Is a Colombia trip on your bucketlist or are you going there soon? Good choice, because it’s an awesome country! You can find a lot of routes and must do’s for Colombia online, but unfortunately the Ciudad Perdida trekking (Lost City trekking in English) is rarely on the list. But why? I have no idea, because it’s definitely one of the highlights of Colombia. In this article I’ll tell you everything about the trekking so you’ll definitely put this awesome adventure on your list.
Why this trekking?
Why should you do this trekking and what makes it so special? You’ve probably seen some pictures of the Ciudad Perdida on Google or on other websites, but most of the time they only show you just one picture: the one that you can find in this article on top. Believe me: that’s not the view you’re coming for. Yeah it’s a pretty good view, but it’s so much more.
That photo is just a small piece of the whole Lost City, because it’s way bigger than you could ever imagine. During a tour through the Ciudad Perdida you hear a lot about the history of this amazing place and that’s really impressive. And did you know that the leader of the tribe is still living here with his wife and ten kids? During a walk through the Lost City you have the chance to meet him and ask him questions. How cool is that?!
Views on the way
The Ciudad Perdida is really cool, but you’re actually doing it for the hike itself and for the views on the way. You’re overlooking rolling hills where cows are grazing and dogs are running. And because you leave very early everyday, you have the best views during golden hour, when everything gets a golden glow. The mountain tops of the Sierra Nevada are staring at you all day everyday and that is so amazing.
Meeting the tribes
In the Sierra Nevada, the mountain range that you’re walking through for 4 days, lives a very old tribe. And that makes this trip so special. I’ve done a lot of hikes in the past and I’ve met different tribes all over the world, but this was the first trekking where I felt like I was part of the tribe and not just a western tourist that came here to watch them like they’re out of this world. I slept in their camps, I ate dinner on the same table they were relaxing at, I passed their homes on the way and it was so normal that they were around. It was very normal to see the women washing clothes in the river, it wasn’t weird to see the kids running in their robes and I said hi to them like I knew them, kind of. Very strange, but at the same time totally not. And that is such a cool experience.
The joint pride
Besides the beautiful views, the special meetings with the tribe and the Ciudad Perdida itself, it was also awesome to do this 4 day trek with some other hikelovers and it was even more awesome to celebrate with them at the end of the day. The one is faster than the other so most of the time you don’t really walk together (well, in my case) but the joint pride at the end of the day is there. When everyone is sitting at the table with a beer in their hands and you’re talking about the day. When everyone is going to bed at 8.30 pm and wakes up at 5 am. It’s really cool to experience this with a small group of people.
In other words: the trekking is so much more than just reaching the Lost City. The whole hike is amazing and that is where you’re doing it for. The views are spectacular, you’re living with the tribe for a couple of days and it’s nice that you can experience this with a small group. And of course it’s just a great feeling to complete this hike!
How tough is this trekking?
An important question is: how tough is the hike? Before I started, I heard so many stories about how tough it was and that it was just the hardest thing people ever did. But now I experienced it myself and believe me: it’s not that hard. To be honest, I love trekkings and hiking up mountains, so for me it’s easier than the normal traveler. But still… my boyfriend and I both thought this would be the most difficult thing ever and it wasn’t. Yay!
During the hike you walk a lot up and down, but the trekking also exists of flat areas, so that’s really nice. So you don’t have to walk up the whole day and go down the next day. That would be hard, but the hikes is very varied. The hills up take about an hour maximum and the hike down is also one hour maximum. You just have to wear good shoes and that’s it.
Walking in the sun
The hardest part about the hike is the sun and the heat. Especially during the first and last day you walk a lot in the sun and that’s pretty tough. And because you won’t go that high (around 1.200 meters high) it’s always warm. You can definitely feel the difference between the morning, when the sun just came up, and the afternoons, when the sun is above you. Luckily the first and last day are the shortest days. On the second and third day you walk a lot more in the jungle and under the trees, so that’s really pleasant.
Experiences of others
My boyfriend and I love to hike and we were the fittest of the group, so of course I also asked the others how they experienced the hike. They said it was tough for sure and at the end of the trekking they were exhausted, but they finished the hike in a good timing and they loved it, just like we did. And what’s very important: some of them carried too much stuff during the hike while we didn’t. That makes a huge difference. I’ll tell you later what you have to bring, so you don’t walk with too much stuff.
How many days do I recommend?
You can do the hike in three, four, five and even six days, but three and six days are rare. Most people do the hike in four days and some in five. I recommend going for four days, because then you walk enough hours everyday. Five days is too long in my opinion and after three nights it was so good to have a normal, clean bed in a hotel (and a hot shower). When you do the hike in five days, you can spend more time at the camps, but that’s definitely not necessary.
Do you have a tight schedule? Choose the three day hike instead. You can always send a message to ask if it’s possible. But in my opinion this trekking is a must do in Colombia, so just make sure you have four days left for this great adventure.
Which organization do you choose?
Different companies offer this amazing tour and I went for Magic Tour. I definitely recommend going with them. When you choose them, you have three guides and one cook: one guide that speaks Spanish and knows a lot of about the Ciudad Perdida, the Sierra Nevada and the history, one guide translates everything of the Spanish-speaking guide and the last guide is extra. Sounds a bit weird, but it’s actually really good that they’re going with three guides. By doing this, they make it possible to walk on your own tempo. No one walks the same tempo so the fast walkers go with one guide, the slow walkers go with another guide and everyone in between go with the extra guide.
The guides of Magic Tour give a lot of information: about the place you’re staying at and about the Ciudad Perdida, but they tell so many more stories that are interesting. I didn’t see this at the other groups so some people were secretly listening to what our guide told us. Besides, Magic Tour has fourteen years of experience in offering tours through the Sierra Nevada and our guide, Wilson (he’s great) had 22 years of experience! He even helped with making all the gold clean that was founded in the Lost City many years ago.
I really liked the fact that Magic Tour doesn’t go on trips with big groups. We were with ten people in total while the other groups walked with twenty or more. During the hike you split up, but at the end of the day everyone comes together and being with a small group is so much better. You really connect with others.
The last thing that I really liked about Magic Tour is the focus on sustainability. They’re working together with Corpoteyna, an organization that helps the communities in the Sierra Nevada. Magic Tour also helps with protecting the ecological, the social and cultural heritages in Colombia. And they do everything to have a good relationship with the tribes.
How do the days look like? I’ll tell you that right now.
Day 1: four hours of walking
One of the easiest days is the first one, because you have to be at the office of Magic Tour in Santa Marta around 9am. You can also ask if they want to pick you up close to Minca or Tayrona, since it’s very close. I came from Minca and they picked me up at 10am. So nice!
Around 11.30 am you arrive at the start of the hike, after you drove through the mountains for a little while. Luckily you don’t have to start immediately, because you have lunch first. You have lunch with the group, so you can meet everyone and have a chat. Are you carrying your big backpack or suitcase? Don’t worry, you can leave your stuff at the start of the trekking in a safe place.
Then the real adventure starts. It’s a good warming up, right after you started: you have to climb a big hill and if the sun shines that day, you will probably sweat within ten minutes. I didn’t thought the hike itself was the toughest, but the heat and the sun. But you’ll stop for so many times that day, which is really nice. I even thought the stops were too much, but it’s great if you’re not the best hiker.
During the first day you meet the tribe for the first time. They will say hi or they walk with their mules. And be careful for motor riders, because they will ride on this path the whole day. This is the only day where you come across motor riders.
This day exists of two hills but you also go downhill at the end of the day. You conquer red and white paths, which look very cool, and after some time you reach the camp. More information about the camp will follow.
Day 2: seven to eight hours of walking
On the second day the alarm goes at 5.20 am and ten minutes later you have coffee, tea or chocolate milk. At 05.40 am (yeah, the schedule is tight) you have breakfast and between 6 am and 6.15 am you leave. This is definitely the longest day with seven to eight hours of walking. This is without the stop.
The hike is not that hard. There’s only one big hill which takes you about an hour. It’s a bit tough but it will be over sooner than you would think. Most of the time you don’t walk in the sun so that’s really nice! After four hours of hiking you stop for one or two hours to relax and have lunch. You also have the opportunity to swim in the river, which is great if you would like to cool down.
During the second half of the day you have to cross a river, but no worries: no crocodiles live here. You can just take off the shoes and cross it. After the river it’s just a short walk to the camp.
This day is pretty easy, because you don’t have to walk uphill that much. But because it’s a very long day of eight hours of walking, I thought it was one of the hardest days.
Day 3: six hours of walking
Although six hours seems like a lot, it’s actually not that hard. This is the easiest day for sure, because you don’t have to walk uphill that much. And you visit the Ciudad Perdida this day, where you walk around but don’t do hardcore hikes.
The day starts at 5.20 am again and after an easy walk of twenty minutes you reach the river again. After crossing it you have to go up 1.200 steps to the Lost City, but this isn’t so bad as it sounds. It sounds a lot, but when we reached the city, I thought we were halfway. They say it takes about an hour but it actually took me fifteen to twenty minutes in total.
And then you finally reach the Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City. The tour starts with some history and the guides explain about this awesome place. This is really important, otherwise it’s just an old city that you can’t barely see. You walk around the city, but not every part is visible. After a while of digging the tribe decided to not dig any further and keep the city like it was on that moment. You have incredible views over the mountains and you learn more about this place and the history. You even have the opportunity to talk with the head of the tribe, who is the only one that lives here, together with his wife and children.
After two hours in the Ciudad Perdida it’s time to go back to the camp, where you have to cross the river again. In the camp you have lunch and after you have to walk for four hours, back to another camp where you had lunch the day before. You have to cross the river for the third time that day and after this the walk is very easy. We were lucky, because it suddenly rained soooo hard for a couple of hours. It stormed and the sky was really dark. That was awesome and the experience isn’t complete without rain.
Day 4: four to five hours of walking
For the very last time the alarm goes at 05.20 am and it’s the last day of the trekking. This day is the hardest, because you have to climb two big hills. A lot of hikers were exhausted this day. The first one is very long and it seems like there’s no ending. But guess what? There is! After the first huge hill you stop for half an hour or even longer to eat some fruit and swim in the river. Then you have to conquer the second hill. This one is also long but less long, but the hardest part is the sun. There is not much shadow over here and that’s pretty hard.
After the two big hills it’s two hours down. My tip? Just run, otherwise your knees will die. It’s very steep and it’s definitely not pleasant to walk slow. Put on some music and make the best of it. Before you even realize it, you’re back at the restaurant where you started the trekking a couple of days ago. Congrats, you made it! Not it’s time for a clean bed, a hot shower and some fast wifi.
During the trekking you sleep in three different camps, where you also have dinner. The camps are way luxury than I thought: there’s enough space for everyone (all the other groups are sleeping here as well), you can sleep in a bed every night (with a pillow and a blanket) and you can even take a shower (cold water only but that’s totally fine). The beds aren’t that clean but you’ll probably wear long trousers so just put the blanket on your legs and you’re fine.
At two of the three camps you can relax in the river to cool down and have fun. All the camps have a kitchen for the cooks to make your food and you can buy beer, sodas and water at the shops. Rather safe some money? You can also fill your bottle with water from a tank.
Food and drinks
Magic Tour gives you plenty of food, so you don’t have to bring snacks. Everyday you get breakfast, lunch and dinner, but you also get fruit several times a day. On the second day you even get popcorn (omg) and on the third day some brownies, nuts and chips (say what?!). After every lunch and dinner you get a chocolate bar and you also get coffee, tea or chocolate milk two times a day. Nothing to worry about.
The food is sometimes fine, something really good. In the afternoon and in the evening you always get warm food, in the morning it’s toasted bread with eggs, jam and fruit. I’ve eaten spaghetti, rice with chicken and beans, and rice with chicken and vegetables for lunch. For dinner I had meat with potatoes and rice, grilled fish with rice and vegetables and steak with rice and vegetables (yes, a lot of rice!).
What do you bring?
The biggest mistake people make? Bringing too much stuff. I was surprised by how many people brought too much: sweaters, extra jeans, extra shorts, extra sandals… definitely not necessary. It’s not cold at all, that’s for sure, because you’re not that high in the mountains. If you are cold very quick (like I am), just take a thin sweater or maybe a jacket and you’re fine. What I highly recommend is bringing a long pyjama for the evenings and for bed, because that’s sooo nice after a long day of walking. Take a shower, get your pyjama on and you’ll sleep like a baby.
Here’s a list I recommend:
- A long pyjama trousers.
- Three shirts for all days (and of course one that you wear on the first day).
- Three pair of socks (and one that you wear on the first day).
- A bikini or swimming trunks.
- Underwear (for the ladies: an extra bra isn’t needed, you’ll sweat anyway).
- A short (two is not needed, if it’s rains it will dry the next day).
- A thin sweater or jacket.
- A small bottle of water (they say you have to bring 1,5 liter for the first day, but don’t do this. You can buy water anywhere and walking with 1,5 kilo extra isn’t nice).
- Toothpaste, toothbrush and a little soap (don’t bring shampoo, conditioner and a bottle of soap).
- Mosquito repellent (you’ll definitely need this!).
- Sunblock (especially for the first and last day).
- Flipflops for the shower, the toilet and just for the evenings
- A powerbank (you can also charge your phone but there aren’t many electrical outlets).
- A towel that dries really fast.
- Plastic bags (I know: it’s not sustainable, but it does help when it rains. Believe me: when it rains, it rains hard. A poncho or rain jacket won’t help).
- A cap.
- Hooks for extra stuff like a jacket, your flipflops… very handy.
- Extra laces.
- Your passport and prove of your yellow fever vaccination. Sometimes you have you show this before you start.
- Enough cash money (paying with card is not possible).
- Plasters for blisters and medicine like ibuprofen or paracetamol.
Before you go they say to bring toilet paper too, but that’s not necessary. They have enough toilet paper. And this is the same for headlights, you don’t need them. Just like the water.
We had bags of a maximum of three kilograms per person. Others were walking with bigger bags that were heavier and they didn’t like it. I had enough clothes and I didn’t miss items, and I was totally fine.
What kind of people are doing the Ciudad Perdida trekking?
The most Lost City trekkers love to hike, but that makes sense. But I was surprised by how different everyone was. According to my guide, most people are between twenty and thirty years old, but in my group we had people in the fiftees and I saw a lot of other older people in the groups. I think the age is between twenty and sixty.
Most hikers are not that experienced, they just see this as a cool challenge. So you don’t have to be experienced at all. If you like to hike, just do it! You won’t regret it, I promise you.
Are you excited to do this awesome Ciudad Perdida trekking? Have a look at the website of Magic Tour for more information and prices. They also offer other great hikes. HAVE FUN!