This is our review of The Ciudad Perdida Trek.
We have been traveling in Colombia since 2015, and we are looking for the best experiences to offer our readers. Thanks to us, you will be able to book your trek to the Ciudad Perdida directly with our local partner (and save money).
The Ciudad Perdida trek is a very well-organized multi-day adventure accessible to many travelers. But, you must have a good mind to face the Sierra Nevada. Will you be strong enough to walk long hours in the jungle? In the humidity? Sometimes in the rain?
Thanks to my article, you will be able to:
- Decide if you want to book this trek.
- Know how to prepare yourself for this adventure best.
- Contact directly the local agency with whom I did the Ciudad Perdida Trek.
Let’s go my little Indiana Jones.
T. contents: Ciudad Perdida Trek
The Trek to the Ciudad Perdida
The Ciudad Perdida trek is a 4 or 5-day adventure in the jungle of the Sierra Nevada to reach an ancient indigenous city. The local agency that organizes this experience takes care of everything. All you have to do is enjoy the hike.
It is a demanding trek but accessible to all – if you are in good physical shape. And I recommend it to travelers who want to discover the joys (and pains) of a multi-day trek. You will be like the little Indiana Jones of Colombia.
Besides, the Sierra Nevada is a sacred land considered the “heart of the world” by the indigenous people living there. This trek from the Ciudad Perdida will allow you to share and understand a little bit of their culture.
Ciudad Perdida’s history
The Ciudad Perdida is an ancient city built by the Tayronas people in the VIII century. It is therefore an archaeological site that is much older than Machu Picchu.
Some thousands of people lived in this city, hidden in the middle of the Sierra Nevada. Then, because of the colonization, the Ciudad Perdida was abandoned.
It was not until 1927 that it was discovered again (although the indigenous descendants were already aware of its existence and location). These so-called explorers were treasure looters. They damaged the site for 3 years before the Colombian government intervened.
Even if the terraces have been rebuilt, the site of the Ciudad Perdida is not as impressive as Machu Picchu.
Ciudad Perdida: What to expect
In this section, I’m going to explain to you the different important points to know about the Ciudad Perdida trek. This will allow you to decide if you want to book this tour.
1# Ciudad Perdida Trek’s itinerary
The local agencies all follow the same path in the Sierra Nevada. The overnight stops will depend on the number of days you choose to do this trek (more on that later).
I did the trek in 4 days – this is the most chosen option. You walk 2 days to reach the Ciudad Perdida, and then you go back.
Let me give you more information about this itinerary.
Day 1 : Trek to La Ciudad Perdida
Camp: Casa Alfredo | Distance: 9 km | Duration: 4 hours | Difficulty: 6/10
9h00 am: After a quick stop at the agency, I find myself in the back of the jeep with my walking buddies. There is a 2h30 ride before arriving at the beginning of the trail. It’s perfect for getting to know each other. We are only 8 because it is the low season (October).
11h30 am: The lunch is gargantuan with soup, chicken, rice, beans, and plantains. I’ll have to roll to get going.
12h30 pm: Here comes the adventure. We take a fairly wide dirt road on which two cars could easily meet. A few motorbikes pass us on the way up. They look much happier than we do.
2h30 pm: We stop at the side of the road to enjoy a delicious squeezed lemon juice. The weather is hot and humid. Everyone is sweating and breathing hard, except for the guide and the young translator.
3h00 pm: The path narrows, and even motorcycles are no longer allowed to pass. We discover some beautiful viewpoints, before going deeper into the Sierra Nevada.
3h10 pm: Oh, it starts raining. That’s refreshing. We protect our bags, but no one takes the raincoats out. The clay path becomes an ice rink, and I pass one of my walking sticks to Alex. He came with an old pair of tennis shoes and is now performing unwished figure skating demonstrations.
4h00 pm: It’s raining so hard that gills and fins are starting to appear on my body.
4h30 pm: We finally arrive at the camp. Everyone is a little tired after this first day. We spread our soaked stuff everywhere where we can hang them up, and we rush to the shower.
5h30 pm: I wear my sock/tongue/pants to avoid mosquito bites. It’s ugly but effective. Our small group gathers at one of the camp tables, and we share our first impressions while sipping our hot drink. We are in a good mood.
9h00 pm: After a massive plate of pasta and a few beers, we head to our bunk beds, all protected by mosquito nets. It must not have been easy to bring all those mattresses back from Santa Marta.
Day 2 : Trek to La Ciudad Perdida
Camp: Casa Paraiso | Distance: 18 km | Duration: 6 hours | Difficulty: 5/10
5h00 am: All the lights are on so no one can hide under the sheets. Even though I woke up many times during the night, the sleep has been restorative and I feel great.
5h15 am: The jungle arises, and a light mist rises in the valley. The parrot/pet of the camp is the star and lets itself be photographed. It also gives quick pecks, but nobody loses their finger.
6h00 am: Departure under the sun. Our clothes didn’t dry overnight because of the humidity. We ascend a good hour before starting to go down.
9h00 am: We’re arriving at Casa Mumake. We’re already halfway for this second day. There’s always a lot of sunshine. We take the opportunity to dry our things finally; then, we throw ourselves in the river. The swim is invigorating. Meanwhile, the staff prepares lunch.
10h00 am: I devour my lunch and then I find a bench to take a nap on.
11h30 am: I wake up with the bench’s mark on my cheek. Let’s go for the remaining 9 Km. It goes up and down steadily.
12h30 pm: We’re visiting a native of the Kogi tribe. During 20 minutes, we discuss different aspects of his culture, such as the use of the Poporo and the importance of the Mamos in their society.
2h30 pm: We are arriving at Casa Paraiso. There is a beautiful river alongside the camp. It’s ideal for refreshing and passing the time until dinner time.
8h00 pm: Everybody’s asleep.
Day 3: Trek to the Ciudad Perdida
Camp: Casa Mumake | Distance: 13 km | Duration: 5 hours | Difficulty: 5/10
6h00 am: It’s D-Day. Our guide gives each of us a small bag to take only the necessary (camera, passport, and water). We’ll pick up the rest of our stuff on the way back.
6h30 am: We have to cross a river for about ten meters. The water level rises to our knees, and we use two ropes to keep our balance against the current.
06h50 am: 1,200 steps to the Lost City. Perfect to warm our legs after our forced swim.
7h30 am: The steps are small, and the ascent is relatively easy. We finally start to see the terraces of the Ciudad Perdida between the dense foliage of the vegetation.
08h30 am: Juan gives us many explanations about the history of the Ciudad Perdida. During 2 hours, we walk around the site without meeting the other groups. It gives the impression of being the only one on the site. We can fully enjoy the beauty of the different points of view and the mysterious energy released by this sacred place. We even get a small snack on the highest terrace!
11h00 am: We’re back at the camp for lunch. We still have 3 more hours of walking to end this day.
04h00 pm: With our hot drink in hand, we watch the last group arrival through the rain. They don’t look pleased. Luckily we had reached the camp before the downpour. Tip: Don’t hesitate to abandon a fellow walker in the jungle if he is too slow.
06h00 pm: Okay, here we go. Beer, fun, eat, roll, sleep. We’re in the groove now.
Day 4: Trek to the Ciudad Perdida
Camp: El Mamey | Distance: 19 km | Duration: 6 hours | Difficulty: 6.5/10
06h00 am: We have to cover the remaining 19km in the morning. Luckily, around 9:00 a.m., there’s a break for a little snack. It gives us energy.
12h00: We’ve finally arrived! I spread out my wet and smelly clothes in the sun, hoping that they will dry before we leave in the jeep. Our little gang gathers around the table with a few cold beers; then, we start planning our evening out in Santa Marta. We all deserve it.
This trek did not seem difficult to me but you must be used to walking long hours.
Would you like to plan this trek? We did it with the local agency Magic Tour.
2# The Ciudad Perdida trek is not technical or hard
Even if the Ciudad Perdida tour is demanding, it is still accessible to many travelers. All you have to do is enjoy walking and agree to get wet all the time (sweat or rain).
It’s an “easy” trek because:
- Mules carry the food, and the water comes from the river. You have to take your personal belongings and a bottle, which is about 5-6 kg in total.
- The highest point is 1200 m above sea level.
- You don’t walk more than 6-7 hours a day, and the elevation gain is less than 600 m/day.
- There is one section where you’ll have to cross the river on foot.
- There are no sections considered complicated or technical, although be careful with the stairs of the Lost City.
What does it involve:
- You don’t need to acclimatize for several days. You can fly in and start the next day.
- It is an ideal trek for those who want to try the experience of hiking over several days.
- Even if this trek is classified as “accessible,” you will still have to walk for 4 days. If you have never hiked for at least 8 hours, the trek to Colombia’s Lost City is probably not the best option.
- Travelers with weak ankles and knees might find this trek difficult. The path is made of dirt and pebbles. It turns into a slippery trail when it rains.
3# It’s hot and humid
Ciudad Perdida Trek
Every morning you will wake up at dawn, with heavy legs, an eyelid that is still half open, and your skin moist from the humidity in the air. After a hearty breakfast, it will be time to set off again, with your shirt still wet from the previous day and the sound of your shoes doing Squitch Squitch because of the rain.
Because of the weather:
- Your clothes will never dry. It’s very humid in the Sierra Nevada. You’ll get wet from rain or sweat.
- It can rain very regularly and the paths become slippery.
What does it involve:
- The Ciudad Perdida Tour is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and be proud of yourself.
- You must have a good mindset. It’s not Disneyland. It’s the jungle.
- Take plenty of socks and find a way to keep your evening clothes clean and dry.
- There are better months to plan a trek to the Ciudad Perdida: January, February, July, August. It’s also the high season (more travelers in the groups).
4# Bugs & Animals during the trek
Wild animals don’t like the company of sweaty, noisy bipeds. There is little chance you will see birds, monkeys, and other animals.
On the other hand, you will meet many insects, especially mosquitoes.
What does it involve:
- Mosquitoes won’t attack you while you’re walking. So you can take a pair of shorts. However, take pants, a shirt and a dry pair of socks for the evening.
- Don’t forget your repellent.
- Don’t take your binoculars.
- You won’t see much wildlife.
5# The landscapes in the Sierra Nevada
Ciudad Perdida Trek
Because of the dense vegetation of the Sierra Nevada, there are very few viewpoints to appreciate the immensity of this environment.
That’s not the case when you arrive at the Ciudad Perdida.
Once at the top of the 1200 steps, you have a 180-degree view of the green ocean that surrounds the site.
And, like Robinson Crusoe on his island, you feel very small.
The site of the Ciudad Perdida is composed of terraces, small walls, and stone stairs. We feel a strong energy in this place. But it is complicated to imagine how it was before.
What does it involve:
- Do not book this tour thinking that you will visit a 2nd Machu Picchu.
6# The Lost city’s organization
This trek to Ciudad Perdida is very well organized. From the beginning to the end.
The agency staff and the guide speak perfect English and can answer quickly to all your questions.
- You pay a deposit online and the balance the day of your departure.
- They ask for your dietary restrictions
During the trek, there are regular breaks to wait for everyone. There is a guide in front and one behind. Once you arrive at the camp, you settle down to play cards, feet under the table while waiting for your dinner. You take care of nothing.
What does it involve:
- It is straightforward to book the Ciudad Perdida trek with a local agency. You will pay less — the official price.
- Arrive the day before to get a good night’s sleep and be ready for your adventure the next day.
- You don’t have to worry about anything. Peace of mind.
- You get all the explanations in English & Spanish.
- Even if you walk slowly, there will be a guide behind you.
- A car can pick you up at your hotel.
7# The food & beverages during the trek
We were well fed and all the time! The food is simple but good—lots of carbs. In general, it is chicken, beans, patacón, rice, or pasta. You don’t need to bring extra food.
In each camp, there is a small shop where you can buy cold beer (2 USD) or other drinks. I guarantee that you will appreciate it at the end of the day.
The agency uses water cans that are purified with tablets. This is included in the price.
Some travelers are more stomach sensitive than others. Take a water filter if this is the case. Ans some Imodium. I didn’t have any issues.
8# Ciudad Perdida’s campsites
The campsites during the trek of Ciudad Perdida are correct. Everything comes by mule. It’s impressive what they managed to build.
But don’t expect a 5-stars hotel.
- There are 4-6 flush toilets and showers.
- You share them with the other travelers of the camp.
- There is no hot water.
- There are beds with mosquito nets.
- The bedsheets are clean.
What does it involve:
- You will sleep well.
- You won’t be smelly before going to bed unless you want to. We, French people, have a terrible (and false!) reputation 😀
- Bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper.
- You’ll have to wait to get to the shower or the toilets. Still, you won’t need to poop behind a tree—# greatnews.
9# Discovering a new culture
Ciudad Perdida Trek
The ethnic groups living in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta have been able to preserve their cultures and traditions by staying away from the conquistadors and then the Modern Man.
They venerate Aluna, our Mother Nature, whose heart is represented by the highest peak of the Sierra Nevada: Mount Pico Cristobal Colón.
They see themselves as our Big Brothers and wish to educate us so that we stop destroying the planet. We can’t say they’re wrong about that.
To spread their message, the Kogis have invited twice the BBC to report on the subject.
Besides, your guide is a local who grew up in the Sierra Nevada. Don’t hesitate to ask him many questions if the subject interests you!
What does it involve:
- This expedition does not focus on discovering indigenous cultures. However, you will still have the opportunity to chat with a Mamo ( leader) and learn more about the history of the Ciudad Perdida.
- You can ask all the questions you want to your guide.
10# You won’t be the only traveler
The Lost City is no longer a secret, and many travelers add it to their itinerary in Colombia.
The local agencies are well organized. Groups depart at regular intervals so that hikers do not concentrate in the same places.
During the high season, the group sizes are around 20 people, and it is not uncommon to be about 100 in the camp.
What does it involve:
- You will not be alone on the path.
- You will share the camp with many travelers during the high season.
- Book your Ciudad Perdida trek during the low season if you want to have fewer people in your group.
Ciudad Perdida’s tips
Even if 95% of the preparation is taken care of by the local agency, you still have to ensure the remaining 5%.
Let’s talk about your equipment.
1# Packing list for the Ciudad Perdida
When hiking over several days, every kilo counts. The aim is to carry only what is necessary for a minimum of comfort.
Let’s start with the size of your bag.
A 30 L bag is ideal for this trek. You can take it smaller, but it’s annoying to have to play Tetris to close it.
Inside your bag
- 4 pairs of socks and 4 pairs of underwear. It is important to put on dry socks to keep your spirits up and avoid blisters.
- 1 spare T-shirt.
- 1 long sleeve t-shirt for the evening (protects against mosquitoes).
- 1 pair of light pants for the evening (protects against mosquitoes).
- 1 pair of flip-flops. Yes, you’ll have to assume the flipflop-sock style. You’ll befriend with Germans.
- 1 Bathing suit.
- 1 Towel. Take one that dries quickly.
- 1 toilet bag with the minimum.
- 1 roll of toilet paper.
- Passport to enter the park on the 3rd day.
- 1 waterproof plastic pouch to protect passport and phone.
- Mosquito repellent and sunscreen.
- Immodium (you never know).
- Dressings and bandages for possible blisters.
- 1 rain cover for your bag.
- 2 thick plastic bags (1 to put your dirty laundry, the other to protect your clean things).
- 1.5 L gourd for water.
- Money to buy beers/snacks.
Your bag shouldn’t weigh more than 5-6 kg.
Now, let’s talk about your equipment.
- A good and comfortable pair of hiking boots. Don’t take them new to avoid blisters. Look to see if the soles still have studs so you don’t slip on the mud.
- Lightweight hiking pants that dry quickly. If you don’t care about mosquito bites, you can take a pair of shorts.
- A merino wool T-shirt. This textile dries quickly and does not retain the smell of perspiration.
- Walking sticks. If you have them, don’t hesitate to take them. They’ll be very useful.
- The raincoat is not useful. It’s too hot to wear it when it rains. Think of it as a hiker’s shower.
- A 30-35 L hiking bag with a strap to attach it at the waist. This will relieve the weight on your shoulders. Leave your Eastpack at home.
With the right equipment, you’ll avoid a lot of little annoyances.
2# When to trek to the Ciudad Perdida
If you can’t stand humidity and rain, consider going from January to March or August. This is the dry season.
The problem is that it is also the high season (except for March).
Be careful, it can rain during the dry season. Better be prepared 😉
3# Where to leave your things
Regarding your travel bags, there are several options to store them for the duration of the tour.
- Your hotel in Santa Marta can keep it in a secure location. The easiest way is to book 2 nights (the night before departure and on the way back from the trek). We have mentioned the best accommodations in Santa Marta in our guide.
- Right to the Local agency office. There’s no charge.
- At Camp Mamey, if you wish to be dropped off nearby Tayrona on your way back from the trek.
4# How many days to do the Ciudad Perdida trek
You can do this hike in 3, 4, 5 or 6 days.
- Usually, the trek to the Ciudad Perdida is done in 4 days. You walk 6 – 7 hours a day.
- The price is the same for the 5-day option. The last section is divided in half. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it. It’s not the hardest day.
- A minimum of 4 people is required to book the 6-day tour. It will be a private tour.
- You must be at least 2 people for the 3-day tour. There is a minimum of 8 hours of walking per day. You better be in shape.
5# Which agency to book with?
There are 5 local agencies authorized to organize tours of the Lost City. The other agencies are just resellers.
The official local agencies are:
- Magic tour
- Wiwa Tour
They all have a good reputation, and the price of the tour is always the same. After some discussions with travelers and much research on the internet, we chose to go with Magic Tour.
How to book your Ciudad Perdida Trek
You don’t need to go through a travel agency to book your Ciudad Perdida trek.
I booked with Magic Tour and it was very easy.
To help you, we created a short online form to contact them directly and pay the official price (much lower than the prices sold by most of the agencies).
1# Why Magic tour?
As I said in the previous sections, we had a great time with MagicTour. They have an office in downtown Santa Marta, with bilingual staff to answer all travelers’ questions.
There is good communication before the start of the tour that allows you to be ready for the trek to the Lost City.
- Excellent logistics and customer service. Everything went well during my trek.
- Good knowledge of the guides about the Ciudad Perdida and the culture of the indigenous Kogis. The guides are from the Sierra Nevada.
- Quality certification NTS standards AV01, NTS AV02, and NTS TS 003. These are standards imposed by the Colombian government to ensure that the agency does a good job.
- Respect for the environment and sustainable tourism.
- Member of the association CorpoTeyuna to help the natives of the Sierra Nevada.
- From the feedback we have had, the 5 agencies are doing a good job
Magic tour complies with all the biosecurity protocols in relation to the COVID 19.
Important: Travelers will wear a mask, avoid contact with indigenous populations, and get an Anti-COVID test result (max. 72 hours) before the beginning of this experience. Magic Tour will send you the necessary information to perform this test in Santa Marta (10 – 20 Eur). You will have to arrive in Santa Marta at least 24 hours before the departure of your tour (period of time to receive the test results).
2# Magic Tour’s reviews
I enjoyed doing the Ciudad Perdida trek with Magic Tour. But, it might not be enough to convince you of the quality of their service. We have analyzed the reviews (positive & negative) of Magic Tours on Tripadvisors for this experience. Here is the trend:
- Knowledgeable guides who like their job
- They take care of travelers
- Great organization
- Beautiful landscapes
- Lots of food (even if you’re a vegan)
- Good campsites
- Some people may have belly issues
- You have to wait for the slow walkers
- Many people during the high season
- You should bring your own medicines
3# Prices & Deposit
The official price is the same for everyone. In 2021, it is 1,050,000 COP/pers.
The price is the same if you decide to do the Ciudad Perdida trek in 4 or 5 days.
Once you have confirmed your date (there are departures every day), you’ll have to pay the 10% deposit. Payments by credit card and Paypal are allowed.
4# The D-Day
Go to Santa Marta the night before departure to get some rest and organize your things. The following day, you can walk to the Magic Tour agency in the city center. Or you can ask to be picked up.
Remember to withdraw money to pay the balance of the activity. It is possible to pay by card but there is a 3% surcharge.
Important: Arrive at least 24 hours before departure if you need to do your Covid test in Santa Marta.
5# How to contact Magic Tour
Every time we discover an activity we like, we suggest it to our readers.
We have partnered with Magic Tour. Fill out the online form below and wait for Magic Tour to contact you. They are very reactive (less than 24h).
Thanks to this form, we earn a small commission on each reservation. This is our business model for financing this travel site. We are always fair in our reviews.
And you’ll pay the local price! Never more 🙂
Or you can decide to first learn more about this local agency.
Ciudad Perdida FAQ
We’ve put together some questions (and answers) you might have about the Ciudad Perdida Trek. They are sorted by category.
Also, take the time to read the previous sections, and don’t hesitate to ask us in the chat if you have any doubts.
- Should you get snacks?
I was never hungry during the trek. The portions of the meals are huge, and the guides regularly give you snacks. Bring some energy bars if you are afraid of having low blood sugar.
- Do you have to take water?
The guides take the water directly from the river and then sterilize it with tablets. Just take a bottle that you can refill during meals.
- Do you have to take a mosquito net?
No, there are in every camp.
- Take your massive camera?
There is little chance you will be able to observe birds, and you will not have much time to take it out during the hike (except at the campsites and the Lost City). Besides, you have to put it away when it rains. In short, it's possible, but I don't recommend it.
- Get a sleeping bag?
No, it's not cold, and there are bed sheets. Take a “sleep bag sheet” if you don't want to use the sheets.
- Yellow fever vaccine?
It is not obligatory but I advise you to do it!
- Malaria pills?
Nobody took any during our tour, and the local agencies say it's not necessary. There are many unpleasant side effects with these drugs, including diarrhea. It's not great when you go on a 4-day jungle trek.
- What are the sunniest months?
The sunniest months are from mid-December to March and from July to August. These are also the most humid months.
- What are the rainiest months?
The rainiest months are April, May, October and November.
- Is it raining a lot?
Yes, it usually rains in the afternoon and evening.
- When's the high season?
The trek is less fun when there are 150 people in the camp. Avoid trekking between mid-December and mid-January and during Holy Week (Easter).
- Is it cold at night?
- Do you have to go with a local agency?
Yes, it's mandatory.
- How many days?
You can do it in 3, 4, 5 or 6 days.
- Can you make a reservation on site?
There are departures every day, in fact, you shouldn't have any problems booking for the following day. It will be the same price if you make use our online form (smoother and faster).
- Payment by credit card?
Yes, but there's a 3% Fee.
- Is there a minimum and maximum age?
No. It depends on your physical condition. There are kids as young as 8 and people over 65 who do very well.
- Do you sleep in hammocks?
All the camps used by Magic Tour now have beds. During the high season, there may not be enough beds for everyone. The last ones will have to sleep in hammocks.
- Do you recommend the 5-day trek?
No. You'll be spending as much time in the Lost City. The last section of the trek is divided into two parts: 9km for day 4 and 9km for day 5.
- How fast are we walking?
You walk at your own pace but there are regular breaks to wait for the last of the group. It's an average of 3 km/h.
- Is it a difficult trek?
No, but you still have to be in good physical and mental shape to enjoy it.
- Is it slippery?
Yes, there are many muddy sections that turn into an ice rink when it rains.
- Are there mosquitoes?
Yeah, but it's manageable if you're well-equipped.
- Is it comparable to the Amazon?
No. Experience in the Amazon jungle will be more savage and more adventurous. You have more opportunities to observe animals, and the groups are smaller.
- Is it comparable to Tayrona?
No. Tayrona can be visited without a guide, and there are many beaches. Remember to rest one day between these two excursions.
- Is that a round trip?
Yes, you'll come back the same way.
- Do you have to carry your bag?
Yeah. Maybe this trek isn't for you if you're considering it. You can also pay extra to use a mule if you get tired on the way.
- Is it safe?
Yes. There're many militaries on the way.
- Is vertigo a problem?
No. There are no dizzying areas to cross. Just be careful going down those 1,200 steps.
Alternatives to the Ciudad Perdida
Colombia is a vast country that offers many trekking opportunities. If you think that the Ciudad Perdida trek is not for you, I have other choices for you:
Ciudad Perdida: The Bottom line
The Ciudad Perdida trek is great to get out of your comfort zone. You will hike for several days in the jungle of the Sierra Nevada to discover a city buried between the trees. It’s not something you’ll do every day. Travelers who want to know what a multi-day hike through lush vegetation is like will love this experience.
Magic Tour is a well-established local agency with many years of experience in this field. The teams take care of you from the beginning. This makes it an easy trek to organize.
Although I found the Ciudad Perdida trek technically easy, you have to be in good physical shape to do it. It is a 4-day trek, in a humid and hot environment.
Contact Magic Tour now!
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