Finding the mysterious Lost City, Colombia

Beautiful Indigenous Kogi children, living below the Lost City, ColombiaHigh on a mountain top, hidden by dense jungle in northern Colombia is the beautiful archaeological site of La Ciudad Perdida (Trans: The Lost City). The only way to reach these ruins is via a four day return trek over stunning mountains, down jungle covered valleys and crossing crystal clear rivers.

Here you will not find hoards of tourists. This is well off the beaten track and we shared the Lost City with less than 20 other travellers.


Founded in about 700AD, the city was abandoned after disease brought by Spanish colonials killed many. It was rediscovered by cowboys in the 1970s and the first tourists began arriving in the 80s.

Trekking to Ciudad Perdida is as much about the journey as the destination. Each day we stopped in the river pools to cool off and met the local Colombian Indians who lived a largely traditional life in these remote valleys.

The children are beautiful, extremely curious and friendly. A couple of boys took to our group and it was amazing to watch them put on googles and take their first look underwater. Needless to say, the goggles stayed.

I had planned not to the do the tour since I have been to Machu Picchu and the archaeology doesn’t compare, however, every traveller I met raved about this trek and I am very happy I changed my mind.

This tour can be done over four or five days. It is tough and involves steep ascents and descents on each day.

Hiking through the jungle to the Lost City, Colombia

Hiking through the Jungle to the Lost City, Colombia

Local families provide camp accommodation which have beds, hammocks,  toilets and showers. Hammocks are the only bed option on the first night with beds available for the second and third nights. Mosquito nets and blankets are provided.

Agency: I used Expotur which was brilliant in Santa Marta. Magic Tour Colombia and Guias y Baquianos Tours also come recommended. All cost the same at COP700,000 for the four or five day trek.

Day 1: The trek starts from the small village of Machete about three hours from Santa Marta, and involves a three to four hour trek to the first camp. The first 90 minutes is uphill and in the sun unless you are lucky enough to have cloud cover.

We stopped at some pools to cool down along the way. Snacks of fresh fruit are provided and there are small tiendas run from local houses.

Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City Archaeological Site, Colombia

Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City Archaeological Site, Colombia

Day 2: The toughest of the days, this involves several long uphill sections and steep downhill ascents. The majority of the walking is shaded by the jungle and it is broken into two three hour stints with a long lunch break in the middle.

There are gorgeous river pools to swim in next to camp.

Day 3: This morning begins with a 40 minute hike up more than 1000 steps to reach the archaeological site. We stayed there for several hours before returning to our camp.

After lunch we walked for three hours to the next camp to stay the night. A gorgeous Colombian Indian family run this accommodation and there are beautiful pools here.

Day 4: Those on the five day trek will walk for only three hours. For those doing the four day trek, it is a  six hour trek, broken up by a small break in the middle. We stopped after the summit for a cold lemonade – amazing.

Buritaca River near the Lost City, Colombia

Buritaca River near the Lost City, Colombia

This day is tough but the final 90 minutes is all down hill and there is a swim near the end. Lunch is yummy fresh fish.

Annoyances: Although we were warned that mosquitoes were bad, we encountered large numbers of mosquitoes only at the city itself and I personally only used organic mosquito repellant during the day and opted for clothing cover instead in the evenings. Ticks are abundant, particularly on the first/last days.

The beds have been well used, sheets and blankets are washed very infrequently, they smell and some people opt for hammocks each night as they are more likely to be washed and less likely to have bed bugs.