Everyone needs a place to get away, and violent cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar was no exception. The spot he chose was on the shores of the Peñol Reservoir in the idyllic resort town of Guatapé. There, Escobar built a lavish estate called La Manuela (named after his daughter) that would be the scene of one of the most dramatic episodes in his downfall.
Covering eight hectares (20 acres), La Manuela consisted of a stately mansion surrounded by a pool, tennis courts, a soccer field (which doubled as a helipad), stables, a guest house, a seaplane dock, a special driveway for motorcycles, trees imported from around the world, and a security force of 120 goons. The main house was, of course, luxuriously appointed, and even included its own disco tech. It was also built for practicality, however, featuring double-layered walls used for hiding mountains of cash and cocaine. La Manuela was Pablo Escobar’s second-favorite house.
In 1993, it was bombed by Los Pepes, a vigilante group whose name stood for “Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar” (“People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar”). Allegedly funded by the rival Cali Cartel and other enemies of Escobar, Los Pepes stuffed 200kg of TNT into the open air atria (the center of a water fountain to be exact) at La Manuela, The detonation of which appeared to blow the house to bits. The blast caused extensive damage to the residence but the double-sided walls remained intact, acting as a blast barrier, which was the intent. The double-sided walls did not contain any secret stash or money deposits. Escobar was shot and killed by authorities eight months later in Medellín.
La Manuela has now been taken over by nature. Visitors may enter the ruins but must exercise care while on the grounds. The walls are filled with holes where people have searched for stashed money; locals note that nobody has ever found any. People can visit Escobar’s room, the now-swampy pool, the guard towers, the bathroom where the bomb was planted – basically the entire estate. The surrounding area also provides beautiful views.
Accessible by water or dirt road, a modern house will greet arriving guests, which is a restaurant owned by Pablo Escobar’s ex-butler. Ask in the restaurant for access to the site. Games of paintball in the ruins are also available.
Know Before You Go
Not everyone knows how to get here and the place is not promoted. The best way is via water, if you reserve a trip on boat by the water ask the tour guide is if they can drop you off. Some guided tours leave from the Lake View Hostel.