kristen reNae


Comuna 13

During our month long adventure in Colombia, we had an extra day off due to a North American holiday, so we decided to take advantage of it and book a tour. The Comuna 13 Tour was recommended by our housemates and had great reviews on TripAdvisor.


We were asked to meet our tour guide and group at the metro station. From there we took the Metro to the cable cars and then by bus up to Comuna 13. This area is one of the poorest sections of the city. When Pablo Escobar was in power, many fled to the hillside, which was former boss, Don Berna’s neighborhood. It was extremely divided with crime and gang war, which continued even after he was extradited to the US in 2008.


Our guide, Roger, was extremely detailed in explaining the history and transition the city has gone under. When we finally arrived at the top of the hill, he treated us to a mango popsicle (diced mango frozen and lime juice poured on top).

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In most North American cities, the people that have the best views on the hillside are the rich, however, it’s the opposite here. The mayor and the city of Medellín have placed new opportunities for the people of Comuna 13 and are slowly building up the neighborhood.  When they decided to revamp this area, the residents could choose whatever color they wanted to paint their house. For the houses that were no longer stable or livable, they began creating massive apartment complexes for them to move into and after 15 years, they would own that apartment.


The escalators were also created for the Comuna 13 people. Before, the hillsides were divided my imaginary lines formed by the gangs, and if you crossed it back then, you would disappear or be killed. The escalator served to replace that line to provide unity between the sides and decrease commute time. The people had requested this because it would normally take over half an hour to get to the top. Essentially it assisted with workflow and transportation. After they were installed, it decreased commute time down to five minutes.


At the top, there was much more graffiti, and views of Medellín below.


The mayor and city of Medellín created schools, gyms, and libraries to assist the Comuna 13 people. A lot of the amenities are free to them, including childcare, schools, transportation, and job assistance. The majority of this community has low to no income, therefore they are not subject to pay taxes; here, the wealthy pick up the majority of taxes.


On our walk back we stopped at a local street vendor, recommended by our guide, to try an oblea. Oblea is a Colombian dessert; it is a very thin, but large waffle sandwich with a mix of sauces and cheese on the inside. Very different, but delicious. And then Roger took us to a local restaurant for a traditional Colombian meal.

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After that, we took the metro back into the city to the Poblado area and walked around until we found a restaurant and bar for social hour. A couple cocktails completed our very full and exciting day of adventures.


Guatapé y La Piedra

Following a day in Santa Fe de Antioquia, we decided to take another 1.5 hour bus ride from Medellín to adventure the town of Guatapé. However, right before Guatapé, you can hop off the bus at La Piedra, where you will see El Peñón de Guatapé (aka the “seven wonders” rock).

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El Peñón de Guatapé is a huge rock formed millions of years ago, and then someone thought it would be a good idea to create 750 steps to go up to the top. Don’t get me wrong, the view is magnificent – but that is a workout!

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Once at the top, there is a lookout area to view the lake and catch your breath. There are also a few concession places that offer cut up fruit and cervezas. Of course with it being a tourist trap, there are several small stores that offer overpriced trinkets. By climbing a few extra stairs, you have a 360 degree view to take pictures, however, it was bombarded with a ton of people, selfie sticks, and weird bugs that swarmed the area.

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From there, we found a motochiva to take us from the rock all the way into Guatapé. We were dropped off in the main square and we began to explore the cobblestone roads. There was a lot more going on in their main square area than in Santa Fe.

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We walked around to find a bite to eat and landed at a restaurant overlooking one of their main strips of cafes and boutiques. They had one menu nailed to the wall, and we all decided on the plate of the day. It was a delicious start to the trip. After finishing our meal, we began walking the streets to capture the colorful community.

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The vibrant neighborhood lead us to the waterfront, where vendors were lined up along the sidewalk to make sales on tourist items (mainly hats, ponchos, food, etc.) Across the street were various restaurants overlooking the water. We took it easy for a while and enjoyed a cerveza and people watched as locals and tourists napped on the grass, boarded boats for a tour, and took a flight on the zip line.

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We were advised to purchase our tickets in advance for the ride home because they often sell out. So we thought the 6 pm bus would suffice. However, around 3 pm we were about done being tourists.  We attempted to exchange our tickets for an earlier time, but had no luck because they had sold out. So we lollygagged around town a bit more – taking pictures and running into dead ends. Then it was finally time to head back.


Overall, Guatapé had a lot to offer and was a fun adventure to add to our time in Colombia.

Santa Fe de Antioquia

Our first adventure outside of the metro area was to Santa Fe de Antioquia. We woke up early on a Saturday to take a bus ride about 1.5 hours Northwest of Medellín to get there.

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This beautiful town was once the capital of Antioquia. When entering this small town, you are dropped off by the bus just on the outskirts of the main square. The stone streets lead you into the middle of the square where there is the market, surrounded by a church, Catedral Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion, and other small store fronts.


Our first stop was to grab a late breakfast, an arepe con pollo (it tasted like a chicken pot pie with less flavor) and then we began walking the streets.

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The town streets are lined with beautiful white-washed brick walls showcasing the occasional paintings or statues, which provide stories of the past.

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The main square (and the city overall) was pretty quiet and we were told that the market was a must to visit. However, when we began making our rounds, it was much smaller than imagined; and each stand began to look the same. Most of them sold Tamarind (you have to try the sweet candy made from this) and then a few other stands had miscellaneous hats, ponchos and knick-knacks.

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After we walked around a bit, we found a group of motochiva’s (aka tuk tuk’s – my first time!) that took us from the city to Puente de Occidente (Bridge of the West, a National Monument). It was about a 15 minute ride and I would highly recommend paying a few pesos for this. It would be a long, uphill walk otherwise. Plus, our driver recommended the best places to take pictures from on the opposite side of the bridge and then advised us to walk the bridge to the other side and he would take us back into town.

The bridge is mostly wood and sits above the Cauca River. Honestly, after a few pictures, there isn’t much else to do, so you would only need about 30 minutes before heading back to the main square.

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After we returned from “the bridge”, we decided to visit the Museo Juan Del Corral. The Museum is free and full of history, but it is also all in Spanish.

And don’t be fooled, traveling from Medellín to Santa Fe, the weather here was scorching hot! So be prepared with sunscreen, cooler clothes, and a hat!

Overall the city can be seen in under four hours. We spent our time taking photos, having a few beers and people watching. We then caught the bus ride back to Medellín to rest up for our adventures the following day.