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vineri, 27 iulie 2012

Hiking Ciudad Perdida - The Lost City

While most hikers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts head straight for the majesty of Machu Picchu or the wonder of Patagonia, they often miss out on one of the most wild and spectacular areas in South America.

Ciudad Perdida, also known as the Lost City, is found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains just outside of Santa Marta in Colombia. It is a remote area, only accessible by hiking and the trek takes 5-6 days through ancient paths in the jungle, over 25km of coca plantations, across numerous rivers and finally 1200 steep steps to the top.

This is not for the timid, the walk is tough but hikers are rewarded with stunning flora and fauna and nature that not many outsiders have seen. The Lost City itself is a combination of eight sections that house over 250 terraces. A fully functioning city where people lived, worked, worshiped and celebrated it is possible to view the infrastructure of roads and homes made from stone inside ringed terraces that are five or more metres wide. The tiered terraces also display the ingenuity of the people who created them to prevent water damage from rain which would have eroded the land.


Most people think the oldest civilization in South America is the Inca, but there were many prior to that. In fact, the local tribes that inhibited Ciudad Perdida existed before the Inca and Ciudad Perdida was created 650 years before Machu Picchu was constructed.

It is known as the lost city because it was abandoned by the Tairona during the Spanish Conquest in the 1500s. However it was never truly lost, the local tribes always knew of its existence but never shared it with outsiders.

It remained a secret until an airplane flew over the area in the early 1970s. Unfortunately it lead to a number of treasure hunters, digging up the area looking to steal goal and other artifacts. The good news is that the Colombian government moved quickly to declare it a historical site in 1976.

This did not mean stability for the area and as recent as 2003 there have been issues as guerrillas kidnapped eight tourists who were travelling in the area and held them for 102 days. While all of the tourists were released alive, there remains some hesitation to visit the area. To create stability and maintain safety the military patrols the area and guards the lost city.

Price and Duration

Depending on how much time you have to travel, the Lost City trek can be done in 5 or 6 day with tours ranging from $200-$300 USD. There is no discount for completing the trek in fewer days.

Unless you are in a rush, the 6-day excursion is generally recommended as it has a slower pace with more breaks to enjoy the scenery.

Tour operators are available to discuss the details in both the neighboring town of Santa Marta or the small village of Taganga. All costs generally include the tour guide, food, accommodation etc. Drinks are excluded but may be available for purchase on the tour.


There are three check point campsites for travelers along the trek, which can be described best as rustic. There are kitchens and bathrooms with running water and some bunk beds and hammocks to sleep in.

What to bring

While it can be chilly at night in the mountains, keeping a backpack light is key with an arduous trek. Most tour companies provide blankets at night and a sleeping bag is not needed; however it can be cold in the higher altitude so warm clothes are recommended.

It is important to bring things that can either endure river crossings or protect belongings from the water. Hiking shoes that can cross through rivers are recommended. All items should be kept in waterproof bags as it is very common for clothing to get wet and it may not dry quickly. As well plenty of bug spray and sunscreen will be needed along the route.

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