Updated Sept 2018
The lost city trek Colombia was one of the adventures I was most looking forward to whilst traveling in South America. It is like a more raw form of Machu Picchu, just a few hours drive from Cartagena or Santa Marta in the Sierra Nevada region of Colombia. Similar to Machu Picchu, the ciudad perdida trek entails a 4 or 5 day journey to a massive piece of archeology amidst the jungle. With less regulations and less people. The Machu Picchu Inca trail trek has 500 people per day including porters and travelers, whereas the lost city trek Colombia may have 3-4 groups of 10 people and guides per day.
How much does the Lost City Trek Colombia cost?
Trekking Ciudad Perdida (lost city) involves wandering through indigenous lands and as a result you cannot hike in the area without a guide. So pro hikers out there, just let it go, join a Ciudad Perdida Tour and make some friends while enjoying the luxury camping style. All companies have the same price for the Lost City Tour Colombia, regardless if you leave from Santa Marta, Palomino or Tayrona. As of 2018 the tour costs $950,000 Colombian pesos, or $315USD…and is worth every penny. In other news, travellers can enjoy trekking Colombia for 4 days or 5 days for the same price. So if you have a little extra time in Colombia, you can take an extra day for free! This just means it will be an extra/shorter days on the way home from the lost city.
How to Choose a Tour Company for the Ciudad Perdida Trek?
As there are only a small amount of people trekking Ciudad Perdida every day, most of the tour companies, or companies selling tours, are the same tour. There are a variety of guides and a main tour company which umbrella’s the lost city trek Colombia. This means that, more-or-less, you will be paying the same price, for the same tour, from different companies….Pick your weapon.
My Experience on the Ciudad Perdida Tour
Being somewhat less glamorous, you have to carry your own backpack on the Lost City Tour Colombia, however hammock dorms and the occasional beds are available at each campsite, so tents are a non-issue. All the campsites have cold showers and sinks for you to wash in. Your group will have one chef who travels with you, cooking copious amounts of delicious food and even cutting up and serving the occasional fruit snack along the way making trekking Ciudad Perdida pretty glamorous, more glamorous than when I trekked El Chalten in Argentina. The guides here are easy going and fun, but be prepared as finding an English speaking guide is a rarity. You can hire a translator for an extra fee or you can just wing it and practice your Spanish. Recommended!
The walk through the jungle is not treacherous or overly difficult, similar to hiking in Salento Colombia. This is however, still the jungle. It will be HOT. You will probably not smell all that great at the end of the day. You will sweat through all of your clothing, but that’s ok, it is part of the experience of trekking to the Lost City Colombia. The scenery of the jungle, from the coco plantations to the mountains and everything that comes with this beautiful adventure will distract you from the humid heat. The only thing that might take away from the sweeping mountainous views of the Ciudad Perdida trek is the rain. Welcome to the rainforest. It usually rains in the afternoon making the trail hilariously challenging. The mud becomes almost a foot deep and staying upright is practically impossible, kind of like staying a float in the mud at El Totumo. This only enhances the fun. During our Ciudad Perdida tour, we wrapped our packs in garbage bags (provided by the guide) and then proceeded to slip, slop, and slide down the trail on our hands, feet, backs, butts and bellies. The task became about who can stand up longest hip-hoping from dry(est) spot to dry(est) spot, eventually leading to everyone falling in some amusing position into the mud.
Your clothes will never dry. You started your day sweating through them in the oppressive heat and humidity. Then you proceeded to slip and slide through the mud in the pouring rain. If that was not enough you clean yourself up by jumping into a swimming hole or river along the way. By the time you reach camp at around four or five o’clock in the afternoon, you and your group are just a bunch of sopping wet, smelly trekkers. The camps have lines to hang your clothes on but because this is the jungle, the humidity keeps them happily wet. The next morning you just suck it up and start your day wet.
A special opportunity that the Lost City Trek Colombia provides is that travellers are able to enjoy interactions with the Teyuna people. They are a protected indigenous tribe living in the middle of the Colombian jungle. The Teyuna people live in the way which they always lived. Unaffected by technology and with a lack of modern education. The Teyuna people maintain a nomadic lifestyle and home, remaining a culture untouched. The kids will often come up to you on the trail if you have candy to feed them, but most of the Teyuna people keep their distance and go about their days working their farms. I found it very rewarding and special to experience their lifestyles, even from an arm’s length as we travelled through their reserve. At one of our camps, we had indigenous children doing their laundry in the river in which we swam. I felt very lucky on that day to have had the chance to interact with some of the children who played with me in the stream.
Lost city trekkers reach the archeological site on the third morning. Ciudad Perdida does not disappoint and is exactly what you would expect, stunning. After an hour’s walk and just a few stairs you will reach the beginning of the famed terraces of the Ciudad Perdida trek. The site goes on and on and the guides who have been doing this for so many years are very passionate. Firstly about Colombia as a whole and secondly about their indigenous history. They tour you through each stage of the city and afterwards you have 45 minutes to explore the site and take it in. As you leave the city you can expect to stop for a swim under a waterfall which appears as you near the bottom of the valley. It is hard to imagine there are other sites as big as this hidden within the jungles of Colombia. It is nothing short of impressive.
This area of Colombia has faced its own troubles throughout history. It was rediscovered by grave robbers. Being an area of contention in Colombia, a few years ago nine tourists on this trek were kidnapped by the guerrillas. Their guides were tied up and they were held for ransom. Fortunately all escaped unharmed. This area was and is still a place of civil unrest. However the Colombian government has made a massive effort to create a safe environment for tourists to enjoy the trek without fear. This is an attempt to make it similar to the financially successful Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu. At the top of the lost city there is now a large military fort which maintains a force of twenty soldiers patrolling the area day and night. I personally never felt unsafe during my journey. Apparently our guide was involved in the ransom plan mentioned above and was tied up during the kidnapping. Man, did he have some stories.
For anyone looking to spend a couple of days in the jungle of South America, this trek is definitely worth doing. The Lost City trek Colombia is not overly strenuous. The food is plentiful and delicious, and the guides are passionate and knowledgeable. More importantly, the prize at the end of your efforts, the Ciudad Perdida site itself is worth every penny, every drop of sweat and every splash of mud.