Few individuals have had as great (and negative) an impact on Medellín in recent history as Pablo Escobar Gaviria – the most successful of the cocaine barons. After years of inflicting violence on the city’s civilians because of the Medellín cartel’s rivalry with the Cali cartels and his willingness to blow up a plane just to get at a single passenger, Escobar was unceremoniously shot down on the roof of a house on December 2, 1993, while on the run from the police.
Though many Medellín citizens find the idea of this godfather of crime posthumously becoming a major tourist attraction distasteful, a number of tours have sprung up since his death that take you around the city to various Escobar-associated sights. You get to see the building he lived in, apartment blocks he built, the rooftop on which he was shot, and, finally, his gravestone at the Jardines de Montesacro cemetery. Tours cost around COP$55,000 per person and the best of the operators is Paisa Road (317 489 2629, www.paisaroad.com), known for their sensitive and balanced tours.
Escobar is also the reason why there are feral hippos in the mountains around Medellín. To find out why, you can visit one of the more bizarre sites in Colombia – Hacienda Nápoles (COP$27,000; 1800 510 344, www.haciendanapoles.com), the huge farm that was once Escobar’s private kingdom, complete with mansions, menagerie of exotic animals, bullring and more. Once Escobar was on the run, the abandoned hippos broke out of their enclosure, fled into the wild and bred, thus giving rise to dangerous non-native mammals in Colombia. This strange attraction sits halfway between Medellín and Bogotá, off the highway 1km from Dorodal. Today you can wander through the abandoned mansion, check out the displays on Escobar’s reign of terror, and there are even some rides for children.