Trek to the Lost City, Colombia
Last Christmas I trekked to Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City in Colombia. It was a magical experience! It is set in the foothills of the biosphere reserve of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It’s home to stunning landscapes, indigenous tribes and beautiful blue butterflies.
My trek lasted 5 days but treks are available for 4-6 days. The total distance is 48.6km or 28 miles. The trek itself is challenging with long steep ups and long steep downs, heat and river crossings, some thigh high in water holding onto a rope. The rewards however are immense.
Villages and tribes
The trek itself is well worth the experience. En-route you will pass indigenous villages and tribes. There are 4 indigenous tribes living in the reserve. These are the Arhuaco, Koguis, Wiwas and Kankuamo. There are welcome rest stops along the way with drinks and snacks for sale and fresh watermelon which is very welcome.
Accommodation is in small camps with hammocks and bunk beds to sleep in and toilet and shower blocks. Some are next to the river or swimming holes or a short hike will lead you to a dip in a refreshing waterfall. All meals are included with fantastic local food and fresh produce.
The pinnacle of the trek is a visit to the Lost City, Ciudad Perdido. This was built at least 650 years before Machu Picchu by the Tairona people. There used to be 250 Indian settlements in the area and the Lost City was at their centre. It was made up of over 250 terraces.
The Lost City’s rediscovery
The city was re-discovered in July 1975 unfortunately by looters, although indigenous tribes knew of the city but had kept it secret.
Research and restoration took place between 1976 – 1986. It had been covered by forest for over 500 years but 85% of the structures were in good condition.
To get to the Lost City there is a river crossing and then 1350 steep stone steps to climb. It was worth every step! It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen. The first thing that strikes you is its vastness, it’s huge, terrace after terrace. This is even more amazing when you realise that only 10% has been uncovered.
We arrived there on Christmas Day afternoon and were the only group there. It was amazing to be able to appreciate the tranquility, stillness and beauty and imagine it as it used to be. With our indigenous guide we carried out a ritual ceremony before we allowed to go off and explore.
I would advise anyone to do the trek now before it gets as busy as Machu Picchu. At one time it was affected by the conflict between the Colombian army and the paramilitary and guerrilla groups.
On Sept 2003 the National Liberation Army (ELN) kidnapped 8 foreign tourists demanding an investigation into human rights abuses. Now it is completely safe. Colombia 🇨🇴 is one of safest, easiest and friendliest countries in which to travel. It’s a country of optimism and happiness.
I started the trek from Santa Marta, a lovely place to spend a couple of days and a very good base. I stayed at the Masaya hotel, a fabulous place with 2 pools and a rooftop bar. They have dorm rooms and beautiful private rooms and a rooftop bar with free salsa lessons. it was a great place to see in the new year and watch the wonderful firework display.
Tips for the hike to the Lost City
My tips for the hike are:
1. If possible book an indigenous guide. You will learn so much more about the history, culture and rituals, it was fascinating. By doing this it is also preventing these traditions from dying out. Wiwas tours are a local company who only use indigenous guides.
2. Pack light – there are no porters, you must carry everything yourself. Although it is possible to hire a mule if you are really struggling. It is possible to wash your clothes along the way and dry them in the sun, though you may end up with wet socks.
3. Take light jumper/fleece. It can get a little chilly at night.
4. Stock up on the insect repellent, there are muchos mosquitoes along the trail.
5. Take time to appreciate the views and scenery.
6. Have an amazing time!