Trekking to Ciudad Perdida: Colombia’s Lost City

Trekking to Ciudad Perdida (or Lost City) was on my bucket list during my 4-month trip in South America. This ancient city buried deep in Columbia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is believed to have been founded around 800 CE, nearly 650 years before Machu Picchu. So, naturally, I was intrigued and decided that I had to see this magnificent wonder for myself. After extensive research, I found that La Ciudad Perdida can only be accessed on foot with a guide. Based on reviews and comments from other travelers, I decided to go with Expotur.

Here is my experience trekking to Ciudad Perdida with Expotur and some useful tips to help you plan your trekking adventure.

High Terraces in La Ciudad Perdida, ColombiaPin
High Terraces in La Ciudad Perdida

Day 1: Santa Marta to Camp 1

The hike on day 1 started rather late, I arrived at Expotur at 9 am and was introduced to my group. We piled into the van and we drove for a few hours before arriving at Machete Pelao for lunch. After a rather heavy meal, we began our 4-hour ascent to Camp 1. While the climb was long, it was the heat and the humidity that were truly suffocating. Eventually, we arrived at Camp 1, exhausted and drenched in sweat. After a short, cold, but much-needed shower and a delicious dinner, I passed out.

Sunrise Over the Jungle during the Trek to Ciudad PerdidaPin
Sunrise over the Jungle

Day 2: Enduring the Jungle’s Heat

On day 2 we awoke at 5 am to prepare our things and eat breakfast. Day 2 was the longest day, and it was definitely the most challenging. Our goal was to make it to Camp 3, with a stop in Camp 2 for lunch. The hike to Camp 2 was met with a series of ascents and descents, what they call Colombian flat. Although, in my mind, it felt like I climbed more hills than I descended. The trail was not technically challenging, but the slippery muddy path was difficult to navigate at times. We arrived at Camp 2 drenched in sweat and in time for lunch, just as the blistering sun and stifling humidity began to greet our already exhausted bodies.

Colorful Lizard During Trek to Ciudad PerdidaPin
A Beautifully Colored Lizard at Camp 2

After about 2 hours we were off to Camp 3. The path from Camp 2 to 3 was the same as Camp 1 to 2, but now the sun was really beating down, which made it more exhausting. Finally, we arrived at Camp 3, and to our surprise, there were not enough beds. The alternative – hammocks. When I heard this news, I was relieved. The night before was so hot and humid that I was happy to try any other alternative. The hammock was significantly better than a bed, and the fresh cool air during the night was a relief.

Day 3: La Ciudad Perdida

I awoke on day 3 with excitement, even though I was exhausted, because today we were going to visit the infamous Lost City of Santa Marta. The hike to the Lost City was relatively easy. We had to cross one river, but luckily it did not rain the night before, so the water level was not too high. After the river crossing, we had to climb 1200 stairs to the entrance of the Lost City. The steps were from when the original city was built and have not been replaced, which I thought was pretty cool. After a slow and steady climb, we reached the entrance to the Lost City.

My first reaction was – breathtaking. We explored the bottom terraces, and, then, climbed to the higher terraces. Here we could really see the full size of the city. Interestingly, much of the Lost City remains covered by the jungle. Out of respect for these indigenous communities, the government has forbidden further excavation so we may never know what lies beneath the jungle in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. We spent another 2 hours exploring the city, met the shaman, and descended back to Camp 3 for lunch. The day finished in Camp 2.

Shaman's Family and Living Quarters at Ciudad PerdidaPin
The Shaman’s Family and Living Quarters
Hidden Terraces in La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia.Pin
Hidden Terraces in La Ciudad Perdida

Day 4: The Long Journey Back to Santa Marta

Day 4 was the final day, and, definitely, the easiest. We hiked back to the starting point, which, seemed rather long, but in the end, it was the shortest day of the trek. Day 4 was mostly descending, so it went pretty fast. We arrived back at the starting point just in time for lunch and headed back to Santa Marta.

Tips for Trekking to Ciudad Perdida

1. Wear fast-drying clothes. Even in the dry season, the heat is so intense that you don’t want to be constantly drenched in sweat.

2. Bring cash and max 2L of water. There are stops along the way with fresh orange juice and Gatorade, and this will help lighten your backpack. (Snacks are offered by all trekking agencies, but, in my experience, a fresh drink was more useful).

3. Bring lots of bug spray. There is a brand in Colombia that is very effective called Nopikex. It is sold in a little black box at all the pharmacies. I only had 4 bug bites, whereas others were covered from head to toe. (They don’t use bug bombs at the camps because they don’t want to contaminate the water, so be prepared for mosquitos.

4. Bring a small cloth or bandana to wipe the sweat from your eyes during the trek.

5. Bring a lightweight bed liner. The bedsheets at the camps are not washed. While it is required to take a shower before lying in bed, it’s better to avoid any risk.

6. Bring as little as possible. Most people only had one fast-drying shirt and that was sufficient.

7. Have good hiking shoes. The trail is slippery even in the dry season, and it’s not worth an injury.

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Read More About My Other Hiking Adventures

Hope you enjoyed my post on trekking to Ciudad Perdida found it useful. Here are some of my other hiking adventures that you might find interesting.

Have questions about trekking to Ciudad Perdida or traveling in Colombia? Send me a message in the comments below!

Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.

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