La Ciudad Perdida trek (The Lost City trek) is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have in Colombia. This four-day trek is loaded with adventure and cultural history. The excursion to La Ciudad Perdida is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the thriving history of the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada. And you’ll do so while creating friendships and pushing yourself past your limits.
Be prepared, however, as reaching La Ciudad Perdida is no easy accomplishment. I have written a detailed post to help you prepare as best as possible for this unforgettable adventure.
Make sure to also read my post The Best Places To Visit In Colombia.
Why You Should Visit La Ciudad Perdida
Reaching La Ciudad Perdida is an experience of a lifetime; it is truly one of the best ways to experience and witness Colombian nature and history. Throughout this four/five day trek, you will be exposed to the true Colombian climate, explore some breathtaking mountainous jungles stretching across the Sierra Nevada, and learn more about the history and modern-day indigenous peoples of Colombia.
La Ciudad Perdida trek is an arduous one. You will be challenging yourself every second of the way, between down-pouring rain, steep staircases going up, muddy downhill terrain, and many river crossings.
But don’t fret; with enough preparation and knowledge, anyone can survive and enjoy La Ciudad Perdida. Now, continue reading to discover everything you need to know before your Lost City trek.
What You Must Know Before Your Ciudad Perdida Trek
General information about La Ciudad Perdida trek
The standard route to La Ciudad Perdida is about 50-60km (31-37 miles), spread throughout a four or five-day itinerary.
There are several different packages you can choose from for your hike. The package trek I went on was about 72 km (44 miles) and included several waterfall stops and a different return route to keep things interesting.
The shortest recommended trek to La Ciudad Perdida is a four-day adventure. You can opt for a five-day trek. You can talk with your tour operator to find the best option for your needs and wants.
Difficulty of La Ciudad Perdida trek
La Ciudad Perdida trek is rated as moderate to difficult. While the total distance isn’t so intimidating, and the average altitude isn’t nearly as high as that of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, you will be going steadily uphill for most of the trek. Some parts do get rather steep, as well.
You’ll want to be in decent shape to make it to La Ciudad Perdida. However, almost anyone can accomplish it with a baseline fitness level and enough determination.
What to expect during the Lost City trek
Different tour groups may have slightly different routes. However, there are some similarities between all providers. You will most likely reach La Ciudad Perdida on day three of your Lost City trek and spend day four journeying back to the starting point.
The first three days of the trek are spent on a steady incline, and you will likely take the same route back on rather steep declines on the last day.
The wake up call during the Lost City trek can vary. On a given day, different groups wake up between 5:00 and 6:30 am, and start walking at different times. The overall idea is to make sure that not all groups are on the trail (and in the Lost City) at the same time.
Now, let’s review a standard itinerary most tour groups have on the trek.
You will be picked up from your accommodation around 8:00 am. From there, you will go to the operator’s office to pay and drop off any bags / luggage you want to leave in storage while you hike to the Ciudad Perdida. You will then depart to the starting point, Machete Pelao.
Most tour operators will depart from Machete Pelao around 11:00 am. You will walk to the first base camp for about five or six hours, approximately 8-10 km (5-6 miles).
The first half of the walk is up a vast dirt road through the forest with stunning views. There is a lot of motorcycle traffic. You’ll pass other groups going both directions, either starting their trek or finishing it.
After some muddy, downhill routes toward the end, you’ll reach the first base camp, Camp Adan.
On day two, you will hike from Camp Adan to Camp El Paraiso Teyuna, about another 20 km (12.4 miles) journey. This is certainly one of the most challenging stretches of the trip.
You will stop for lunch at another camp halfway to El Paraiso, a camp relatively close to La Ciudad Perdida.
You will cross rivers, pass by some active indigenous communities, and share the road with the occasional mule or horse.
You will be treated to breathtaking views, long stretches of silence and maybe even some toucan sitings. The jungle truly stretches on, and you can appreciate it throughout this leg of the hike.
On day three, you will hike from Camp Paraiso to La Ciudad Perdida and finish at Camp Mumake, walking about 10 km (6.2 miles).
The journey from Camp Paraiso takes between one and two hours. It starts relatively easy until you get to the biggest river crossing of the journey. Depending on the weather leading up to this point, you can walk across the river or take a trolley set up to send you across the river from above.
We could wade across the river on both trips but did have to take a trolley at two other points during the trek.
As explained above, the tour companies have a schedule that minimizes the number of trekkers sharing the road and La Ciudad Perdida. If you are lucky, it may just be your group at the Lost City.
The climb to La Ciudad Perdida is quite daunting. You will walk up 1,200 steep steps. According to our guide, the steps are the original path to the city. This means, at points, the conditions can be treacherous. Be sure to carefully watch your footing, especially on the return trip down.
After visiting La Ciudad Perdida, you will return to the camp you had your lunch (and left your bag) and end the night at Camp Mumake.
Day four is the final voyage, where you walk from Camp Mumake back to Machete Pelao, a total of 20 km (12.4 miles), where it all began.
On day Four, you will be retracing your steps. But this gives you a fresh perspective and the ability to reflect on the last three days in peace.
The main challenges of La Ciudad Perdida Trek
While La Ciudad Perdida is not the most challenging hike in the world, it does take a toll on the body and takes a lot of endurance and optimism to finish in good spirits. You may encounter a lot of rain, bugs, mosquitos, illnesses, or a slip into the river.
But if you take the time to truly appreciate your surroundings and the incredible history, everything will be worth it in the end.
River crossings when trekking Ciudad Perdida
As mentioned, there are several major river crossings throughout the four days of your Ciudad Perdida tour.
Sometimes you can rock-hop your way safely across the rivers. Other times you will have to wade through. For this reason, one person in our group brought water shoes. Most of us just took off our shoes and crossed barefoot.
Several other times, we crossed with a hanging trolley, zip-line device. While it may look questionable, it always felt very secure and safe. Nobody in our group had problems with this method. In fact, it was pretty fun.
Facilities and food during the Ciudad Perdida trek
You will be given three main meals and two snacks every day. Meals are cooked by a chef at the camp. I recommend bringing some extra snacks – just in case you need an additional energy boost.
The facilities as surprisingly comfortable, considering the conditions. Camp Paraiso is usually the one exception. You will be sleeping in campsites that have dorm-like accommodation, with bunk beds – so it’s more comfortable than most long-distance hikes you may be doing in other countries.
All the facilities have plenty of beds, showers with running cold water, clean toilets, and soap for easy access.
Camp Paraiso, the closest running camp to La Ciudad Perdida, is a different story. This specific camp is packed full despite an abundance of beds. It is clear there needs to be more planning on who would sleep where and how many beds are required. One person in our group slept in a hammock, and people traveling together were strongly encouraged to share a bed!
Some people in our group did encounter dirty sheets, very few of the beds had pillows, and it could get noisy at night from loud sleepers or celebrators. But all of that aside, we were impressed by the conditions of each camp.
While your tour provider may provide toilet paper for your group, bring your own roll for emergencies.
Visiting La Ciudad Perdida
From start to finish, La Ciudad Perdida trek is an unforgettable adventure. But actually seeing La Ciudad Perdida is the true star of the show. The Ciudad Perdida tour is typically the highlight of the trek.
The Tayrona indigenous people made la Ciudad Perdida, and the area is still heavily occupied by indigenous communities that keep the culture and traditions alive. La Ciudad Perdida was built in 700 AD and is made up of large, symmetrical circles where indigenous were buried and covered in gold.
The people of Tayrona worship the sun, and gold is the perfect representation of the colors of the sun. Unsurprisingly, once the Spanish discovered Tayrona buried immense amounts of gold, the area was raided and left completely disrespected.
There is much more to learn about the Tayrona people and the history of La Ciudad Perdida that your Colombian tour guide can share with you.
Alternative Lost City Colombia treks
While 95% of the trekkers we encountered had the above itinerary, we actually had a slightly different route. We went with a tour operator, Wiwa Walker, who offered a personalised tour for the seven people in the group.
We had our Ciudad Perdida tour in the afternoon on the second day, with absolutely no other visitors around. We then spent the third day getting lost off the beaten path and discovering a massive waterfall.
On our final night, we stayed in a “private” camp, Camp Cascada, that only housed about 16 beds. The quality and standards of Camp Cascada were much higher than the other camps, as facilities were kept clean and tidy, and there were hardly any other people around.
To give us more time to explore further in the jungle, we took a motorbike up the first part of the mountain on day one to save us about three hours of walking.
A note on the five-day Lost City trek Colombia
We did not do the five-day trek, but from people we met along the way, you take the same route and stop at all the same places. But you get an extra day at a more leisurely pace to enjoy some of the rivers located near the camp and recover from the long days of walking.
Preparing For The Lost City Trek
You must go with designated guides to La Ciudad Perdida. Many different tour companies are located in Santa Marta, with satellite offices in Minca or other surrounding towns. Each tour operator has agreed on a standard price for the year, so there should be no significant fluctuations between them.
It is recommended to book in advance to ensure a spot. This is a popular trek, and people travel to Colombia from all over the world to experience it. Our guide said as many as 200 people visit La Ciudad Perdida every day.
Should you wish to book your Ciudad Perdida tour online, you can do that too. Several companies sell the tour online making their booking procedure extremely easy – and the benefit is that you can also read reviews from other travelers. Here are some good options that can be booked online:
Lost City trek departing from Santa Marta – this highly rated guided hike is run by the reputable Boquianos Travel. You can actually choose between a 4, 5 or 6 days hike.
4-day trek to the Ciudad Perdida, Colombia – the most popular Ciudad Perdida tour that can be booked online is operated by Expotur and also has very good reviews.
4-Day Walking Tour to Lost City of Sierra Nevada – Ecosierra Perdida Tours runs this guided Ciudad Perdida trek in English and a few other languages.
The cost of La Ciudad Perdida trek goes up in January of every year. We were able to book our trek for January 2023 in November 2022 to receive the 2022 pricing.
The best time to go on La Ciudad Perdida Trek
The best time to visit the Ciudad Perdida is the dry season, which is from December to March. It may be cooler with less rain during the dry season.
However, we went in January, and it did rain every day throughout the trek (for an hour or so at a time). Our guide explained that in this region of Colombia “dry season” and “rainy season” hold much less value. It is the rainforest, and it will rain.
The trek is closed during September as requested by the indigenous communities.
Ciudad Perdida tour costs
As of January 2023, the standard price for a three or four-day Ciudad Perdida tour is 1,750,000 COP ($375 USD) plus tips for guides and any other purchases throughout the trek.
You can choose other packages, like a trip to include Ancestral waterfalls, for a slightly higher rate.
If you want to add on or choose a different route, talk with your tour operator about your options. We went with Wiwa Walker, who provided a personalized itinerary for our group of seven.
Arriving in Santa Marta
Santa Marta is the most accessible place to depart from and book your tour. However, most tour operators will send transportation for you to Minca, Tagangona, Tayrona, Rodadero, or other nearby towns.
In Santa Marta, you will find tour operators on practically every corner. Viator also has some excellent package options through popular tour operators like Expotur. GetYourGuide also has package options through providers like Baquinos Travel.
You can book your Ciudad Perdida tour on GetYourGuide here.
To book your Lost City trek on Viator, click here.
The fastest and easiest way to get to Santa Marta is by plane. Almost all cities in Colombia have a direct flight to Santa Marta, which should be less than two hours, regardless of where you are.
The bus from Cartagena is an easy and relatively fast route, only 225 km (140 miles) from one another. Cartagena to Santa Marta is about 5-6 hours by bus.
Packing for La Ciudad Perdida trek
It’s important to remember that you will be carrying your bag throughout the entire trek – there are no porters for the Lost City hike, and mules are only available in case of emergency. Do not overpack; make sure to bring only the necessities.
You will want to bring a poncho to protect you and your belongings from the rain.
Hiking boots are important. Make sure they are a bit worn in, so you don’t get blisters. You should also have rain / waterproof hiking boots.
You should bring your clothes (I brought 3 shirts, two pairs of water-proof athletic shorts, clean underwear, sports bras, and socks for each day). There are also several swimming spots throughout the trek, so bring a bathing suit and a quick dry towel.
You will also want to bring light, comfortable sandals to slip on once you reach your camp for the night. The feeling of taking off your hiking shoes after a long day of hiking is like nothing else.
Electricity is shut off in all facilities around 10:00 pm, so bring a headlamp if you plan to stay up past then, use the restrooms after dark, or get up before sunrise.
The mosquitos can get pretty bad, especially after the rain, so bring enough bug repellant for the four-day journey. In addition, the sun can get pretty intense at certain parts, so sunscreen and a hat are helpful.
Bring a bottle you can refill, and to avoid any bugs from the water make sure you also have a filter. This will help you avoid using plastic, too.
Finally, bring one or two extra rolls of toilet paper. Most operators will provided it, but it’s best to have a bit spare.
It’s best to wrap your clothing and supplies in plastic bags to protect them from the rain and sweat from your back. It is hot, humid, sticky, and often rainy.
Don’t forget to read my post What To Pack For A Long Distance Hike.
Other Useful Things To Know For Your Ciudad Perdida Trek
Respect the indigenous communities
It should be obvious, but show respect to the indigenous people. You will find people clothed entirely in white, throughout the hike and in all the base camps. Most of them will not talk with you, but we were lucky to chat with some young men who spoke Spanish for a few hours on our second night.
Whether you communicate with them or not, be sure to respect the indigenous and their culture preserved so well through all these years.
Avoid stomach problems
You expose yourself to a lot of bacteria on the trek and at the base camps. We heard other trekkers getting sick in the public bathrooms almost every night. Seven people were in our group, and one encountered a terrible stomach issue that lasted about 12 hours on the second night.
It just so happened that this person was the only one in the group who was drinking the free filtered water provided at the camps. While it could be a coincidence, we were all sure to buy bottled water for the remainder of the trek. If you don’t want to buy water to save on plastic, bring a filter and a bottle you can refill!
All meals and snacks are provided by your tour operator. Each meal is delicious and represents the standard Colombian diet. There are alternative meals available for specific diet restrictions. None of the meals caused any stomach problems for our group.
You will definitely need to bring some extra cash with you. Aside from a tip for your guides and chef, every camp has a little shop. You can buy extra drinks (bottled water, beer, soda, Gatorade) and snacks (sweets and potato chips).
Even though all meals and two snacks a day are provided, you will certainly be tempted by some extra treats.
Most of the camps actually offer internet for an additional charge of COP 5,000 ($1.25 USD), but I strongly encourage you to avoid this and stay disconnected while you can.
I bought all my water along the way and nothing else and spent about COP 100,000 ($ 25 USD).
La Ciudad Perdida is one of the Seven Wonders of Colombia and does not disappoint. This is an experience that will truly challenge your body and mind while providing some enlightenment on Colombia’s culture and history.
There is absolutely nothing like the Ciudad Perdida experience. The vast landscape of large jungle terrain with breathtaking rolling hills is like none I have ever seen.
You will struggle at points and may feel defeated, but this only lasts a few moments. Ultimately, you will leave La Ciudad Perdida far more enriched than when you arrived.
If you are planning a trip to Colombia, these other posts will be useful:
- A Great 2 Weeks In Colombia Itinerary
- A Guide To Visiting Tayrona National Park, Colombia
- 15 Best Things To Do In Santa Marta Colombia
- An Excellent Guide To San Gil, Colombia
- A Concise Guide To Salento, Colombia
- A Complete Guide To Hiking Valle De Cocora, Colombia
- A Concise Guide To Villa De Leyva, Colombia
- 19 Unmissable Things To Do In Bogota
- 7 Great Day Trips From Bogota
- A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Bogota
- The Most Unique Bogota Airbnb
- 22 Incredible Things To Do In Cartagena
- 15 Useful Things To Know Before Visiting Cartagena
- The Best Day Trips From Cartagena
- Where To Stay In Cartagena: The Best Neighborhoods And Places To Stay
- The Best Airbnb In Cartagena