The Lost City, Colombia

Hidden in the peaks of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada mountains is the Lost City (or Ciudad Perdida, in Spanish), an archaeological site believed to have been founded in the year 800, and discovered in 1972. Treasure looters were hiking in the mountains when they came across stone steps which, when followed, led them to the ancient city ruins.

It was only when the ceramic and tomb artefacts from the abandoned site began to circulate the black market that archaeologists pursued the leads and discovered the Lost City for themselves a few years later. Reconstruction began almost immediately and by 1982, and tourist hikes began shortly thereafter.

Today, visitors to Colombia can trek the legendary road to the Lost City, accompanied by an authorised tour company, to appreciate the 200 stone structures, 169 terraces, ceremonial buildings and more.

The starting point for the trek is Santa Marta, so this is where you will stay before and possibly after your hike, and where your belongings will be stored since you’ll only be taking the bare essentials in your backpack.

Take a look at our brief guide to Colombia’s Lost City to see if it’s for you.

How long is the Lost City trek?

To access the Lost City visitors must trek around 42 km in total, including a climb of 1,200 steep stone steps through the dense jungle, so the hike is not for the faint hearted. Tours are typically 4, 5 or 6 days in duration, so you have the option to select the number of days based on your preferred hiking intensity and your physical capabilities.

Hikers will need to be in fairly good health and be physically fit in order to undertake the arduous journey, but we can assure you that the reward is deserving of the physical demand!

Is the Lost City trek safe?

You might have heard about the conflict that used to be rife in the region of the Lost City, so it’s understandable if you have some safety concerns. For several years in the early 2000’s the trek was closed due to the conflict, but since it completely reopened in 2005 and there have been no problems – big or small – since.

The Lost City is patrolled by the Colombian army, so you might be a little taken aback to begin with when you first catch sight of an armed officer. But rest assured that they are there for your safety and their presence has been, and continues to be effective, enabling thousands upon thousands of people to enjoy the wonders of the trek to the Lost City year after year.

As far as the hike goes, be aware of the physical requirements as the trail includes steep rocky climbs, river crossings and 1,200 ancient steps to ascend (all amongst the heat and humidity of the Colombian jungle).

And how high is the Lost City Colombia?

The trek to Colombia’s Lost City is a tough one and should only be considered for those in good physical health. But amongst the conditions and terrain we’ve just described, one thing you won’t have to add to the mix, unlike many of the best South American treks, is a high altitude – thankfully!

The highest points of the Lost City trek reach between 900-1,200 metres, so you need not worry about the effects of high altitude climbs.

Since you are only able to complete the Lost City trail with an authorised tour company, rest assured that you’ll be in good, safe hands!

Top tips to keep you safe, sane and comfortable!

If you’ve read our guide and you think that the Lost City trek is for you, here are some hints and tips to ensure you make the most out of your hike and have a safe and enjoyable time:

Prepare: plan and book your tour in advance to familiarise yourself with the company, their recommendations and advice

Hydrate: the trek is physically demanding so make sure you have plenty of water and you take the time to hydrate throughout the day

Don’t leave the beaten track: you will be hiking with a guide, and that is for good reason. They know the path, they know the terrain and they know how to keep you safe, so always stay on the path with your guide to ensure maximum safety

Be realistic: assess your physical health and check out the different tours that are available (4, 5 or 6 days). Only commit to the trek that meets your physical capabilities so you can enjoy the experience to the utmost

Bare necessities: it can be tempting to go overboard when it comes to packing, but you’re going to be hiking for a number of days so you want to stay comfortable. Don’t overload yourself with things you don’t need, and read your tour companies recommended packing list for inspiration

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