Not too long ago, Medellín was considered one of the most dangerous cites in the world. Violence from drug cartels, gangs, and guerrilla fighters ravaged the city and left thousands of people either dead or displaced.
Comuna 13, a neighborhood that clings to the upper slopes of Medellín’s western valley wall, was once the epicenter of this violence. But like the city of Medellín as a whole, Comuna 13 has made some tremendous strides over the last few decades. The streets are now lined with beautiful and vibrant street murals that tell all sorts of stories, talented street performers show off their skills to passerby's, and vendors sell tasty snacks and handmade crafts.
It’s an emerging cultural hotspot.
The neighborhood is also home to the famous 7 billion dollar Escaleras Electricas project that have allowed residents to more easily ascend and descend the steep streets leading to and from the community. There’s some argument over whether that money was well spent, but regardless of politics, the Escaleras are a super cool addition to Comuna 13 (in my opinion). They zig zag their way down through the narrow streets and walkways and offer yet another unique experience in Medellín.
While I was in Medellín, my friend Johnston and I explored Comuna 13 together. Johnston is from California and is riding his motobike all the way down to the tip of Argentina and just so happened to be in Medellín the same time I was – small world, right? We took the metro to San Javier station then boarded a bus that took us to the top of the escalators. Once at the top, we explored the colorful streets filled with exquisite murals, watched street performers take their turns at showing the crowd their breakdancing moves, and sampled snacks from the street food vendors lined up along the sidewalk.
From there, we descended the 6 orange-capped escalators that, together, zigzag down the steepest part of the neighborhood. It was quite remarkable, actually, to have such modern conveniences right alongside some of the poorest homes in the city. Like the metro system in Medellín, though, I could tell that the residents are quite proud of these escalators. They’re clean, they’re well maintained, and they have no doubt improved the quality of life for the residents of Comuna 13. The escalators landed us at the bottom of the neighborhood and from there it was a 15 minute walk back to the metro station with a stop for a delicious churro on the way.
Once a place where most people avoided stepping foot in, Comuna 13 now a thriving community that seems proud of their little neighborhood. It’s definitely a place worth checking out.
How to get there: take the metro station to San Antonio the transfer to metro line B up to San Javier. As you exit the San Javier Station turn right then turn right again at the corner to pick up a bus that will take you to the top of Comuna 13. Alternatively you can walk to the base of the escaleras and ride them up and then back down
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Traveling is all about making your own experiences! My adventure was awesome, but here's some ideas on how to make your adventure your own
✦ Challenge the kids to a dance off
✦ Create a photostory of the street art
✦ Pack a picnic lunch (or buy some street food) and eat while enjoying the views from the top