View from the hill

A practical guide to Medellin’s cable cars

One of the questions we get a lot in our walking tours is: “How do I get to the cable car?” So, let’s start by clarifying that it’s not just one cable car. At the moment (November 2019), Medellin has 5 cable car lines with a 6th opening soon. And as for the answer to the question, you get there by metro/tram.

Medellin’s cable cars were built as an integrated part of the metro system in order to facilitate access for locals living in some of the steep neighborhoods of the city to the rest of the valley. This is the beauty of it!

With one metro ticket (costing less than 1 USD) you can get all the way from a neighborhood on the mountain in the North to one at the Southern tip of the valley. In this sense, Medellin’s cable cars (with one exception), unlike in other parts of the world, were not designed for touristic or leisure purposes, but for the daily transportation of locals in an effort of social transformation. And the fact that the first one was built over 15 years ago when the city was still going through difficult times makes their significance even more powerful. Another question we get a lot is: “Which cable car is the best?” This is tough to answer because honestly, as cliché as it might sound, each one is amazing in its own way. But, we’ll try to explain what makes each line special, in order to make it easier for you to choose which one(s) to take.
  • Option 1: Immerse yourself in a neighborhood (Line K, Santo Domingo)
  • Option 2: Get some fresh air in an ecological nature reserve (Line L, Parque Arví)
  • Option 3: Go for a panoramic ride close to Comuna 13 (Line J, La Aurora)
  • Option 4: Get 3 in 1: Urban tram, street art and scenic cable car (Line H, Villa Sierra)
  • Option 5: Enjoy amazing views on an off-the-beaten-track hike (Line M, Trece de Noviembre)

Line K: Santo Domingo – Immerse yourself in a neighborhood

This is the oldest of Medellin’s cable car lines which, as mentioned, was built over 15 years ago. But by no means would you ever notice its age when riding it! It starts at Acevedo metro station and goes up to the neighborhood of Santo Domingo. We recommend this line for anyone who is looking to explore a “normal” lower-middle class neighborhood by foot. When you get to the last stop, get off, have a stroll, grab an empanada and/or beer, and maybe have a chat with some locals. As you’ll be on the mountain-side, you’ll also have good views of the city. When you’re ready, either head onwards to line L (see below) or back down to the to the metro. *Currently, there is construction work at Acevedo station, so make sure you are in the front wagon of the metro when coming from the South (i.e. Poblado, Laureles, downtown) because part of the platform is closed.  

Line L: Parque Arví – Get some fresh air in an ecological nature reserve

This cable car line is an exception in the sense that it is a) not urban and b) costs extra, so it is more similar to cable cars in other parts of the world in that its purpose is more one of leisure/tourism. The line starts at Santo Domingo cable car station and leads to Parque Arví. This is an ecological nature preserve, nice for hiking, cycling and enjoying some fresh air. If you’ve checked off the urban highlights and are looking for an easy nature excursion, Arví is a good option. Make sure to go in the morning, especially on weekends and holidays, as the park has limited capacity and sometimes closes early when the maximum is reached. We recommend going on one of the guided walks offered by the reserve staff, which leave regularly from the information point. * Tickets for this cable car cost COP 6,000 each way. This line is closed every Monday (or Tuesday when Monday is a public holiday).  

Line J: La Aurora – Go for a panoramic ride close to Comuna 13

With Comuna 13 trending as a touristic hotspot, this line has become increasingly popular with visitors over the last few years, as it starts at San Javier metro station, which is located within this neighborhood. For anyone feeling a bit lazy or for those with reduced mobility, this is your cable car. Why? Because there is nothing worth getting off for at the top, so we recommend doing the full loop and enjoying the panoramic views from the comfort of the gondola. The one exception may be for adventure-seekers planning to do paragliding, as there is the option of taking a taxi from La Aurora to San Felix where the take-off point is. Make sure to arrange this in advance and ask the paragliding company for detailed information.  

Line H: Villa Sierra – Get 3 in 1: Urban tram, street art and scenic cable car

This cable car is accessed via the tram (line TA), which is a fun experience in itself. As opposed to the metro and cable car lines, the tram gives you the opportunity to be on street level, which lets you get a close-up view of the hustle and bustle of downtown, as well a surprising variety of beautiful street art. This cable car starts at the end stop of the tram line and takes you on a steep ride up to a neighborhood called La Sierra, mainly known for once being one of the most dangerous areas of Medellín. At the top, you have the option of getting off, passing the turnstiles and heading to the top floor of the station to a terrace with panoramic views, or you can simply stay on the gondola and head back down to the tram. Some people prefer to then walk for a few stations, rather than taking the tram, in order to get a better look at the street art and a feel for the neighborhood – just make sure to stay close to the tracks so you don’t get lost.  

Line M: Trece de Noviembre – Enjoy amazing views on an off-the-beaten-track hike

This is the newest of the cable cars and the least used by non-locals. For the adventurous among you, interested in a bit of urban hiking and rewarding views, this is a great option. The line starts at the Miraflores station of the tram and takes you to a neighborhood from which you can reach the “Jardin Circunvalar”, a linear park along the slopes of the mountain with the aim of limiting the city’s sprawl and reducing natural disasters (i.e. landslides). Once you get to the last stop of the cable car, head up the steep street right at the exit of the station until you reach a small flat area. From there, turn right, where you will first see a little concrete football field and you will then have access to the paths (first stone, then wooden) of the park and can head along the forest trail to reach some great viewpoints of the city. If you are feeling energetic and are eager to get an even more panoramic view of the valley, you can hike up to the peak of the “Pan de Azúcar” hill – look for the signs saying “La Cima”. Most of the path consists of the same wooden walkways (including plenty of stairs) with a cobblestone section at the end. If at any point you feel lost, you can guide yourself by the white statue at the top of the hill. During rainy season, we strongly recommend doing this in the morning in order to avoid the afternoon showers and in general, although the sunset views are beautiful, it’s important to consider that poor lighting can make the way down challenging and may affect safety as well. So, there it is! Our practical guide to the cable cars in Medellín. We hope it helps you choose which cable car(s) to take, although we of course recommend taking them all if you have the time.

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