This week, in the third instalment of our Free Tour Heroes series, we are in Medellin, Colombia, with Zippy Tour Comuna 13. The FREETOUR.com awards honour the best free walking tours around the world each year, based on the feedback, reviews and ratings of FREETOUR.com users, and it was Graffiti Free Zippy Walking Tour Comuna 13 that was awarded the top spot for the best free tour in South America.

We’ve been taking a closer look at some of the 2018 award winners for the Free Tour Heroes weekly series, to learn a little more about the people, the places, and the passion behind these award-winning tours.

 

In the Spotlight: Zippy Tour Comuna 13


There are a few key elements that make for an exceptional walking tour experience; namely, the place itself, a fascinating story, authentic interactions and, of course, excellent guides and their connection to both the place and the story. Zippy Tour Comuna 13 have all of these key elements absolutely nailed in their Graffiti free tour through Comuna 13, once the most dangerous and notorious district in what was a famously turbulent and violent Medellin.

 

Tour guides with tour group in communa 13 in Medellin, Colombia

 

The popular recent Netflix dramatisation, Narcos, has arguably brought a version of Medellin to the attention of a new generation of curious travellers and ‘dark tourists’, piquing their interest in the city’s not-so-distant past; but the really fascinating story to tell here is post-Escobar. It’s a story of community, transition and transformation - much bigger and more important than the narrative depicted and, dare I say, romanticised by that binge-worthy production. This is a sentiment echoing that of the Zippy Tour Comuna 13 crew too.

 

What, do you think, is the most fascinating thing about your tours?


“The transformation. Comuna 13 was considered one of the most dangerous places in Medellin, and today is really important for graffiti art, music and dance; in this tour, we can explain our own experiences and we can show how everything is possible when you have dreams and hope” (sic).

And the use of “we” and “our” here is not expendable in the same way as when a tour guide might harmlessly claim ownership of vast general history, heritage and culture when regaling their interested tour groups. Here, we and our is perfectly literal as the Zippy Tour guides are all from and reside in Comuna 13 in Medellin - the stories of the area and the community, past, present and future, are indeed their stories to tell.

 

group of young happy tourists with a local tour guide in the communa 13 barrio of Medellin in Colombia on a sunny day during a free walking tour with graffiti in the background

 

Why, do you feel, you are FREETOUR.com award winners?


“We are local guides who love to give real experiences. We are working really hard for our community and our dream is to change every stigma about Colombia. Every tour is really important for us, we try to give the best of us. We love to meet a lot of people every day, and we love how we can show to every visitor the real life in Colombia” (sic)

And it seems this element of authenticity, the passion of the local guides to really showcase their reality, is what most endears the FREETOUR.com community to the Zippy team. Consistently, reviews of their tours on the platform reflect this, for example:

“The guides are citizens of the neighbourhood and tell of personal or familial experience along with the history of the place… Would highly recommend this tour to those looking to learn more about the history of this country from the eyes of its people.”

“It was incredible to learn and understand all the history behind the community. David, the guide, was very passionate when talking about the place and his own experience living there. I strongly recommend the tour!”

“Our guide was wonderful. He grew up in Comuna 13 and the tour was personal for him. He took us to his grandparents’ house where he explained the tragic history of the coming while we had a delicious mango ice cream that his grandparents made. I highly recommend.”

It is important to acknowledge too, that while the story of Comuna 13’s transition relies on the telling of tales from it’s darker times, today the community is a vibrant one, and the focus of Zippy Tour is not to dwell on the sensationalism of a narrowed view of Medellin, where other tour providers might, but rather to highlight the virtues of their barrio – the story as told through incredible urban street art and graffiti, dance and creativity, the colour and character of the community, children safely playing in the streets and the wonderful spirit and joy that readily faces continuing adversity.

 

urban art and graffiti in communa 13 in Medellin being shown to a group of tourists by their local tour guide

 

The story of Comuna 13 is no longer about gangs and cocaine, and there really is a lot for travellers to engage with, things to do and beauty to see in the neighbourhood.

 

What are four must-sees you recommend to visitors to Comuna 13? 



  1. Museo de la memoria: This place connects the visitors with the past and present of Medellin

  2. Mercado del río: Delicious food and activities

  3. Parque Arvi: Relax and beautiful views

  4. Pueblito Paisa is full of colours and an amazing view


 

Three tips to those thinking of doing your Free Tour? 



  • You will connect with local guides, meet more friends, and will have a real experience.

  • Don't give money to kids, the most important is support the process in the school - recommendations in the tour

  • You are a voice in the world, share every good experience and stories (from Comuna 13), don't forget my community.


 

a free tour group of young tourists in Communa13 enjoying local lime ice cream with their walking tour guide in front of barrio graffiti

 

If you are soon to visit Medellin, do yourself a favour and don’t miss this unique and inspiring free tour experience. Book your place on the award-winning Graffiti Free Zippy Walking Tour Comuna 13 on FREETOUR.com or use the Free Tour app. There’s no booking fees or charges, you’ll get an instant confirmation of your booking, and when you’ve done the tour, you’ll be able to rate and review it on the platform.  Next week we’re getting the local low-done on Paris and Lisbon with Discover Walks and find out where the best food action in Paris is at, how to rub elbows with Lisbon locals, and more.

NEXT WEEK’S FREE TOUR HEROES:  Discover Walks – Paris & Lisbon