Ciudad Perdida or what some outdoor enthusiasts may know as the Lost City has been swallowed up by the Colombian forests for about 1,200 years. Speckled with human sacrificial sites, gold, and jewels, the Lost City is one of the most interesting and remarkably concealed gems you can find in Colombia.
The Ciudad Perdida trek is not very easy. To get to the epic ruins, you will have to cross rivers, climb over steep hills, and bear tropical heat for an average of 4 days. The difficulty of the Ciudad Perdida hike is one of the reasons the epic ruins are still under-visited despite being accessible to tourists for more than a decade.
Those who decide to get involved in a Ciudad Perdida hike are always left in awe. If you are considering hiking or trekking to the Lost City, this article has everything you need to know – from what to expect, the ideal time to go, what to pack, and much more.
The Ciudad Perdida Trek: What to Expect
If you decide to visit the Lost City after donning your hiking shoes and hiking shirt, you should expect to be amazed throughout the trip. The scenery en route for Ciudad Perdida is majestic. Colorful butterflies, gorgeous rock pools (you can jump into these), sputtering waterfalls, and sweeping mountain views are just some of the things you will come across before reaching the ruins.
After about 3 days of steep hiking through the humid Columbian forests, you will reach Ciudad Perdida’s entry, which is a steep stone stairway. Made up of more than 1,350 stones, the stairway was originally trodden by the Tairona who were the original inhabitants of the Lost City. Retracing their steps feels magical for every visitor.
After the steep venture up the stairs, the lushness of Ciudad Perdida reveals itself. Most of the hand-carved stone terraces, which at one point housed structures and huts, are engrossed in plants and moss.
Ciudad Perdida is explored on foot with a guide who will be explaining different areas of significance. Some of the important areas you will get to explore include sacrificial sites, plazas, terraces, and stones with engravings.
Ciudad Perdida Hike Difficulty
The Ciudad Perdida trek is a 44 kilometers hike that will take an average of 4 to 6 days to complete (round trip). Your journey will begin with a bumpy drive up a mountain to the start of your hike. Only one hiking trail exists in and out of the Ciudad Perdida – this means that you will have to retrace the route. Your first 3 days of the tour will be inclining as you approach Ciudad Perdida while the last 2 days will be declining as you return to the start.
In terms of difficulty, the hike is quite challenging. Since general fitness is required, training for the hike may be a good idea. Throughout the trip, you will have to deal with steep hills. Ultimately, you will reach an elevation of 3,600 feet (1,100 meters).
Climate-wise, it is humid, muddy, buggy, and hot. As noted earlier, you will have to walk through rivers and hence you should expect to get wet. If being hot, sweaty, fatigued, and dirty is an ideal trade-off for you to explore the ancient ruins and incredible landscapes along the way, you should find donning your hiking hat and hiking pants and attempting this hike worth it.
Food, Water, and Accommodation
Throughout the hike, you should expect humble accommodation. The campsites available along the way feature small open-air huts with hammocks, simple bunk beds, and mosquito nets. Most of the tours will have an average of 10 to 12 people, so the sleeping area will be quiet and small.
On the second day, you should be able to use cold showers on the camp. However, river swims become available on day 1 of the hiking trip.
On all tours, 3 meals and 2 hiking snacks per day are provided. You should expect to eat home-cooked Colombian food such as stews with salad and rice.
You will be able to find filtered water at each of the campsites – refilling your hydration pack should be easy. To ensure proper hiking hydration, be sure to carry an average of 1.5 to 2 Liters of water every day.
When to Go
Colombia features warm weather throughout the year. This means that you can technically do the Ciudad Perdida trek at any time. However, depending on how comfortable you are with crossing fuller rivers and hiking with bigger crowds, you may want to choose between the dry and wet seasons.
The Dry Season
The dry season runs from December to March. During this period, the temperatures are generally lower and there is less rain. This makes crossing the trek’s several rivers much easier.
On the flip side, the dry season is busier. You should, therefore, expect a large number of tourists on the trail if you decide to visit Ciudad Perdida between December and March.
The Wet Season
The rainy season runs from April to November. The season can feature anything from torrential downpours to drizzles. During this period, the rivers will be fuller, and hence crossing them will be more difficult. On the plus side, during the wet season, the trail will have fewer tourists.
Getting to the Hike’s Starting Point
The city closest to the start of the Ciudad Perdida hike is known as Santa Marta. You can access Santa Marta from the nearby major cities like Cartagena and Barranquilla.
Colombia is generally well-connected by bus. During the off-peak season, the bus prices are negotiable. You can purchase your bus ticket from the nearest bus station or buy ahead online.
If you will be flying into Colombia, Cartagena is the nearest major airport to Ciudad Perdida. Once you land in Cartagena, you will have to drive or ride a taxi to Santa Marta to be closer to the hike’s starting point.
Booking Your Trek Tour to Ciudad Perdida
A guided trek is the only way to visit Ciudad Perdida. This is because the sacred indigenous land is currently protected by the Colombian government. You can book your tour online in advance or in person at a tour company or your accommodation.
If you do not speak Spanish, be sure to request an English-speaking guide when booking your tour – the language barrier between you and your guide can largely affect the overall experience. If it is impossible to find a guide who speaks your language, a bi-lingual member of the tour group may be asked to do the translating – this can help the whole group avoid missing out on too much.
What to Pack
When packing your backpack, be sure to keep it as lightweight as possible. You will be hiking through heat and humidity and climbing up steep hills – every bit of weight will add strain.
While the necessary hiking gear does vary from one hiker to the other, we will give you an idea of what you need to carry below:
- 2 to 3 quick-dry tops (t-shirt or tank top)
- 1 long-sleeved shirt for use at night
- 2 to 3 pairs of hiking socks
- 1 pair of leggings or pants for use at night
- 4 pairs of underwear
- 2 sports bras
- Hiking boots or shoes
- Flip flops or sandals for use in the camp
- 1 bathing suit
- Rain jacket and pants for use in case of rain
It is worth noting that you can wash your clothes by the river and hang them to dry in between. However, because of the humidity, most of the washed clothes never dry fully.
The heat and humidity will make you sweat within minutes of putting on your clothes every day. If you would like to stay clean and free from sweat, you may want to carry more clothes.
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- 1 fast dry towel
- Small first aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Waterproof sunscreen
- Water bottle
- Portable charger
- Sleeping bag liner – This will reduce chances of getting bitten by bedbugs often present in the bunk beds
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Waterproof backpack cover
- Dry bag for keeping your electronics
- Some cash for buying things like chocolate bars in the camps
Globo Surf Overview
The Ciudad Perdida trek is one of the best hikes you will ever do in Latin America. While the hike can be quite challenging and sometimes expensive, it is well worth the effort and investment. The trek will allow you to explore ruins that have been hidden in the Colombian deliciously green jungles for more than 120 decades – this is an experience you will never forget.
Currently, the Ciudad Perdida hike does not attract a lot of tourists. However, the number of people visiting the epic ruins is growing every year. If you would like to explore the Lost City while it is still not crowded, visiting it as soon as possible might be your best option.
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