Another must see travel site in Colombia's
Caribbean coastal region, Ciudad Perdida ("Lost City") is a classic
Indiana Jones style 6 day (5 night) 20km trek through the rainforest to
some of the most magical of South America's ruins. Many tourists that
do visit Ciudad Perdida rank it as one of their most memorable travel
The adventure trek is tough at times and
involves crossing various rivers. The region is extremely biodiverse
and there's much wildlife and birdlife in the rainforests you travel
through. You'll also pass through numerous small indigenous villages
and meet local Tayrona Indians. Sleeping is in hammocks, in a tent or
maybe a farmhouse - zones are designated for camping, and bathrooms and
cooking facilites are present. On the uphill sections of the trek
you'll cover 4 to 8 km a day - coming down is quicker and you'll cover
about 14km on Day 5.
The area (the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta)
is remote and the ruins of Ciudad Perdida were only "re-discovered" in
1975. The local indigenous groups knew about it's existence long before
this date though - but kept everything a secret from the "outsiders".
It's believed that there are many other undiscovered ruins scattered
throughout this region of Colombia.
The ruins themselves of Ciudad Perdida date
back to the first century and the Tayrona culture. In it's hay day,
it's believed that the population was as great as 10,000 people.
& How to book a Ciudad Perdida Trek
To visit the ruins at Ciudad Perdida, you
need to arrange a tour - it's just not possible to freestyle it.
Booking a tour can be done quite easily in nearby Santa Marta. It is not
possible to travel to the Lost City on your own - an authorised guide
is a necessity.
Ciudad Perdida tours have traditionally been
arranged by Turcol,
who until recently were the only tour operator with a licence to
operate tours in the area. Now, a handful of other tour operators also
arrange trips to Ciudad Perdida. A few other smaller
companies - Guias
(who operate out of Hotel Miramar in Santa Marta), Expo
Tur and Magic Tours also organize tours to Ciudad Perdida.
Prices are very similar with all these operators at 650,000
Colombian pesos (approx USD $350) per person, all inclusive for the 6
day package. All equipment, food and transport should be provided by the tour
operator. Make sure you bring some serious mosquito repellent
from your home country, as it is very difficult to find locally (50%
Deet repellent is best).
Many other tour operators who offer Ciudad
Perdida packages are middlemen. For those with money to burn and little
time, you might even arrange a helicopter tour.
& Safety Issues
Safety remains an issue - there are coca
farms (that are often visited on the tours) and paramilitaries do
frequent the area. The UK's FCO travel advice advises against travel to
Ciudad Perdida (current as of 2010), though travel agencies and tour
operators will tell you that it is safe, and lots of tourists do visit
without any problems.
Tourists were kidnapped doing the Ciudad
Perdida trek in 2003. After a few months they were released unharmed,
and rumours persist that it was a pre-planned (ie. with the tourists
prior agreement and knowledge) operation designed as a publicity stunt.
If you take a look at the infamous photo of the kidnapped tourists,
where they are brandishing weapons and grinning for the camera
alongside ELN guerillas, they look like they're enjoying themselves.