What is the Ciudad Perdida?
The Ciudad Perdida, or Lost City, is the site of an ancient citadel set deep in the jungle-covered Sierra Nevada mountains in northern Colombia.
Said to have been built 800AD by the Tayrona people, the city was looted by grave-diggers in the 1970s, when it was ‘re-discovered’.
What remains today are ruins, foundations of circular buildings that were built from mud and straw. Ruins that are set in a beautiful opening in the thick jungle and that can only be reached on foot.
The trek to the Ciudad Perdida has to be undertaken by organised tour and lasts either 4, 5 or 6 days. As you don’t see anything else by doing the longer tours, and as we only had two weeks in Colombia, we opted for the 4 day trek and it certainly seemed the most popular.
We went with Expotur, and I really recommend them! We were picked up from our hostel on the morning of the first day and taken to the tour agency’s office, we were put into a group of 13 people, and set off on the two hour drive to El Mamey, the village at the start of the trek.
The trek is tough. Steep up-hills preceed steep down-hills, there are rocks and tree trunks to navigate around and loose dust falls away under foot. It is very humid and the trek is no walk in the park. I found out afterwards that the 4 day option is recommended for people in good physical condition so be aware before deciding to do this hike!
There is no denying that the trek is intense but the scenery is simply amazing. Being so far from modern civilization, from the sound of cars, from skyscrapers and pollution was wonderful. The lush jungle is beautiful
and I enjoyed some breathtaking views.
The fact that it is challenging makes the trek really rewarding.
Indigenous Kogi people, descendants of the Tayronas, still live in the jungle and the route goes past a village.
The guide explains some of their customs and we passed many locals during the trek. The adults that I passed totally ignored me, but the children were more inquisitive and spoke some Spanish.
The Ciudad Perdida
We arrived at the Ciudad Perdida on the morning of the third day. A steep set of stairs is the final hurdle
and we had made it!
We heard some more of the Tayrona’s way of life and took in the wonderful view.
For those that want a souvenir, a shaman chewing cocoa leaves sells bracelets. (Sadly mine fell apart after about a week!)
The route to the Ciuidad Perdida is essentially a long path that leads there and back, and dotted along it are simple encampments.
- You stop at one for lunch, then you sleep at the next one. Each camp is perfectly placed beside a natual swimming pool
and the fresh water is a very welcome reward at the end of a sweaty, dusty day!
- The food is great.
Cooks also walk the route and provide three HUGE meals a day. Donkeys carry provisions.
- There are plenty of stops en route to eat watermelon.
- You wake up at 5am-5.30am. When our guide told us on the first evening, I didn’t believe him but in fact it made perfect sense. By 10.30am it was really hot, so we walked at the coolest part of the day.
What to pack
Your tour operator will provide a list of obvious items:
trekking boots, sun cream, insect repellent, personal hygiene items (eg. soap), swim suit, light clothes for trekking, trousers & long-sleeved top & jumper for the evening
but I wish I had taken:
-a head torch – there is no elecricity so a torch is needed but a head torch is the most practical
-trekking sandals – flipflops are great for wearing around the camp in the evening but they were not ideal for climbing down rocks to get to the swimming pools
and don’t forget:
-that you have to carry everything. So take as little as possible! Nobody wants to carry a heavy rucksack on an already sweaty hike. I stupidly took my Kindle, thinking it would be nice in the evenings, and a rainmac though it never rained. I lugged both unneeded items around with me for four days. Be very selective in your packing!
-toilet paper! Not one camp provides it. Luckily I had some with me – after living in South America for a year I have learnt to always carry toilet paper!
If you are interested in trekking to the Ciudad Perdida you might like to know:
All the tour operaters charge the same price: 700,000 Pesos (about £165)
This price includes: three huge meals per day and snacks, guide, accommodation, transport to and from Santa Marta.