Hiking Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) in Colombia

| by Kristin | 11 Comments » | Colombia, Guest Post, South America

Santa Marta Tours

Main Terraces of Ciudad Perdida

Within one month of my decision to move to Cali, Colombia, I knew I wanted to hike to Ciudad Perdida.  I found a friend who wanted to do the 5 night, 6 day jungle trek with me, we planned a trip for January 2024, and I started looking for flights to the nearby city of Santa Marta.

After she arrived to Cali, we prepared to leave for Santa Marta.  We packed our backpacks full of “just the essentials”.  Then we took a lap around my apartment.  Suddenly, I didn’t feel so confident in our survival skills for 6 days – honestly I questioned our ability to make it through day one with these backpacks on our shoulders.

However, we did make it, and emerged with a stunningly unique and memorable experience that I will never forget.  Yes, 6 days is a big commitment for the consistently on-the-move traveler, but this is one experience you cannot afford to miss.

Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City)

A pre-Colombian settlement of the Tayrona people, Ciudad Perdida is located at the start of the Buritaca River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounding the city of Santa Marta, Colombia.  Discovered in the 1970s, the site itself features intricate staircases, meticulously built terraces, a complex system of pathways, and gorgeous views of the surrounding landscapes.  The only way to see Ciudad Perdida is to hike there (or find yourself a private helicopter, I guess…), so research the various tour companies to find the one that best suits your needs.  We decided on TurCol, short for Turismo Colombiano, based on a recommendation from friends, and paid $500,000 Colombian Pesos ($275 USD) per person for the trip.

Trekking in Colombia

1 of 8 River Crossings During Trek

Put On Your Walking Shoes

The trek takes 6 days to complete.  Although you can complete it in 5 days, I recommend the 6-day pace so you can take time to enjoy the journey.  Each day you will hike between 4 to 6 hours, with frequent enough breaks for water, snacks and fresh fruit.  While the trek is filled with hills, river crossings, and rocky paths, the hike is completely manageable for the average, generally fit person.  Prior to my trip I did not do anything extra to prepare in terms of physical readiness, and I felt fine the whole time.  There will be hills and hard times, but they always end with a gorgeous view, campsite, or a delicious snack!

Colombia Camping

A Typical Campsite During our Trek

And You Thought Hammocks Were Comfortable

Each of the 3 pre-established (with rough “kitchens” and bathrooms/running water) campsites is equipped with either bunk beds or hammocks for your sleeping enjoyment.  Initially, I thought this would be an easy, efficient and fun way to enjoy some nature along the way.  However, by night three of sleeping like a banana in a hammock and waking up quite chilly, since apparently it’s cold in the mountains at night (whoops!), I felt a bit differently.  Overall, the sleeping accommodations were adequate for being in the jungle, but I haven’t looked at a hammock the same way since.  My friend and I had ditched our sleeping bags at the last minute, and while I didn’t regret the extra space and my lighter backpack, this choice definitely affected our sleeping at night.  Depending on your own preferences, you may want to consider a sleeping bag, although most tour companies do provide blankets at night, so in general I would not recommend bringing one as it is not worth the added weight to your backpack.

Colombia Jungle Tours

Moss Covered Staircase in Depths of Ciudad Perdida

Don’t Leave Home Without Your…

Sturdy walking shoes – preferably ones that you can wear right into the water during river crossings!  Flashlight/head lamp. Dry/warm clothes for the nights – preferably kept in plastic bags to keep them dry.  Swimsuit (lots of natural pools to swim in along the way!).  Bug spray – with lots of DEET.  Sunscreen.  Good paperback book (lots of free time in the afternoons/evenings).  Lightweight snacks (guides provide fresh fruit, but you will want your own things too).  Water bottle or Camelbak.Yellow fever shot.  Quick-dry clothes – in the dense, humid jungle if it gets wet once, it’s staying wet…for 6 days.  Solid sense of humor.

Hiking Buddies

Nothing like a physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging experience to reveal people’s true sides and on this trip, we got to know one another quickly.  By the last night we were sitting around the campsite exchanging a few beers, email addresses, future travel plans, and promises to remember this incredible shared experience.  From the two university women from England and the adorably endearing British police officers to the French-Australian couple and happy-go-lucky man from Baranquilla, Colombia, our travel group included people from all over the world.  For 6 days we shared our stories, our accomplishments, our struggles, and our water breaks.  Along the way I kept reminding myself to enjoy the journey in case the end really wasn’t that cool (Spoiler Alert: It is), but being with this group of people made it easy to enjoy the whole experience.

Colombia Tours

My Arrival to Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City)

In the end, I have no better advice than just go for it.  I had never been hiking for longer than 6 consecutive hours prior to my trek to Ciudad Perdida, and I came out happily alive and in shock of what I was able to accomplish.  Schedule a trip, take your backpack out of the closet, and get going. The Lost City awaits.

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Written by Kristin

Kristin is a woman on a journey currently living in Cali, Colombia by way of Minnesota. She spends her weekdays teaching 8th grade math and her weekends searching out the best Colombia has to offer in the way of hammocks, adventure, coffee, friends, kayaking and red wine. She blogs in detail about her daily adventures and other travels in South America. Visit my website

11 Responses to “Hiking Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) in Colombia”

  1. Jenny says:

    Ciudad Perdida was one of the best adventures I’ve ever been on. However, the time period in which I went they had the WORST downfall in the entire HISTORY of the trek. Yes that’s like 25-some odd years. Imagine those ankle high river crossings being chest high rapid waters and almost losing people to the river and having to take alternate routes by rock climbing in the pouring rain 100 meters up on the side of a cliff…. or how the 2nd half of the first day (downhill) was in knee deep mud and took us 4 extra hours well beyond sundown….

    It’s a miracle I’m still alive! I have to say though… it was probley the toughest most mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. That rain was rentless for 6-days straight… although the day we were on the ruins, it was clear for a few hours.

  2. OK, was there like a revolt on the Internet in which everyone moved to Cali? Because I’d never even heard of it a few months ago, and now all of a sudden, I know four or five bloggers living there! Crazy. I guess it’s the new “it” spot?

    • Kristin says:

      Ha! Not sure… I feel like I hardly ever see other gringos here…but I guess there have been more visitors in the last few months. It is a great city to base yourself in!

  3. Kelly says:

    Wow! You girls are hardcore! Sounds like an amazing experience!

  4. Jeff says:

    I went during the rainy season and even quick dry clothes didn’t dry (though some resourceful souls used the kitchen fire to dry some items). In the end, I decided it better to wear the wet clothes again as at least that helped avoid them mold that would result from putting them in my pack wet (and, between new rain and seat staying dry wasn’t really an option anyway). So, in the rainy season you can probably get by bringing less clothes, but you will want something dry to sleep in each night and plenty of dry socks. Speaking of footwear, it might be a good idea to bring a pair of water socks/sandals. I even saw them sold around Santa Marta quite cheap. I would also say don’t forget to bring some anti-bacterial lotion and some anti-bacterial ointment as well (I got a small infection on a cut to my finger). Again, advice more useful for rainy season, but bring a rain cover for your backpack. They will give those without a plastic garbage bag to use, but a proper rain cover would be so much better.

  5. ayngelinai says:

    In the end I chose not to do this but it stil looks like an amazing time. Great photos!

  6. Abby says:

    Just the idea of it sounds so romantic. Love the practical advice and “go for it” attitude. You make travel very accessible!!

  7. Karin says:

    Sounds amazing! My husband and I booked a last minute flight to Bogota for Dec 1st-15th THIS year!! We are thinking about doing the trek – but can’t find dates for when they go on the website and how to sign up?
    Any pointers?? We would love any help for planing our trip to Colombia!

  8. Wow this looks like a fantastic adventure through the undergrowth. Hopefully after I’ve wowed my wife with se Asia she’ll be up for an extended jaunt around South America!

  9. tom blair says:

    Just before I started looking to book my fllight to Colombia, the US state dept. comes out with their travel warning Nov. 10th. Have things suddenly changed with increased violence and kidnapping as they say?

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