The Ciudad Perdida Tour is often considered a must-see on the Caribbean coast.
Yet every year, a few travelers come back disappointed from their experience.
Is it because they were expecting something else? Because they were unprepared for this jungle trek?
Probably a bit of both.
In any case, I am certain that they were not sufficiently informed, or that the information obtained was incomplete.
I did the Ciudad Perdida Tour in 2019, and thanks to this article, you will be able to:
- Decide if it’s an experience that suits you
- Book this tour
- Prepare yourself to get the most out of it
Table of contents: The Ciudad Perdida Tour
- My Report
- Why participate in this adventure?
- Who could be disappointed?
- What to bring on this trek?
- How to book your spot?
My expedition to the Lost City Tour
It would be a shame to spend four days hating this experience. To help you visualize it, let me tell you a little bit about my adventure.
Day 1: Climbing and sliding
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.
Camp: Casa Alfredo | Distance: 9 km | Duration: 4 hours | Difficulty: 6/10
Day 2: Rivers and Indigenous Culture
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.
Camp: Casa Paraiso | Distance: 18 km | Duration: 6 hours | Difficulty: 5/10
Day 3: Discovery of the Lost City
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.
Camp: Casa Mumake | Distance: 13 km | Duration: 5 hours | Difficulty: 5/10
Day 4: The Long Journey Home
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.
Camp: El Mamey | Distance: 19 km | Duration: 6 hours | Difficulty: 6.5/10
Why book the Ciudad Perdida Trek in Colombia?
Yes, it is worth spending 4 days of your trip for this adventure. On the other hand, the Ciudad Perdida trek is a demanding hike that is not for everyone.
1# Ideal to discover the world of multi-day trekking
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.
Yeah, that’s it.
Why is it an easy trek?
- Mules carry the food, and the water comes from the river. You just 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 need to acclimatize.
- You don’t walk more than 6-7 hours a day, and the elevation gain is less than 600 m/day.
- You sleep in a bed with a roof over your head.
- There are no sections considered complicated or technical, although be careful with the stairs of the Lost City.
There are all the right conditions for you to try the adventure.
2# Surpassing yourself
The Ciudad Perdida Tour is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and be proud of yourself (if you come back alive; #joke).
It’s not so easy to complete a 4-day hike in the Sierra Nevada. 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.
A real little Indiana Jones.
Yes, you will earn the right to explore Colombia’s Lost City, and you will have new stories to tell at your next family dinner!
3# The landscape from the Lost City in Colombia
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’re in 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.
4# Creating bonds and memories
When people face the same challenges, they form bonds.
I loved sharing this amazing experience with the other members of my group when I didn’t even know them!
I think it’s the ideal kind of activity to do as a couple, with family or with a group of friends. It will remain a topic of conversation for the next 10 years.
5# Discovering a new culture
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.
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.
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!
Who can be disappointed by the Ciudad Perdida Tour?
The Ciudad Perdida Tour is a fabulous experience, but it is not for everyone.
If you find yourself in one of the situations below, take a good look at the pros and cons before you embark on this adventure.
1# Be in good physical shape
Even if this trek is classified as “accessible”, you will still have to walk for 4 days.
And, 4 days is a long time when you’re exhausted after 2 hours of walking.
If you have never hiked for at least 8 hours, the trek to Colombia’s Lost City is probably not the best option.
Same for those with weak ankles and knees. The path is made of dirt and pebbles. It turns into a slippery trail when it rains.
2# Having a good mindset
The Ciudad Perdida Tour is an adventure that is demanding. If you are prepared to keep smiling when facing possible difficulties, then nothing will stop you.
What are they?
- 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.
- It’s very hot!
- You’ll have to keep walking while you’re tired.
- Mosquitoes will be your pets.
3# You won’t be the only one visiting the Ciudad Perdida
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.
If you want to experience nature without meeting a living soul, consider an expedition to Los Nevados or the Amazon instead.
4# You will not meet any animals (except those that sting)
Wild animals don’t like the company of sweaty, noisy bipeds.
There is very little chance you will see birds, monkeys, and other animals.
What’s the best way to prepare for the Ciudad Perdida Trek?
Even if 95% of the preparation is taken care of by the local agency, you still have to ensure the remaining 5%.
I’m just talking about packing your backpack and wearing the right hiking clothes.
1# The ideal bag for the Ciudad Perdida Tour
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.
What to put in 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.
2# The ideal hiker’s equipment for the Ciudad Perdida Tour
Again, don’t take it lightly. With the right equipment, you’ll avoid a lot of little annoyances.
What to wear?
- 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.
How to book your Ciudad Perdida Tour in Colombia?
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 a lot of research on the internet, we chose to go with Magic Tour.
Why Magic Tour?
- Excellent logistics and customer service.
- Good knowledge of the guides about the Ciudad Perdida and the culture of the indigenous Kogis.
- Quality certification NTS standards AV01, NTS AV02, and NTS TS 003.
- Respect for the environment and sustainable tourism.
- Member of the association CorpoTeyuna to help the natives of the Sierra Nevada.
1# Go to Magic Tour’s website
First choose whether you wish to do this hike in 3, 4, 5 or 6 days.
How many 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.
- A minimum of 4 people is required to book the 6-day 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.
Then you just have to pay the 20% deposit to reserve your place. Payments by credit card and Paypal are allowed. The 5 agencies offer the same rates.
Departures are every day of the week.
2# You will receive a confirmation email
Check your email inbox to receive and read the latest recommendations.
You’ll have to answer this email to report:
- If you prefer to go directly to the agency in downtown Santa Marta or be picked up at your hotel.
- Any allergies or dietary restrictions.
3# The day of departure for the Ciudad Perdida Trek
Go to Santa Marta the night before departure to get some rest and organize your things.
Regarding your travel bags, there are several options to store them for the duration of the tour.
Where to leave your big bag?
- 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 Magic Tour office. There’s no charge.
- At Camp Mamey, if you wish to be dropped off nearby Tayrona on your way back from the trek.
Also, remember to withdraw money to pay the balance of the activity. It is possible to pay by card but there is a 3% surcharge.
Your questions about the Ciudad Perdida Tour
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.
Preparation for the Ciudad Perdida
Do you have to 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.[/expan]
Do you have to take a mosquito net?
No, there are in every camp.
Take your huge 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 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!
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.
Time and seasons for the Ciudad Perdida Tour
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?
Payment and reservation of the Ciudad Perdida Tour
Don’t forget to read our section “How to Book”.
Do you have to go through an 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 your reservation directly on their website (smoother and faster).
Payment by credit card?
Yes, but there’s a 3% Fee.
About the hike
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. See the section “Who can be deceived.”
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 wilder 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.
So, are you ready for this adventure?
All you need to create your itinerary
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