Kristin of Coffee Calculations & Colombia shares her exciting hike to Colombia’s Lost City, Ciudad Perdida.
Within one month of my decision to move to Cali, Colombia, I knew I wanted to hike to Ciudad Perdida. I found a friend who wanted to do the 5 night, 6 day jungle trek with me, we planned a trip for January 2010, and I started looking for flights to the nearby city of Santa Marta.
After she arrived to Cali, we prepared to leave for Santa Marta. We packed our backpacks full of just the essentials. Then we took a lap around my apartment. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so confident in our survival skills for 6 days – honestly I questioned our ability to make it through day one with these backpacks on our shoulders.
However, we did make it, and emerged with a stunningly unique and memorable experience that I will never forget. Yes, 6 days is a big commitment for the consistently on-the-move traveler, but this is one experience you cannot afford to miss.
Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City)
A pre-Colombian settlement of the Tayrona people, Ciudad Perdida is located at the start of the Buritaca River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains surrounding the city of Santa Marta, Colombia. Discovered in the 1970s, the site itself features intricate staircases, meticulously built terraces, a complex system of pathways, and gorgeous views of the surrounding landscapes. The only way to see Ciudad Perdida is to hike there (or find yourself a private helicopter, I guess…), so research the various tour companies to find the one that best suits your needs. We decided on TurCol, short for Turismo Colombiano, based on a recommendation from friends, and paid $500,000 Colombian Pesos ($275 USD) per person for the trip.
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Put On Your Hiking Shoes
The trek takes 6 days to complete. Although you can complete it in 5 days, I recommend the 6-day pace so you can take time to enjoy the journey. Each day you will hike between 4 to 6 hours, with frequent enough breaks for water, snacks and fresh fruit. While the trek is filled with hills, river crossings, and rocky paths, the hike is completely manageable for the average, generally fit person. Prior to my trip I did not do anything extra to prepare in terms of physical readiness, and I felt fine the whole time. There will be hills and hard times, but they always end with a gorgeous view, campsite, or a delicious snack!
And You Thought Hammocks Were Comfortable
Each of the 3 pre-established (with rough “kitchens” and bathrooms/running water) campsites is equipped with either bunk beds or hammocks for your sleeping enjoyment. Initially, I thought this would be an easy, efficient and fun way to enjoy some nature along the way. However, by night three of sleeping like a banana in a hammock and waking up quite chilly, since apparently it’s cold in the mountains at night (whoops!), I felt a bit differently. Overall, the sleeping accommodations were adequate for being in the jungle, but I haven’t looked at a hammock the same way since. My friend and I had ditched our sleeping bags at the last minute, and while I didn’t regret the extra space and my lighter backpack, this choice definitely affected our sleeping at night. Depending on your own preferences, you may want to consider a sleeping bag, although most tour companies do provide blankets at night, so in general I would not recommend bringing one as it is not worth the added weight to your backpack.
Don’t Leave Home Without Your…
Sturdy walking shoes – preferably ones that you can wear right into the water during river crossings! Flashlight/head lamp. Dry/warm clothes for the nights – preferably kept in plastic bags to keep them dry. Swimsuit (lots of natural pools to swim in along the way!). Bug spray – with lots of DEET. Sunscreen. Good paperback book (lots of free time in the afternoons/evenings). Lightweight snacks (guides provide fresh fruit, but you will want your own things too). Water bottle or Camelbak.Yellow fever shot. Quick-dry clothes – in the dense, humid jungle if it gets wet once, it’s staying wet…for 6 days. Solid sense of humor.
Colombia Hiking Buddies
Nothing like a physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging experience to reveal people’s true sides and on this trip, we got to know one another quickly. By the last night we were sitting around the campsite exchanging a few beers, email addresses, future travel plans, and promises to remember this incredible shared experience. From the two university women from England and the adorably endearing British police officers to the French-Australian couple and happy-go-lucky man from Baranquilla, Colombia, our travel group included people from all over the world. For 6 days we shared our stories, our accomplishments, our struggles, and our water breaks. Along the way I kept reminding myself to enjoy the journey in case the end really wasn’t that cool (Spoiler Alert: It is), but being with this group of people made it easy to enjoy the whole experience.
Best Hike in Colombia
In the end, I have no better advice than just go for it. I had never been hiking for longer than 6 consecutive hours prior to my trek to Ciudad Perdida, and I came out happily alive and in shock of what I was able to accomplish. Schedule a trip, take your backpack out of the closet, and get going. The Lost City awaits.