Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida, which literally translate as “lost city”, is a remote and spectacular ancient city in Colombia which now operates as archaeological park.

History of Ciudad Perdida

Thought to date to at least the 8th century AD, Ciudad Perdida was one of a number of settlements built by the Tayrona Indians, who inhabited the area now known as Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Located high in the mountains, it is unclear exactly how long the site was inhabited for, though it’s believed Ciudad Perdida was abandoned to the jungle around the time of the Spanish conquest.

Local tribes knew of the city’s existence and visited regularly, following the city’s abandonment. Reportedly they gave the Spanish gifts of gold in order to appease them, although this didn’t work: several items made from this gold can be seen in museums across Colombia today.

In 1972 the site was discovered by looters who began collecting artefacts from the area and selling them on the black market. This in turn led to archaeologists exploring the region and Ciudad Perdida was uncovered officially in 1976. Major excavation works took place for the following 6 years in order to uncover more of the site. .

Ciudad Perdida today

Remote yet spectacular, Ciudad Perdida is high on many travellers’ lists of things to see in Colombia. The mystery, atmosphere and views from the site are all spectacular, and well worth the effort it takes to get here. You’ll want to be one of the first groups here in the day to really get a feel for it (and to take the best photos). Guides and translators do a good job at bringing the site’s history to life: although it’s been excavated and cleared to reveal a number of raised stone and earth platforms built atop high mountain peaks, it can be hard to picture what life here must have been like.

The remaining structures include the ruins of houses, paths, staircases, storehouses, canals and communal areas as well as remains thought to have a ceremonial purpose.

Native peoples still live in this area, and after kidnappings in the early 2000s the site has military posts – don’t be surprised if you spot men in uniform and holding guns who look somewhat out of place when you get there.

It’s worth also remembering the site is under threat from over-tourism. Whilst it’s a major draw for the area, and a means of livelihood for local communities, the dramatic increase in the number of visitors puts the site’s long term future at risk.

Getting to Ciudad Perdida

Ciudad Perdida is not for the faint hearted: you can only access the site via a guided four day trek (or longer if you want to go at a slower pace) through the jungle. It’s an experience in itself, but it’s steep terrain and hot: ask to start as soon as it gets light to avoid hiking in the worst of the jungle heat, pack lightly, and honestly assess your fitness before starting. It’s not glamorous, but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.

Most treks depart from the nearby town of Santa Marta – several tour operators will offer their services and its worth doing some research about the quality of their guides and what they offer.


Ciudad Perdida Construction

U ntil very recently, it was believed that Ciudad Perdida´s construction might date to the year A.D. 1000. However, recent archaeological research found that the oldest residential areas date to the year A.D. 650 and were still in use up until A.D. 1100 or 12000, which would place these occupations within what is known as Neguanje period.

These residential areas are located towards the northern end of the town and correspond to the first cluster of terraces found at the beginning of the staircase leading down to the Buritaca River. The early period structures are buried below the stone masonry terraces and rings on view, which also gives us a good idea of the specific order in which this sector and the Core area was built.

The terraces for this residential cluster, as well as the string of terraces in the Core Area leading up to the great central terrace were built in an ascending order, from the lowest to the highest one.

To sum up, what this means is that the stone-masonry terraces and walls that were cleaned out and restored between 1976 and 1986 which are currently on view, were built between A.D. 1200 and A.D. 1600, modifying and burying other earlier structures. It was in this time period that the town acquired the form and layout that you can see today.

Some archaeologists estimate that by the 16th century Teyuna might have had a population between fifteen hundred and two thousand people if we add the population estimated for the surrounding settlements, approximately ten thousand people were living in this area alone at this time. Bear in mind that these are estimations since precise demographics for pre –Columbian populations are very difficult to calculate.

Do you know that…?

Approximately 90% of the Ciudad Perdida tour are local guides from the region same as the staff that works in the kitchen and in the food supplies transportation?


Colombia's Ciudad Perdida: Secrets of the Lost City

The jungle hummed in my ear as the violet dawn receded and cicadas began to rattle like maracas. One in front of the other, we picked our way in silence over the tree roots and rounded boulders that lined the babbling Buritaca River wiping away the drops of sweat the already sultry air dragged from our foreheads. Suddenly, Celso – our indigenous Wiwa guide – stopped and let out a birdlike whistle to get our attention. He raised a sun-browned finger and pointed across the water. Just visible, through a curtain of lianas and low-hanging branches, was a steep flight of stone steps – browned with lichens and leaves – leading enticingly upwards. I would have walked right past it.

And that's exactly what happened to Colombia's Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) for nigh on 400 years. Built by the Tairona people around AD700-800 – which makes it more than six centuries older than Machu Picchu – it was once home to a 2,000-strong township of potters and farmers who carved terraces and a living from the high hillsides of the 5,700m Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range. They remained there unencumbered until Spanish conquistadors arrived in the late 16th century with Catholicism, syphilis and smallpox. The site was abandoned and, like a fairytale castle, all memory of her was forgotten until the mid-1970s when guaqueros (looters), hunting for tropical bird feathers, pulled back the tangled roots and discovered a deserted metropolis complete with burial plots filled with golden earrings, jadeite figurines and fine pottery.

Today, Teyuna – as the locals know it – is still a four-day walk from the nearest road. It has been clear of narco-traffickers and rebel armies since 2005 and word of its beauty is spreading quickly among intrepid hikers. I had joined a new tour with adventure operator Explore to see if the buzz was justified.

On the drive from the coastal town of Santa Marta to the start of the trail in El Mamey, we pass groups crowding around silver-barrelled water tankers they were pushing their buckets towards the tap on its side that spouted agua. "No rain has fallen here for five months," laments our Bogotan translator, Léon, grinding his black-stubble jawline in worry. "The situation is getting pretty desperate."

1 /4 Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

Colombia's Ciudad Perdida

In El Mamey, we meet Celso for the first time. Like his Tairona descendants, a curtain of ebony hair trails down the back of his white tunic slung across his body is a mochila bag woven with colourful geometric designs. We nod "hello" and, without ceremony, he strides off down the sandy path and we scuttle after him.

After an hour, all conversation has wilted away as we focus on hauling ourselves up a 600m hill in 90 per cent humidity. I feel like a wrung-out teabag. At the summit, we sink our teeth into segments of bittersweet orange laid out on palm leaves by our cook, Enrique.

Then it's down and down towards our first camp, Adán – a collection of tin-roofed huts shoehorned into a steep valley overgrown with giant yellow daisies and mango, orange and lime trees. The river has carved out a plunge pool and we jump from the rocks into the cool water and wallow while small fish nibble at our toes. Drying off, we assess our beds for the night. "Hammocks are so uncomfortable," Simon, a fellow hiker, remarks. "No way! They're like a cuddle in your mother's arms" Léon enthuses.

We break camp early the next morning while skeins of smoke rise from the morning fires of families in the valley, and tramp past slopes singed black by slash-and-burn to replace coca plantations with cassava and cacao. Something rustles in the parched grass and Enrique pounces on it. "Look!" he exclaims proudly, holding up a snakelet. "It's a baby Boa constrictor."

At midday, we take shelter from the high sun at a Wiwa camp. Celso leads us to a cacao tree where he slices off a green pod with his machete, tears it in half, and gestures for us to try some. I scoop my fingers around the slimy, white flesh and pop a piece into my mouth. It's soft and sweet and tastes slightly of oranges.

In the afternoon, teasing rumbles of thunder pass overhead, but no rain follows, so we press on passing beneath boughs of unripened bana-nas that hang from the palms and blushing heliconia flowers.

On the fourth day, we rise in the darkness, pull on sweat-soaked T-shirts and shorts, and sneak out of El Paraiso camp while the other groups are sleeping. Tentatively, we start to climb the 1,200 steps – thin shards of stone stabbed into the hillside – that lead to Teyuna. Halfway up, my thighs are burning. I stop to rest a minute and behind me I hear the reassuring sound of Celso snorting coca leaf-laced phlegm and spitting it into the forest. I turn round to see him grinning up at me. He gives me a thumbs-up and we start to climb again.

At the top, we enter a clearing. Three circles of stone spread out before us, as Celso explains that Wymaco – father of the gods – chose the site so his people could live closer to the stars. The sunrise splinters through the high trees, warming our damp bodies and setting the stones aglow. When he's finished, we stand a moment in silence, looking up at the lianas. "How does being here make you feel?" I ask him. "I feel joyful – it's mine. It's a representation of who I am," translates Léon on his behalf.

Celso instructs us to walk around one of the stone circles seven times "to clear away bad spirits" and then we climb higher to La Capilla – the central section where feasts and rituals were held. We chat quietly, pointing to a barking toucan in a tall palm, but then the trees fall away and we are left open-mouthed and silenced: spread out before us are tiers of oval terraces that appear to perch on the clouds and tree canopy like a floating palace. For a full 20 minutes the scene is totally unblemished by other tourists.

So far, 250 terraces have been excavated over 30 hectares, with many more still hidden under the vegetation and, yet, very little is known about the site and its former residents. What facts there are have been cobbled together from a mish-mash of research conducted by the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH). And the stories told by Colombian guides and indigenous guides differ dramatically too. But that just adds to the mystery.

Perhaps what's more important is that the Ciudad Perdida trail is welcome proof of how much Colombia has changed: just a decade ago, the Sierra Nevada mountains echoed with gunfire between warring drug cartels and Farc guerillas, but now the government soldiers – camped at the summit to care for and watch over the site – wink at the girls and smile for pictures.

We hike back to El Paraiso camp and are just about to bite into our breakfast arepas when drops of rain start to splash on to the tin roof a few at first, then a deluge, until the earth is dancing to the drum of the water. I think back to the families crowding around the water tanker in Santa Marta and can't help feeling a little superstitious – here is a blessing from Wymaco far better than gold.

The gateway to Colombia is Bogotá. Emma Thomson travelled with Iberia (0870 609 0500 iberia.com), which flies daily from Madrid. From Bogotá, connecting flights to Santa Marta are offered by Avianca (0871 744 7472 avianca.co.uk), which also flies non-stop from Heathrow to Bogotá.

Trekking there

Explore (0844 499 0901 explore.co.uk) offers a 10-day "Trek to the Lost City" tour that costs from £2,380, including return flights, accommodation, transport and tour leader. The trail is busiest during Easter week.

More information

Colombia: The Bradt Travel Guide (bradtguides.com)


Ciudad Perdida - History

In the mountains of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta , declared Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1979, bordering the Caribbean Sea on the north coast of Colombia between 900 and 1.200 m on the upper reaches of the Buritaca river are hidden the ruins of an ancient indigenous town called “Teyuna“. (Lost City).

The “Tayronas” built the Lost City in 800 AD. They inhabited this area long before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors. The Lost City has an architecture based on terraces made with an enigmatic disposition and a unique design never seen before in any ancient city in America.

The Trek to Ciudad Perdida gives us the opportunity to go on a terrific journey through the path of the “Tayronas” on an adventure through the thick tropical rainforest and full with invaluable biological wealth. In Lost City Trek, we will know about the customs of the locals and indigenous communities (descendants of the “Tayronas”) who still inhabit the territory. A choice of archaeological tourism in Santa Marta, Colombia, with mountain hiking to explore this pre-Hispanic jewel where harmony and balance with nature practiced and professed by the ancient inhabitants of this land is evident, where today Kogui people maintains its legacy.

Why choose us?

TRANSPORTATION

We have comfortable 4WD vehicles suitable for the route. We also have experience drivers who have been working more than 20 years on The Lost City Trek route thereby we guarantee a comfortable, fun and especially safe trip.

MEALS

At the stations where we will spend the nights along the route to the Lost City of the indigenous Tayronas, we will provide food prepared by our cooks with fresh ingredients and typical recipes.

ACCOMMODATION

During the Lost City Trek Colombia, we will stay at rustic accommodations located along the path, provided by local people who will offer us a comfortable and safe staying in hammocks or bunk beds cover by a waterproof roof. They will also provide Blankets and mosquito nets.

GUIDANCE

Our guides are locals with great experience on the route who we have supported, trained and certified to relevant private and public authorities. Therefore, they can develop guidance tourist activities in an environmentally and socially responsible way throughout the the best trek to Ciudad Perdida Lost City.

Available Tours

Lost City Trek 4 day tour

Lost City Trek 4 day tour The Lost City Trek 4 day tour is the [&hellip]

Punta Gallinas 4 day tour

Punta Gallinas 4 day tour Ideal for people who enjoy being in contact with nature, [&hellip]

Cabo de la Vela 2 day tour

Cabo de la Vela 2 day tour The most beautiful place to delight the bond [&hellip]

Transport to Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela

Transport to Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela

Transport to Punta Gallinas and Cabo de la Vela If you want to get to [&hellip]


Journey to the "Lost City" of La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve. This mountainous region is one of the most ecologically diverse coastal mountain ranges in the world, with an enormous array of flora and fauna — including nearly 630 bird species.

"Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Plinio Barraza)Global Heritage Fund

Within this dense jungle maze lie the remains of the Tayrona civilization's crown jewel: La Ciudad Perdida. This once-vibrant settlement lost its inhabitants after the 16th century, and was slowly overtaken by the jungle before disappearing entirely.

"Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

400 years later, a group of looters stumbled upon the city’s remains in 1975. The Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH) quickly assumed control of the site, collaborating with Indigenous groups and global organizations to care for it ever since.

"Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

Protecting Irreplaceable History

After the site's discovery, its protection required community engagement to enact emergency stabilization, repair and restoration, and documentation of architectural elements and conservation interventions.

"Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

Supporting Archaeological Research

Nonprofit Global Heritage Fund supported LiDAR mapping with georeferenced points for the archaeological sites, providing an invaluable reference for management of the basin and future research.

"Ciudad Perdida Community" (автор – Santiago Giraldo)Global Heritage Fund

Boosting Community Health

In consultation with Indigenous groups, Global Heritage Fund also supporting the construction of a health center in the nearby village of Mutianzhi, along with first aid training to benefit local community members and visitors.

"Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

Protecting the Past, Benefiting the Present

La Ciudad Perdida continues to draw travelers to its stunning archaeological remains. Prior to COVID-19, the site received around 25,000 visitors annually, and tourist spending benefited the local communities by supporting local guides, lodges, drivers and workers.

"Ciudad Perdida Community" (автор – Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

Developing Local Community Opportunities

Over the past decade, Indigenous men and women have teamed up with organizations like Global Heritage Fund to develop visitor facilities. All the guides, cooks, and porters are local or based in nearby Santa Marta, and campsites are locally owned.

"River Near Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

Rainfall, rivers, and thick jungle brush on the 17-mile trek to La Ciudad Perdida challenge even experienced hikers. To improve visitor safety, the community opted to build a suspension bridge over one of the most dangerous river crossings along the trail.

"Escuela Ableizhi" (автор – Santiago Giraldo/Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

Lasting protection for La Ciudad Perdida also requires youth engagement and education. At school such as Escuela Ableizhi, students benefit from a cultural heritage curriculum, teacher training, and establishment of an environmental club.

"Conservation and Rural Development" (автор – Alessandra Fuccillo, courtesy of Environomica Onlus)Global Heritage Fund

Conservation of Forest Ecosystems

To build capacity on integrated agroforestry, 27 local farms have been engaged and a new working tree nursery established. The nursery now provides up to 20,000 saplings per year.

"Conservation and Rural Development" (автор – Alessandra Fuccillo, courtesy of Environomica Onlus)Global Heritage Fund

Sustainable Rural Development

The agricultural output of 40 households has been diversified and increased. Deforestation around La Ciudad Perdida has decreased thanks to significant reductions in pasture used for grazing.

"Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Plinio Barraza)Global Heritage Fund

With the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world in 2020, the Indigenous groups living near La Ciudad Perdida knew they had to act fast to protect themselves. They quickly asked park managers to close the park to visitors.

"Ciudad Perdida" (автор – Santiago Giraldo/Global Heritage Fund)Global Heritage Fund

Over 330 families living around La Ciudad Perdida cannot access essential resources such as food and medical supplies.

Donations help provide food and medical equipment to vulnerable Indigenous families, local guides, and personnel throughout La Ciudad Perdida. Learn more at give.globalheritagefund.org/ciudadperdida.

COVID-19 UPDATE: Make a difference for Indigenous and rural families around La Ciudad Perdida who cannot access critically-needed food and medical supplies: https://give.globalheritagefund.org/ciudadperdida

Explore how Global Heritage Fund builds local capacities through community training, visitor development, and education to sustainably protect the irreplaceable historic remains of La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia:
La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

About Global Heritage Fund

Transforming local communities by investing in global heritage. Since 2002, we have partnered with over 100 organizations to protect 28 sites across 19 countries. And we are just getting started. Learn more at globalheritagefund.org.

Make a Difference Today

Support communities in places like Ciudad Perdida with a one-time donation or monthly membership.

Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH)
USAID-Fondo Patrimonio Natural Conservation Landscapes Program
Tayrona Foundation for Archaeological and Environmental Research-FIAAT
CitiFoundation
Tamarin Fund
Fundación Bolivar-Davivienda


Teyuna Archaeological Park or Ciudad Perdida is one of the best examples of the power and fascination that the past has on our society, but it is also a place full of unknowns and history gaps in an area that has been inhabited by indigenous communities long before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores. In comparison with other South and Central America pre-Hispanic societies, still little what we know about the Tairona even though archaeological investigations in the Park and other areas of the Sierra Nevada keep throwing new and valuable information.

ITINERARY

  • 08:00 pick up time, ask after to book what it's your pick up time.
  • 11:30 am: departure in a 4x4 car to Machete Pelao, lunch time, information about first day.
  • 12:30: the adventure start, 7 km walking in average to the first camp called Adam or Alfredo.
  • In this place you can sleep in hammock or bed (both with mosquito nets) and you have a natural pool to enjoy the rest of the day, after dinner there is a general information or peasant history and the guide talk about the itinerary of the next day.
  • 05:30 breakfast time.
  • 06:00 we left the farmer region to go to the indigenous region, in this part will walk 2 hours and 30 minutes before arrive to the second camp for lunch called Wiwa camp, you’ll have time for enjoy the river and a wonderful waterfall.
  • 08:00 Brake, some fruits and enjoy landscape.
  • 12:00 Lunch time.
  • 13:00 A walking that will take around 4 hours to the Paraiso camp, place where we are going to sleep the second night.
  • 17:00 Arrival to Paraiso camp.
  • 19:00 Dinner time.
  • 5:30 breakfast time.
  • 06:00 we start to walk for more or less 2 hours to get in the Lost city where will be around 2 or 3 hours knowing all the archeological place, in this trail there are around 1.200 steps in rock originals from the Tayrona culture.
  • 7:45: Lost City.
  • 10:00 return to Paraiso camp for lunch.
  • 12:00 return to Wiwa camp for sleep there.
  • 17:00 cultural interchange with the indigenous people (optional and this plan could change).
  • 19:00 Dinner time.
  • 05:30 Breakfast time.
  • 06:15 start the walking to return.
  • 7:30 brake and fruits.
  • 09:00 other break for relax in Adam camp.
  • 09:20 Return to Machete Pelao to finish the tour.
  • 12:00 lunch in Machete Pelao.
  • 16:00 Santa Marta.

RECOMMENDATIONS

We recommend to stay in good shape, sleep good before take the tour and to have the best actitud to live one of the best experiences. If you have any allergy or feed recommendations it’s important notify us, we have special food for vegetarian people but you have to notify before.

  • Make reservations in advance
  • Avoid high season
  • Make sure you keep hydrated during the trek
  • Bring back all your waste.
  • Use biodegradable items.
  • Stay on the marked hiking paths.
  • Always follow the guide´s instructions.

During the tour there will not be network or any type of digital communication hence this is an amazing opportunity for you to connect yourself with nature and its stunning surroundings.

What do you need to bring?

  • We recommend hiking boots.
  • Flip Flops or sandals.
  • Camiseta de algodón 2 ó 3.
  • Shorts, Lycra or cotton walking pants (3).
  • Sweatpants or long pants.
  • Long sleeve shirt.
  • Swimming suit.
  • Towel and sucks (4).
  • Mosquito repelent.
  • Personal hygiene elements.
  • Flashlight.
  • 1 liter and half of water.
  • Personal Medications (if needed).
  • 2 plastic bags to protect your things if is raining..
  • Camera.
  • Sum block cream.

IT INCLUDES

  • Round trip transport.
  • Food throughout the tour.
  • Water in the camps.
  • Bilingual guide or a guide with a english translator.
  • Accommodation in beds and/or hammocks with mosquito nets (-).
  • Fruits
  • Contribution to the peasant, and indigenous settlements and the Colombian Institution of Anthropology and history – ICANH.
  • Travel insurance.

IT'S NOT INCLUDES

  • Mule service.
  • Drinks different to the feed time.
  • Mamo interview.
  • Craft souvenirs from locals.
  • Services not specified in the plan.

BOOK NOW

You can book an spot paying the 10% in advance, the rest of the total price you can pay the departure day, we go to pick up you where are you staying in Santa Marta and around, the tour start at 7:30 am. After to book we'll request you more information about you to guarantee a best service. We receive all the payments methods.

Price:
$1,100,000 pesos.

WRITE TO US

We recommend you to check the frequency questions, maybe your question is there and you will have a faster answer.

Do you know that…?

Lost City is called Teyuna by the indigenous communities which means “sacred site”.


Trekking to Colombia’s Lost City

Only accessible by a 44km trek through inhospitable jungle terrain, visiting Ciudad Perdida gives travellers the chance to live out their Indiana Jones fantasies.

For many travellers, Colombia offers a healthy dose of the unknown -- and it does not get more mysterious than the country’s famed archaeological site, Ciudad Perdida, which loosely translates as the Lost City. Hidden in the jungle for more than a thousand years and only accessible by a 44km trek through inhospitable terrain, visiting Ciudad Perdida gives travellers the chance to live out their Indiana Jones fantasies as they battle rock scrambles, steep ascents and numerous waterfalls along the way.

Built in 800AD, some 650 years before Peru’s Machu Picchu, Ciudad Perdida lies in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta & Teyuna Archaeological Park in the Sierra Nevada region of northern Colombia. Treasure hunters discovered the archaeological site in the early 1970s when they climbed the 1,263 stone steps from the riverbank to find an isolated site consisting of more than 150 terraces, plazas and stone paths that cascade down the mountain. Thought to have once been a commercial centre for trade, only 10% of the Lost City has been excavated by archaeologists, giving it an eerie, haunted atmosphere.

Until recently, the Lost City was largely protected from outside influence, not only because of its isolated, dense jungle location, but also because of the drug warfare and paramilitary activity that has plagued the jungle around Ciudad Perdida since the mid-1960s. Colombia is responsible for about 80% of the world's cocaine trade and the drug has played a massive role in the devastating internal conflict that has crippled Colombia for years. Narcotics are one of Colombia’s very visible demons – and crops of coca, the plant that is refined into cocaine, can be seen throughout the Sierra Nevada region.

In 2003, a group of eight tourists and their guide were kidnapped on the way to the Lost City. The site was shut down and it was not until 2005 that tours and archaeological work began again (the tourists were released three months after being kidnapped). Today, the Colombian military maintains a strong visible presence throughout the area, with tour groups often sharing camps with soldiers at night. On a recent visit, the young men with automatic rifles wandered the riverside camps, showing the travellers best spots to dive from rocks into the river, swapping their Gatorade rations for cigarettes and, after propping their guns against the table, played a round of the children’s card game Uno with the hikers.

As Colombia has slowly gotten safer, however, the Lost City has soared in popularity among travellers, and questions are being raised about the sustainability of tourism to the area. According to the Global Heritage Fund, a non-governmental organisation that has been working with the Lost City since 2009, visitor numbers to the site increased from 2,000 in 2007 to 8,000 in 2011. There are now five operators offering three- to six-day treks, passing through agricultural farmland and pristine jungle, and a number of indigenous villages where life has remained largely unchanged for centuries.

In one of Colombia’s Kogi Indian villages, crops were spread out on the ground to dry in the sun, while the pelt of a jungle cat hung from the roof of a nearby hut. The Kogi have lived in the area for countless generations and believe they are the descendants of the Tairona people who once occupied the Lost City. Though they knew about Ciudad Perdida, they kept quiet for fear of attracting the very crowds that now visit the site, which could lead to the disruption of local indigenous populations and the destruction or looting of the site.

There are many challenges facing the Lost City – and even more for travellers who wish to visit it – but even with the knee-deep mud, the swarms of mosquitoes and almost vertical climbs, the Lost City is well worth the effort. Nursing bruises and bites, travellers are able to discover an abandoned city that is still revealing its secrets, exploring green copses and stone paths through dense jungle, bathing in waterfalls, sleeping among ruins, and most majestic of all, watching the clouds spill across the terraces at sunset each night.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that the Lost City was located in the Parque Nacional Tayrona. This has been fixed.


Ciudad Perdida – The “Lost City”

Ciudad Perdida, translated in Spanish as the “Lost City”, also known as “Teyuna” and “Buritaca” locally is an archaeological site in the jungles of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the city was founded around 800AD by the Tayrona (also spelt Tairona), a Pre-Columbian culture that first occupied the region at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD and founded around 250 settlements.

Ciudad Perdida most likely served as the region’s centre, supporting a population of around 2,500-3,000 inhabitants.

Archaeologists have discovered over 200 structures, mainly constructed with timber on 169 terraces, connected by a network of flagstone roads and several small circular plazas that covered an area of over 30 hectares (80 acres).

The terraces were constructed using a combination of rammed earth and masonry, capped with stone to ensure a stable foundation and prevent erosion. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Tayrona cultivated maize, beans, sweet potato, yams and avocados as a staple diet.

Ciudad Perdida was abandoned after the 16th century, shortly after the arrival of the Spanish and was subsequently swallowed by the jungle. The reason for the abandonment remains elusive, but around the same time the Spanish explorer Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo arrived in the Bay of Santa Marta in 1498.

Although described as lost, some of the indigenous tribes in the region (Arhuaco, the Koguis and the Wiwas) claim to descend from the Tayrona, always knowing of the cities existence and continued to see the site as sacred and a place of pilgrimage.

Ciudad Perdia first became known to the outside world when treasure hunters and looters (known in Colombia as “guaqueros”) descended on the site, robbing much of the archaeological legacy of the Tayrona.

When gold figurines and ceramic urns from the city began to appear in the local black market, archaeologists headed by the director of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología reached the site in 1976 and placed Ciudad Perdia under the state’s protection.

Ongoing work today by the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has been working in Ciudad Perdida to preserve and protect the historic site against climate, vegetation, neglect, looting, and unsustainable tourism.


Ciudad Perdida Trek

In this article, we are going to explore both the archaeological site itself and the mammoth hike you’ll need to take to get there!

What is Ciudad Perdida?

The Lost City, also known as Teyuna (or La Ciudad Perdida in Spanish), is a major and mystical archaeological site buried deep within the Sierra Nevada mountains, up in the north of Colombia.

Believed to have been founded as early as 850CE, this site is over 600 years older than Machu Picchu, yet was only discovered in the 1970s!

Nestled within the jungle, it takes a hike of around 4 to 5 days to reach, which helps confirm its fitting identity and name.

The site itself is located on top of a mountain, which can be accessed by climbing a long series of stone steps.

At the top, there are terraces that form a picturesque viewpoint when looking from above. The misty Sierra Nevada mountains provide an impressive backdrop as they stretch out into the horizon.

Some of the best Colombian coffee comes from this region and for many years the indigenous coffee growers adopted their own style of coffee growing in accordance with their beliefs.

There are also many huts where some indigenous locals live, as well as different quarters appointed for rituals and ceremonies.

Ciudad Perdida: Is it Worth Hiking?

Getting to the Lost City is a backpacking adventure, and consists of a five-day tour of the Colombian mountain range of Sierra Nevada.

This hike is not for the faint-hearted. This is where you cross rivers, mountains, and local indigenous settlements along the way (these are known as the Kogi or Cogui tribe, which means Jaguar in their language).

This is all done before you reach the base, where you then have to climb the steps to reach the summit!

For me, the trek to La Ciudad Perdida is hands down the best off the beaten path experience in Colombia, and a breath of fresh air having visited most of the others tourist destinations in Colombia.

Tours with the Wiwa can be organized from Minca for a good price.

As long as you are in good shape, along with having prepared well (we will discuss later in the post) then you will really enjoy this hike.

It’s especially great if you can get on a tour with one of the Wiwa guides!

The Wiwa are indigenous peoples local to the area and can teach some interesting things along the way. Everything from different types of plants to certain activities they do in their free time!

This type of cultural experience is second-to-none and what I love about this whole idea of cultural travel in South America that I once dreamt of.


Final Thoughts

This hike was a huge challenge mentally and physically. But I LOVED it. Even with my injury. I’m also really glad I went with Magic Tour, once again they were incredible and I felt so well looked after by them. All of the groups have the same cost, they don’t all have this level of service though. If you are planning on doing the hike I highly recommend choosing them as your tour guides.

I hope this is helpful if you are backpacking in Colombia be sure to check out my other guides! Also, you can follow my 1-week, 2-week, and 3-week Itineraries for the Caribbean coast.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Santa Marta? Here are the places I personally recommend:


Watch the video: plantas vs zombes 2 ciudad perdida dia 14