Declassifying Narcos’ Colombia

Don't let Neflix's hit show put you off - nowadays it's perfectly safe to visit Pablo Escobar's old haunts

Steve Murphy and Javier Pena in Narcos

The second season of Narcos brought an end to Pablo Escobar’s reign with a high-speed pursuit across the rooftops of Medellín. Not only did Wagner Moura prove to be a captivating kingpin, the country itself played a principal character on our screens.

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The title sequence features archive footage of Escobar’s crimes, accompanied by beautiful shots of the country’s backdrop and Rodrigo Amarante’s enchanting melody. This alluring juxtaposition has fascinated viewers – and they shouldn’t let Colombia’s chequered past put them off visiting.

Colombia is rapidly becoming one of South America’s most popular destinations thanks to the diversity of its landscape (mountains, jungle, the picture-perfect Caribbean and dramatic Pacific coastline), historic cities, funky music and wall-to-wall sunshine. Even Escobar’s old home isn’t off-limits.

As season two of Narcos is released on DVD, we take an Escobar-inspired tour of Colombia…


1. Colombia’s former murder capital

From Escobar’s rise in the late 1970s until his fall in the early 1990s, the streets of Medellín were rife with scandal and bloodshed. In the past filming there used to be considered too dangerous and was unlikely to be permitted. Now the city’s cultural and political landscape has been completely revolutionised, and Narcos received support and funding from the Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos himself.

Today Medellín has shaken off its reputation as the murder capital of the world. The real-life homicide rate is at an all-time low and holidaymakers are flocking to the city en masse. You can even tour the remains of Escobar’s self-designed prison La Catedral, which looms over the city. The brutality that continued during Escobar’s incarceration at ‘Club Medellín’ has been exchanged for the peace of a monastery, run by monks from the Benedictina Fraternidad Monastica Santa Gertrudis.

2. Legitimate highs at Escobar’s private retreat

Approximately three million travellers visit Colombia every year. One of the top attractions is Escobar’s luxurious 3,000-acre estate, outside of Medellín in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia. As well as retaining the ruins of his former residence, it’s how home to South America’s biggest theme park, Parque Tematico Hacienda Nápoles.

Almost 10 years after its opening, the park welcomes nearly one million visitors per year. Escobar’s own collection of animals now reside in a zoological reserve with lions, tigers, hippopotamuses and elephants. Guests can choose to stay at five different themed hotels, including a camping hotel, plus there’s a waterpark to keep the kids occupied. An African cultural museum is located where Escobar’s prized bull ring used to be, and one of the old drug-running Cessna planes on display makes for a popular photo opportunity.

Due to these dramatic changes, must of Narcos was filmed in the city of Villavicencio instead. However, the death scene was shot in Medellín, in the 79th street locale in Lorena, only two houses away from the actual showdown.

3. Cafe culture in Bogotá

In Colombia’s capital city, the scenes with President César Gaviria Casa were filmed at the Casa de Nariño or Palacio de Nariño – the presidential home and offices. Netflix was also permitted to film in and around the Palace of Justice and the Plaza de Bolívar.

Bogotá’s historic district La Candelaria also had a cameo in Narcos. It’s the neighbourhood where Javier Peña meets with Colonel Horacio Carrillo and his informants. Today La Candelaria is popular with tourists and locals alike thanks to its colourful colonial architecture, eye-catching graffiti and murals, excellent museums and arty cafes and shops.

4. Santa Marta’s pristine beaches

Colombia’s oldest surviving city sits on it Caribbean coast and used to be full of drug smugglers doing deals. Those days are long gone and tourists now flock here because it’s the gateway to the sublime beaches, clear-water lagoons and palm-covered coves of Tayrona National Natural Park. It’s also the starting point for hikes through the mountains to reach Ciudad Perdida, the remains of an ancient city buried in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta rainforest.

The DVD & Blu-ray of Narcos – The Complete Season Two is available now, released through Arrow Films


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