Most tourists visiting Medellin in Colombia tend to stick to the usual tourist zone in the city. But, there are so many more Medellin neighborhoods to explore.
Parque Lleras is in Poblado neighborhood where tourists and well-heeled locals in Medellin come to play. It’s surrounded by hostels, restaurants, and bars and has been a magnet for travelers for years.
In addition to living there, I’ve traveled to Medellin, Colombia, dozens of times. So, one of my favorite things to do is get out of the tourism zone in Poblado and visit the city’s more working-class areas.
If you want to explore more of what Medellin has to offer, then you need to travel further out to the more localized neighborhoods in Medellin.
Related Read: Visit Colombia: Travel Tips for Your Trip
Best Medellin neighborhoods to explore
If you want to get out of the tourist zone of Medellin but still keep it safe, an excellent place to come is the barrio of Santo Domingo. It’s accessible by Metro Cable (gondola lift system) from the city’s easy-to-manage train (metro) stops.
It will give a traveler insight into a working-class Medellin neighborhood. It’s up in the hills of Medellin, to the north of the city, and can provide travelers with some real insight is how people live in Medellin. As you look up the hills, you will see that the houses are really colorful. A lot of them are self-built.
Use the Metro Cable to get around the city
The Metro Cable helped transformed Santo Domingo. Today it’s still primarily poor and working-class, but with a safer present and a brighter future to aspire to.
What I like about Medellin is that the government was very progressive in terms of putting the Metro Cable up. It serves as potential transportation for the people who live here, but it’s also a tourist attraction. So, you will see some tourists here from time to time. There’s a significant police presence during the day, so it’s no problem to just hang out with the people of Santo Domingo. I think it’ll really enhance your trip.
Neighborhoods further up the Metro Cable
If you want a quick break from the hustle and bustle of Medellin, just continue on the metro cable a bit further up the mountain to the lovely Parque Arvi.
Parque Arvi is just a short Metro Cable ride up from Santo Domingo, but you’re a world away from Medellin.
Parque Arvi is a marvel of urban planning and a credit to Medellin’s progressive, socially conscious government initiatives.
Comuna 13 (aka Comuna Trece)
Another recommendation is to check out the once dangerous but now crowded area of Comuna 13. Perhaps no community suffered more during Pablo Escobar’s reign than Community thirteen (Comuna Trece in Spanish).
This barrio was once ground zero in the war between the government and narco-traffickers.
Today, Comuna Trece has made a remarkable comeback and is a shining example of social inclusion tourism’s potential.
Over 1,000 visitors a day trek to this former “no man’s land” to experience the stunning views, colorful murals, art, local flavor, and outdoor escalators.
What I really liked about my tour of Comuna Thirteen was the fact that I was able to see this area and at the same time help the people there.
And if you think about it, that’s a fantastic turnaround because just a few years ago, no one would even venture in there. Now, over a thousand travelers a day are visiting, spending their money, and getting to know the people. And doing it in a responsible, sustainable way.
I think one of the reasons it works is social inclusion. They’re including the people there. The revenue stream is also giving them a point of pride about where they live. Because it is stunning.
I think it can serve as a model for communities worldwide to develop tourism and how tourism can help impoverished communities turn things around while helping out the locals living there. While assisting the traveler in getting an idea of what it’s like, what people live like, in most of the world.
To me, it’s a win-win situation. And I think so long as it’s done sustainably and responsibly, I really don’t see a downside to doing it. I’m glad I did it. I really recommend it to other travelers as well.
Join this Comuna 13 Graffiti Tour with a local guide. You’ll get to learn about the troubled history of Medellín while checking out amazing street art and meeting artists and local residents in the community.