You always hear an interesting story from anyone who has completed Colombia’s Lost City Trek (or Ciudad Perdida in Spanish) – but to be honest you don’t meet many travellers in South America who have actually done it – but for how long?
Colombia’s security situation has improved a lot over the past few years, their year-round climate couldn’t be any better, transport is some of the best you’ll find in South America and the locals love meeting tourists – needless to say tourism is booming in Colombia.
About the Lost City
Colombia’s Lost City sits high up in the Sierra Nevada, a huge mountain range of dense tropical jungle, waterfalls and rivers which spans over 17,000km. That probably explains why the site was only discovered in 1972 by a group of locals who discovered a series of steps close to a river crossing which led them high up the steep mountainside where the city’s terraces and plazas were built.
Ciudad Perdida dates back to 800AD, 650 years before one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world – Machu Picchu – making it difficult to comprehend. No one knows for sure why the site was built but it’s thought it was a centre for trade and political activity.
Why is the Lost City Trek only just finding a place on travellers bucket lists?
Colombia in general doesn’t see as many tourists as other countries in the continent and the trek further disappeared off travellers radar’s when a group of tourists were kidnapped in 2003 as part of armed conflict in the area between paramilitary and guerilla groups. Security has since improved and The Colombian Army now patrols the region – a stint up there is even used as part of their military training program. The trek is now safer than ever and numbers are increasing rapidly.
What makes the Lost City so incredible is the journey you go on to reach the city. You trek over 40km in difficult conditions, deep into the mountains and tropical jungle – crossing rivers, meeting local Kogui tribesmen who still live as they did and take in some truly breathtaking scenery. And because of the accessibility issues – you don’t get coachloads of tourist groups wandering around – you really feel like you are discovering somewhere which makes your exploration a truly memorable one.
Not for the faint-hearted
Before you make the trek starting point you’ll have to endure a 2 hour ride in a 4X4 along a dirt track which takes you deep into the Sierra Nevada.
You’ll be trekking for around 5-7 hours a day in tough conditions – sweating in the intense heat and humidity as you ascend into the mountains, before trekking through jungle terrain in mud up to your ankles in tropical storms that will probably last for hours. You’ll see waterfalls, wade through fast flowing rivers, sleep in shelters deep in the jungle and watch the clouds descend on you in a matter of minutes. Wildlife surrounds you and unless you are one of the lucky ones, you’ll get bitten by mosquitos bigger than you have ever seen.
And if that isn’t enough, on return to civilisation you will most likely be hanging your head in shame when handing over your bag of steaming clothes to the local laundrette. Though I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it – you can guarantee they have seen worse!
Finding a tour guide
You can’t do the trek alone but you’ll find a good selection of tour companies in both Santa Marta and Taganga. The trek can be completed in 4-6 days depending on your fitness and how long you want to spend in the jungle.
Unlike some of the popular treks in South America, you won’t need to book this trek in advance – and it’s pretty cheap – expect to pay around £200.
Food and accommodation is basic – the local companies are working hard to make sure it reaches the to-do lists of backpackers in South America and The Global Heritage Fund has also got involved to help preserve it – lets hope they can make it sustainable long-term.
One thing is for sure – the Lost City Trek in Colombia is guaranteed to test your endurance and you’ll be sure to have some good stories on your return.