and most of the animals were transported to local and international zoos. Today, it’s a waterpark but you can still find a wildlife sanctuary. Some of the original sculptures are still standing including the replica of the Piper PA-18 Super Cub airplane at the entrance which transported Escobar’s first shipment of cocaine to the United States.
The Hotel Tequendama is known for hosting Escobar’s family under the protection of the Colombian government while the country waited for him to turn himself in. In the series, it shows Escobar in frequent phone communication with his family while they stayed in the hotel.
Sources note that this was in fact, untrue, as Escobar was aware of the efforts the government went through to tap his phone. The hotel is still open and accepting reservations. As you might guess, it’s a high demand hot spot for all those Narcos fans.
To escape the brutal demands of being the kingpin of an empire, Escobar constructed a lavish estate called La Manuela, named after his daughter. La Manuela was nothing short of luxurious. It included a mansion surrounded by a pool, a tennis court, a soccer field (where he landed his helicopters for shipments), a guest house, and trees imported from around the world. Double layered walls hid mounds of cash and cocaine. In 1993, it was bombed by a vigilante group whose name translates to “People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar.” The best way to visit the ruins that are left is by water. Guided tours leave from the Lake View Hostel.