Paisa Tours: Guide to Medellin and Colombia


North Colombia & Caribbean Coast:
Rosario Islands
Santa Marta
Park Tayrona
Ciudad Perdida
La Guajira
San Andres
San Bernardo Islands

Ciudad Perdida (Colombia's "Lost City")

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 experiences ever.

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.

Ciudad Perdida's History

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.

Tour Operators & 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 y Baquianos (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.

Ciudad Perdida & 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. Idiots.

Ciudad Perdida Trek:
Colombia's Ciudad Perdida
Colombia's Ciudad Perdida, or "Lost City" Trek - 1200 stone steps lead up to the ruins themselves.

Ruins of Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
The ruins of Ciudad Perdida, Colombia.

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