In the slums of Colombia’s larger cities, such as Medellín and Bogotá, you encounter a completely different world from the one you know at home. And that makes it interesting for many travelers to visit. To see how people live there. Children who love to have their picture taken. The views from the mountains. The little houses that make it hard to imagine people living there. And streets through which no car can drive decently. In Colombia, many people still live in conditions of poverty. Sometimes just a couple of miles from a well-developed neighborhood. I, too, looked on a slum two blocks away from the apartment in Bogotá where I lived.
Today there are more and more projects that organize tours for travelers in cooperation with the residents of these neighborhoods. For example, in Bogotá you can visit the neighborhood El Paraiso . And in Medellín, you can book several street art and history tours to Comuna 13, once the most dangerous neighborhood in Medellín. Something that benefits security and revenue.
In other neighborhoods, that development has yet to take off. One of these slums I visited with namesake Sabine, who took me on a walk through Medellín’s highest district. Impressive, photogenic and poignant at the same time. Take a look at a part of Medellín where tourism is not yet developed. Where residents could use your help. And read how you too can visit this neighborhood safely.
By metrocable to the highest slum in Medellín
Medellín is known for its modern and clean subway and cable car that serves as public transportation. For tourists, a special experience up the mountain with beautiful views of the city. For locals, the way to get to another part of Medellín safely, cheaply and quickly. For work, errands or family visits. A necessary means of transportation for them.
Medellín’s metrocable has existed since 2004 and there are now 6 routes. One of the best known is Line J from San Javier metro station. This route will not take you to the famous Comuna 13, but it is the route to admire this neighborhood from above. Lines K and L are also popular. Indeed, Line L takes you from Santo Domingo station to the famous park Arví.
We take the metrocable line K from Acevedo metro station to Santo Domingo station. A beautiful ride of about 20 minutes with spectacular views over the city. During the day with the mountains in the background, in the evening with all the lights.
From here we travel another 20 minutes by bus, even higher up the mountain. To finally arrive at Children of Medellín Foundation, located in the highest disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city of eternal spring.
Children of Medellín Foundation
Fifteen years ago, this foundation was founded by Eddy Veldhuisen and now Children of Medellín supports some 500 children from the poor neighborhoods of Medellín.
A good place to volunteer or help out in another way. Read all about the how and what of Children of Medellín here.
The foundation’s home is also immediately the base to visit the nearby unknown disadvantaged neighborhoods in Medellín’s highest mountains. Guided and in a safe manner. Dutch Sabine or another employee of the foundation will be happy to take you on a tour. They do ask for a contribution to the foundation to do so, such as buying a book or CD they have released, or making a donation. The foundation is not a travel organization or tourist attraction. Make an appointment well in advance if you want to visit the foundation and the neighborhood, and give something back. Here you’ll find more information.
Just want to visit a slum, see street art and not do anything else with the foundation? That, of course, is also possible. For that, visit Medellín’s slum and once most dangerous neighborhood: Comuna 13.
The slums of Bello Oriente and Carambolas
High on the mountain in Medellín you will find the widely known slums or disadvantaged neighborhoods. Where whole families live close together in poverty-stricken conditions. Often fled for rural violence. Displaced with a few clothes, they find a cottage high on the mountain, where the situation is often not much better. Here these families are building a new life. In many of these neighborhoods, gangs are the bosses. As a result, there is not always running water and electricity, and some parts of these neighborhoods are very unsafe.
In the book about life in these neighborhoods, published by and available to order from the foundation, several children talk about daily life in these neighborhoods and what life was like where they actually came from.
Through the foundation, you can see these disadvantaged neighborhoods with your own eyes. Seeing how the families live there. The views from the neighborhood are beautiful, a gutter contrast to the harsh and often just hopeless life in the slums.
Listen to children’s stories and be educated by the foundation’s staff. Which children come to the foundation? And why? How does this improve the lives of these children and their families? What can you do to help?
A special trip off the beaten path in Colombia
Although I overlooked a slum myself, walking through it is a very different experience (and in my case in Bogotá, a no-go). The world in a slum is so incredibly different, which is intense to witness up close. And as much as you would like to see it otherwise: a safe life for these families and a good future for the children, this is unfortunately the daily reality. With small steps, insights that tourism can change lives, responsible travel and help from outside, the situation will improve little by little.
If you are in Medellín, it is definitely worth visiting one of these neighborhoods high in the mountains. However, do not do Bello Oriente and Carambolas unaccompanied, there are unsafe parts and the locals are not used to tourists. Therefore, do this only with someone from the foundation or else opt for a tour of Comuna 13.
On the way there, don’t forget to enjoy the beautiful views from the cable car. In my pinned Instagram stories “Medellín” you will find more photos and videos of my visit.
Have you been up the mountain in Medellín on the metrocable?
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