Pablo Escobar’s Haunts Have Become Popular For Dark Tourism

By Todd Neikirk
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Pablo Escobar’s Haunts Have Become Popular For Dark Tourism

Todd Neikirk
 
Image via Colombian National Police/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Image via Colombian National Police/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
 
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Dark Tourism, where people visit a place marked by tragedy, has become much more common over the years. And many people are particularly interested in drug dealers and mobsters. One of the most famous drug dealers in world history is Pablo Escobar. Trips to Escobar’s home base; Medellin Colombia and the surrounding areas have become very popular.

It should be noted that many of the current residents of Colombia are not in support of dark tourism in their country. Many lost family and friends to the drug wars and feel that the former drug kingpin should not be celebrated.

Still, tourism trips are very common. Here are some of the most visited stops.

Pablo Escobar’s Childhood Home 

Pablo Escobar was raised in the town of Envigado
Pablo Escobar was raised in the town of Envigado (Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Many tours include a trip to Pablo Escobar’s childhood home. He was born in Rionegro but moved to Envigado when he was still young. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father was a farmer.

Escobar became involved in crime from a young age. He began by selling fake diplomas and later stole cars. The drug trade began to boom in Colombia during the 1970s and Escobar became involved and soon rose up the ranks.

Comuna 13

Comuna 13, once a drug-ravaged barrio in Medellin, is now a popular tourist destination
Comuna 13, once a drug-ravaged barrio in Medellin, is now a popular tourist destination (Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO / AFP) (Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images)

Comuna 13 is a barrio located in Medellin. During the 1980s and 1990s, the area was completely controlled by drug traffickers. The traffickers used the area to move drugs in and out of the town. Murder was common in the town as gangs, paramilitaries and guerillas were all active there.

In the 2000s, efforts were made to clean the area up and make it more livable for the people in the barrio. Large escalators were added that made it easier to get around in the hilly area. Today, Comuna 13 is safe for tourists to visit. They are, however, advised to visit during the day and make sure they stay close to the escalators.

La Catedral

The wealth that Escobar made as the world’s biggest drug trafficker gave him unthinkable power. In 1991, he made a deal with the Colombian government that he would go to prison. It wasn’t that simple, though. The Colombians allowed the drug kingpin to build the prison to his own specifications.

Among the amenities included were a full soccer pitch, a jacuzzi, and a bar. Escobar also had the opportunity to select the people who would act as his guards. One year into his five-year sentence, the Colombian simply left the prison by walking out the back door.

La Catedral still stands and is regularly visited by tourists. It holds a much different purpose, now, though. The building is now owned by Benedictine Monks who manage the prison and use the property to serve their community.

Hacienda Napoles

Tourists can now enjoy waterslides at Hacienda Napoles, the former estate of Pablo Escobar
Tourists can now enjoy waterslides at Hacienda Napoles, the former estate of Pablo Escobar (Image via Marta Hermaniuk/Wikimedia Commons)

Of course, before Pablo Escobar went to prison, he lived in the lap of luxury for many years. Escobar owned many properties, but among the most ornate was the Hacienda Napoles. The home is located around 90 miles from Medellin.

Like the prison, the property featured plenty of amenities like helicopter landing pads, soccer pitches, and Olympic-sized pools. In addition, Escobar enjoyed keeping exotic animals. He kept 4 hippos at the Hacienda Napoles. Incidentally, those hippos reached the wild and the population count of the animal in Colombia now stands at more than 400.

After the kingpin’s death in 1993, the property fell into disrepair. At one point the government took control of Hacienda Napoles, but now it is managed by a private company. The company has built a theme park on the grounds with waterslides and a zoo. There is also an Escobar Musuem.

Barrio Pablo Escobar

Many Colombians want to forget about the drug kingpin, but in Barrio Pablo Escobar, he is still revered
Many Colombians want to forget about the drug kingpin, but in Barrio Pablo Escobar, he is still revered (Image via Nigel Burgher/Flickr)

While many Colombians don’t want to see Escobar celebrated, there is one area of Medellin where he is revered. In Barrio Pablo Escobar, the former drug kingpin is considered to be a Robin Hood-like figure.

The Colombian government does not recognize the name of the area, but the people also don’t feel that the government has ever done them much good. People who walk along the streets of the Barrio will see many art depictions and shrines dedicated to the memory of Escobar.

 
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