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Located deep in the jungle in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, the Lost City of the Tayrona has been lost for centuries. It wasn’t until 1972 that it was rediscovered by a group of guaqueros (tomb robbers) and, after decades of guerrilla and paramilitary groups activity in the area, the Ciudad Perdida trek is finally safe for the traveler.

It’s not possible to hike to the Ciudad Perdida independently and there are only 5 official tour companies allowed to operate in the area. Thanks to our partnership with Expotur, we had the chance to take on this travel adventure and hike through the jungle to the ancient ruins of the Tayrona’s Lost City.

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Twenty-three kilometers is the distance between El Mamey (the start of the hike) and the ruins. There are two options for the trip, 4-days or 5-days, during which you will hike all the way to the Lost City and return the same way.

The track is not an easy one. There are some steep climbs and several river crossings. If you decide to go during the wet season, the water level of the rivers are usually higher and the trail gets very muddy, making the overall experience more challenging. We decided to go in February, the best month of the year for this trek, and we found very little rain and easy river crossings.

The way the tours run is that you only have to carry your personal stuff (clothes, camera, water, etc) and all the food is carried by mules. There are camps set up along the trail, equipped with blankets, beds and hammocks. You will travel light, which makes the hike much more enjoyable and accessible to anyone with a minimum level of fitness.

The humidity of the jungle is also very high and you will be constantly sweating during the day. The good news is there are plenty of rivers and swimming holes around so you can refresh yourself at the end of the day.

 

 

We have previously visited other ancient ruins in Latin America like Chichén Itzá in Mexico or Tikal in Guatemala. But what sets Ciudad Perdida apart is the journey you have to take to get there. There is no other way of visiting these ruins than hiking 23 kms through the jungle. And what a walk. You will be crossing pure wilderness and reaching some view points with great panoramas of the Sierra Nevada.

Another interesting fact is that you will be crossing indigenous land and will have the chance to meet members of the Kogi tribe. This group is one of the descendents from the Tayronas and it’s the only one in the area that still preserves its traditional habits. They still live in their wooden-made houses, wear their white traditional dresses and, although they are usually reserved towards outsiders, you can communicate with them in Spanish.

 

WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU

MULTI-DAY HIKING GEAR LIST

 

 

Bring insect repellent, sunblock, good walking shoes and some cash for that well-deserved beer at the end of the day. As you will be sweating a lot (due to the very high humidity), it’s also recommended to bring at least 2-3 t-shirts for the walk.

It takes a minimum of 4 days to complete the whole route and back, but there is also a 5-days option (for the same price) which allows you to take it easy and fully enjoy the area and its surroundings at a more relaxed pace.

Dry season (between December – April) is the best time to hike the Ciudad Perdida Trek as you will have less chance of rain, less mosquitoes and easier river crossings.

It’s not possible to hike the Ciudad Perdida Trek independently so you will need to go with a company. The tours depart from Santa Marta but you can also get picked up from Taganga at no extra cost.

 

 

WHAT WE LIKED THE MOST

  • The area the trail transverses is simply stunning: pristine jungle and pure wilderness.
  • Plenty of natural swimming pools to refresh yourself at the end of the day.
  • The chance to see how the kogi indigenous group live these days.

 

WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE THAT MUCH

  • You go and come back the same way. So once you reach the Ciudad Perdida, you have to backtrack all the way to where you started.

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Ciudad Perdida Trek has been one of the best hikes we’ve done in Latin America. It’s a bit expensive for a hike, but the experience is worth the investment. It’s also in a great location to combine it with other attractions nearby like visiting the beaches of the Tayrona National Park or exploring the streets of beautiful Cartagena de Indias

It’s also a good time now to visit the Lost City, as it’s getting well-known among the travel community and the number of visitors increase every year. It will probably become one of the most popular attractions in Colombia very soon, so go now before it gets too crowded!

 

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36 Responses

  1. Miriam of Adventurous Miriam

    Love this post! I’ve always wanted to visit the lost city, and the fact that you might meet indigenous tribes and trek through the jungle only makes me want to go sooner. Your photos are amazing!

  2. Lies

    This has been on my bucket list for some time! I wanted to join the archaeology team over there, but decided not to go, as it was one full month without any internet access, and I couldn’t get a whole month off at the time 🙁

    • Antonio Cala

      Nice!
      That would have been an incredible journey. You should go soon Lies. Ciudad Perdida is becoming popular and it might get too busy in a few years!

  3. Brenna

    You guys are awesome, excellent blog entry, as always!!
    now i really want to go there, but why knows if we will have the cash.
    when are you coming to Argentina and Chile? We have so many places that you need to visit and ride on bicycle and write about in this blog!! we’ll see you on the road some time this eyar xxx

    • Antonio Cala

      Hey Brenna!
      Yep, it’s a bit pricey for a hike, but the area is gorgeous. We can’t wait to cycle Chile and Argentina but you know we like taking our time, so who knows how long it will take us to get there!
      Take care and looking forward to meet you guys on the road again 🙂

  4. travelFREAK

    Wow! The surroundings were stunning! The terrain seems to be a bit brutal so I guess you need to be fit before trying out the hike.

    • Antonio Cala

      You don’t need to be superman, but a certain level of fitness is needed to complete the hike. You carry little weight but some sections are quite steep!

  5. Jennifer

    That looks like quiet the adventure. Great recommendations – being well prepared for a trip like that makes all the difference. Fantastic photos!

  6. Olga

    Oh god, the nature looks fantastic!! Looks perfect for a hiking route!

  7. Dana

    Looks like an amazing hike. I’d love to visit the Lost City. Getting to meet the Kogi tribe would be a highlight for me. You’re packing list is also super helpful.

    • Antonio Cala

      Meeting the Kogi tribe was my personal highlight of the trip. I expected beautiful scenery but listening to the Kogi members about their culture was fascinating.

  8. Heather Widmer

    Beautiful photography! I was fortunate to hike to the Ciudad Perdida last year. To date, it’s still one of my all time favorite hikes of all time. It truly is an amazing experience. What makes it particularly enjoyable is that it wasn’t crowded at all, in fact, our group was the only one there.

  9. Sophie

    Oh this looks amazing. I love hiking and would love to do some kind of adventure like this one day.

  10. Vanessa

    This looks like an incredible experience and it sounds like the pace is actually quite reasonable, with the distance spread out over a few days so you don’t have to power through under the harsh humidity. Now what I really want to know is – how was the food!? (Of course, because this is all I think about!)

    • Antonio Cala

      Considering the food was prepared over the fire and in very basic conditions (i.e. being in the middle of the jungle) we were quite surprised by the quality of it. The dishes were very elaborated and delicious.

  11. Kate

    Stunning photos and this sounds like it would be my kind of hike. The views look spectacular going through the jungle and getting to meet a local tribe would be brilliant too. I love South America and need to go back soon. Thanks for this inspiration

  12. Rich

    Antonio, that’s a great photo of you guys at the summit! Tried the coca leaves too. Great column Scott 🙂
    You’re photos are really nice! very clear and contrasting, you arrived in the Lost City on a far clearer day than I did. Here was my experience on the 4 Day Jungle Trek To The Lost City- Days 1+2 and the second part– Ascending the Mountain To the Lost City in the Colombian Jungle the day of the 1200 stairs 🙂
    Cheers, hope you enjoy! I’ll be looking more through your blog Antonio.

  13. Steve

    Thanks for your description of the hike and your list of travel supplies.

    I have an opportunity to go to Ciudad Perdita this August and am wondering whether I should be put off by the rainy conditions and mosquitos. Is the drought continuing this year? Is there any news about Zika virus on the Caribean coast?

    Thanks

    • Amanda Zeisset

      Hey Steve, it’s really hard to predict how bad the rain will be so it’s a bit of a gamble. I’m not sure about any news on the Zika Virus in Colombia.

  14. Lauren

    Hello!
    Great post about the hike! I’m thinking of doing it but I only have a big 65 liter backpack and a small 20 liter backpack with me. Do you think the 20 liter backpack is big enough? Or were there places around that you could rent a 30 liter backpack? Thanks for your help!

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