The lost city trek in Colombia, a guide to la Ciudad Perdida

In the middle of the jungle of the Sierra Nevada mountain range you can find La ciudad Perdida (Spanish for the lost city). That is, if you are willing to make the 4 day 70km trek through said jungle. This is no easy feat, because of the hot and humid conditions. There are no shortcuts, so only the more adventurous traveler will get to see the ancient ruins of the lost city left behind by the Tayrona people. The archeological site dates back to approximately 800 AD and is even older than world famous Machu Picchu. In this guide I will tell you everything you need to know about the Lost city trek.

Want to know more about the ideal travel route in Colombia? Read more here. 

The lost city/La ciudad perdida

How to get there

The only way to get to the lost city is with a tour group. You won’t be able to do the trek on your own. There are a few companies offering the tours and it seemed to me like they were pretty similar. The route and campsites are the same for all the groups. We ended up going with expotur and had no complaints. We had a Spanish speaking guide with an English translator and they were very knowledgable and fun to be around. It is worth asking how big the tour group is going to be, because trekking with a group that’s over 12 people might get a bit annoying. You don’t want to be waiting around for the group the entire time.

The trek day by day

DAY 1: 

At 8:30 we meet the group at Expotur’s office. We make sure we are early, because we still needed to pay and lock away our luggage. By car we took a drive to El Mamey where we had lunch and where the trek finally begins. Late afternoon we arrive at the first campsite. There is the possibility to go down and swim in the river for a bit before dinner. It was advertised we’d have to stay in hammocks, but luckily there is bunkbeds nowadays. We have a good night sleep before a long trek the next day.

This day has around 4 hours of trekking, 6.8 km mostly uphill, some downhill

DAY 2: 

We start the day early, because we have a lot of ground to cover. After breakfast we walk along the Buritaca River where we see some traditional houses that are part of a Kogui village called Mutanshi.  The jungle of the Sierra Nevada mountains is beautiful, but humid, so some struggle with all the uphill hiking today. On day two you’ll sleep at the campsite closest to la ciudad perdida, because the next morning you will go up there to explore. Our guides cook up a good dinner and we prepare for the following day.

Today we will hike for about 7 hours 14.7 km, mostly uphill, some downhill.

DAY 3: 

Again we have an early breakfast and right after we start climbing up the 1.200 steps to reach the beautiful lost city. The trail was constructed by Tayrona people. The guides will share their knowledge about all the ancient relics and stories of the people who used to live there.  We get some time to explore and take pictures by ourselves before we have to continue to make it back in time to our campsite for the night.

This a 7 hours day trek 6 km, uphill in the morning and mostly downhill in the afternoon

DAY 4: 

Unfortunately after reaching the lost city, you’ll also have to hike back;) We visited a beautiful waterfall in the morning, before heading down and also had a nice little break in a river. Finally, we make it back to El Mamey,  where we have lunch and are slightly relieved we all made it back.

Day 4 is 7-8 hours, 16.5 km, some uphill, mostly downhill

Cost of the Lost City Trek

As of January 2023 the tour is 1.750.000 Colombian pesos/€345/$375

Packing List

Make sure to bring as little as possible to the Lost City hike. Since you’re hiking with your backpack for 4 days, you’ll feel Evert little bit of extra weight.

  • Daypack (with hip belt for support)
  • Sports tops (preferably 1 for everyday, but I’ve seen some people wear the same thing to save on weight)
  • Sports bras
  • 4 pairs of hiking socks
  • Light Shorts
  • underwear
  • Swimwear (for the rivers/waterfalls)
  • Microfiber towel
  • Hiking Boots or trail runners
  • Powerbank
  • Raincoat
  • Sunscreen
  • Mosquito spray(with DEET)
  • Sunglasses
  • Flipflops
  • Refillable water bottles, with enough water for a day
  • Toiletries
  • Blister bandages
  • Medicin for diarrhea and paracetamol
  • Headlamp
  • Toilet paper
  • Camera and/or phone

Best time to do the trek

Between December and April you’ll have the best change or staying dry. Between May and November there is bigger chance of heavy rainfall and in September the trek is completely closed for maintenance. We visited in January and didn’t have any rain. It was hot, but I prefer that to the wet season (May to November) where the trails can be slippery. The water of the Buritaca River will be much higher and you’ll have to wade through water in some areas.

Do I Need to Train for Lost City Trekking?

I think that if you trek regularly, you’ll have no problem doing this trek, but a good level of fitness is required. You’ll need to feel comfortable hiking up for 3 days straight. After the 3 days you’ll legs will probably feel quite sore and going down is not as easy as you might think. If you’re not used to trekking, taking some smaller days hikes to get some practice in might be a good idea.