The Ciudad Perdida Tour and Lost City trek in Colombia is a challenging but fascinating journey that I highly recommend. Trekking through the Colombian jungle for 4 or 5 days is beautiful, sometimes strenuous, always sweaty and at times very wet! See how I got on when I did the Lost City Trek Colombia:
How Much does the Ciudad Perdida Tour Cost?
It is not possible to do the Lost City Trek without a guide, you have to join one of the Ciudad Perdida tours which leave from Santa Marta or Palomino. As of February 2019, the Ciudad Perdida Trek price is $1.100.000 COP (Colombian pesos) per person, which is approximately $348 USD. Several different companies have permits to lead the Lost City Trek Colombia, and the price is fixed so there should be no difference between companies for the cost for a 4 or 5 day trek.
However, if you choose to pay in USD, the conversion rate varies and you could end up paying more, so I advise paying in Colombian pesos at the trekking office, not online in USD to make sure you get the best price.
It is also the same cost for a four or five-day trek, so if you have plenty of time you could get an extra day for free on the five-day option to allow you to hike a little less distance on the last two days. Ciudad Perdida Treks can be easily arranged from Santa Marta on the Northern Colombian coast, and some can arrange pick up from Palomino.
The Best Company for the Lost City Trek & Ciudad Perdida Tour
After looking at the reviews online and on the websites for various companies offering Lost City Trek Colombia tours, I chose to do a five-day Lost City trek with Wiwa Tours. They had excellent reviews on Tripadvisor, and their guides are indigenous, so they teach you a lot about the Wiwa and Kogui cultures as you pass through their lands on the way to the Ciudad Perdida. My guide Jose Luis was fabulous, and I learned a lot about the indigenous cultures along the way. We also got to meet the Shaman during our Ciudad Perdida tour, which other tour groups did not.
Wiwa Tours were also quick to respond to my email enquiries about the tour, and were recommended by my hostel, the Dreamer Hostel, in Santa Marta too, so I was happy with my choice.
Where to Stay in Santa Marta Before the Lost City Trek
I stayed at the Dreamer Hostel, which was a great base for exploring the Caribbean coast of Colombia. They have a swimming pool, onsite restaurant with cheap and tasty meals, and a large luggage storage room to leave your big backpack before the trek. I also stayed here before going to Tayrona National Park and Minca, it is in a great location just outside the centre of Santa Marta. BOOK NOW>>>
What To Take on the Ciudad Perdida Tour
The key here is to pack light. You’ll be carrying your own day pack with everything you need, so make sure it is comfortable. This post has a more detailed Lost City Trek packing list, but I’d advise comfortable hiking boots, clean underwear & t-shirt for every day, 2 pairs of hiking trousers (one to wear & one to dry), and dry socks for every day. You’ll also need sandals for crossing the river, flip-flops won’t stay on your feet so look for something like these hiking sandals.
Mosquito repellent is essential, and on the day actually inside the Lost City I’d advise wearing long trousers instead of shorts as you will get bitten to death!! A swimsuit, quick drying towel and sunscreen are also a good idea.
The Lost City Trek Colombia Day One:
On the first morning of the Lost City Trek, Wiwa Tours offers a pick up from your hostel or from their office if you need to pay the final balance the morning of the tour. I had already gone to their office to pay the day before so was picked up from my hostel at about 9.15am. After an hour’s drive on asphalt and another hour on a horribly bumpy windy dirt track that made me want to vomit, we finally arrived in the town of Machete in the Sierra Nevada region of Northern Colombia.
A lunch of chicken, rice and salad was served, then we bought extra water and last minute supplies, used the bathroom and then set off on the Lost City trek. It was very hot when we left the town at 1pm; not the ideal time to start hiking, but what can you do. At the beginning of the trail to Ciudad Perdida we stopped at a map while our guide Jose Luis explained the route for the next five (four) days.
The lost city hike began with a 7 km hike from Machete to the first camp, nestled in a valley alongside the Puritaca river. The hike was a mixture of ups and downs, flats and jungle. We passed some Wiwa villages along the way and we had some spectacular views when we reached the tops of the hills, before descending again into the valleys. Finally, we came down a steep hill to the river where the first camp was. We crossed the river on a wobbly bridge, to where we would sleep for the night.
The camps all have places to swim and cool off after a hard day’s hiking. La Piscina (literally “swimming pool”) at the first camp was a waterfall and pool deep enough to dive into from 5 metres up. Needless to say, I didn’t jump but climbed down the stairs to the last rung, then splashed into the water in my usual graceful manner. The water was cold but clear, and beautifully refreshing after a sweaty hike!
This camp is not indigenous, the Colombians who live here have electricity and even satellite TV! The Copa de America was on when we were there and everyone gathered around to watch the match. The food was cooked by a Wiwa lady, and it was good too – fried fish with rice & salad. And a chocolate bar was a welcome treat!
As we were eating, it began to rain – a lot! Groups that arrived after us were soaked, and muddy from slipping down the hill that led to the camp so I was glad we arrived before the deluge. After dark, a plague of flying ants descended on the camp, I’m not sure if it was due to the rain, or simply the season. Huge toads came out from the river to feast on them, gorging themselves on the easy meal, and lazily sticking their tongues out to capture their next victims. The toads provided good entertainment for those who didn’t want to watch the football!
When it came to sleeping, a row of bunk beds with mosquito nets greeted us. We could have chosen to sleep in hammocks if we wanted but we all opted for beds. The beds weren’t the most comfortable but after walking with our packs they were better than hammocks! However, the beds smelt musty, here it seemed nothing properly dries out with the rain and humidity. I wrapped myself in the blanket provided, as it smelt fresher. I lay in bed listening to the toads’ croaking chorus, and the high-pitched shriek of cicadas, and tried to get some rest before the next day hiking to the Lost City.
La Cuidad Perdida Tour – Lost City Trek Day Two
Despite my tiredness, I didn’t sleep particularly well, and felt awful when we were woken the next morning at 5am. We ate a tasty breakfast, packed up our things and headed out. A steep hill out of the valley greeted us; luckily the rain had stopped but it was still slippery in parts. After that, the terrain varied up and down for an hour or so, then there was another steep downhill that would make me pay on the way back! It was a 2-hour hike to reach Camp Wiwa where we had a couple of hours break – to swim and to have lunch – and a quick snooze in the hammocks.
After lunch we set off on the hike again, my legs groaning in protest. It was another 5 hours till we would reach the next camp – Paraíso (Paradise) that was just 3km hike from La Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City itself. It was a tough walk. The path wound through the forest, along the river bank then over mountains when the uphill stretches felt as though they would never end. Then it started to rain. It is common here to have rain in the afternoon. I had brought my waterproof coat, so wasn’t bothered by the rain – light drizzle was nice and cooling but the heavy burst luckily came as we were reaching a rest stop. The downhill that followed wasn’t too steep, and the path continued without too much variation, until we descended again to the river. But there was no bridge here. There was a kind of tarabata cable car on a rope and pulley system, but the guides weren’t convinced by its safety. Not disagreeing with them, we were faced with crossing the now raging river, filled with the rain that was still falling gently.
Another group arrived at the river around the same time, and the guides discussed the best option for crossing. One of them crossed with a rope, and tied it to a tree on the other side. Now we had a rope to hang on to as we waded across, one by one, slipping & fighting against the current as we went. On the way back, the river was much easier to cross, and was easily walked in sandals.
After 7 or 8 hours hiking on day two, we finally arrived at Paraíso Camp around 4.30pm. Next to the river, you can swim here too. It is the camp for all the groups, so busier than the others, and the bunk beds are just as musty and damp. By now I was so exhausted I slept slightly better, and woke excited to finally reach the Lost City!
Lost City Trek Day 3: La Ciudad Perdida Tour
La Ciudad Perdida is a relatively short walk from the Paraíso Camp, perhaps an hour away from the actual city. Our group was the first to leave, we crossed the river again and made our way to the stone steps that led to the ‘discovery’ of the city in 1972. The steps are uneven, and slippy in parts due to the moss that covers the stone. Climbing the steps, I felt my excitement growing. Finally, we were here in the Lost City!
We arrived at a round terrace, and our guide Jose Luis explained a ritual we should perform in order to be welcomed into La Ciudad Perdida. We followed him around the stones and entered the city. We headed up to the highest point, to make the most of the spectacular views before the other groups arrived. We weren’t disappointed.
The Teyuna (Tayrona) people used the city they called Teyuna as their political and residential centre. The indigenous people still living in this region believe that their ancestors the Teyuna people had black and white magic powers, and the ability to move the huge rocks with only the power of the mind – explaining how the Lost City was built high in the Colombian rainforest. Whether you believe that or not, La Ciudad Perdida is an impressive feat of construction. Although it lacks the grandeur of Machu Picchu, the location is equally stunning, overlooking mountains and lush forests.
There is a military camp at the site – strange to us, but necessary to protect the site from potential grave robbers and ousted coca farmers, and guerrilla conflict. A huge portion of the area used to be dedicated to growing coca for the cocaine trade, but all that stopped when the government cracked down hard on such plantations, and the military took control of the area to prevent the illegal farms from returning. We had passed another outpost along the trail, marked with a Colombian flag and occupied by perhaps 10 to 20 soldiers. I later learned that in 2003 a group of tourists had been kidnapped here and held to ransom, and although the tours here have been continuing without incident since 2005, I was glad to have extra protection there!
We took some time to explore the Lost City, swimming in a pool there, and meeting the Shaman of La Ciudad Perdida. He explained more about the city, and his role, and gave us each a bracelet as a gift. Some of us gave a gift in return, a bracelet and a coin from their home country. There are still a couple of families who live in the city, but most are in the villages around.
All too soon it was time to leave, and as we descended the slippery steps, I felt the magic of this place slowly leave me. We hiked back to the Wiwa camp that we had rested in on day two, and had lunch there. Those who were doing the four-day itinerary then continued to the 1st camp to sleep. My legs refused to take me any further, so I stayed here for the night, resting in the afternoon & swimming in the river.
At the Wiwa Camp the river flows around large rocks, perfect for jumping off. Again, I didn’t leap in, more shuffled as close as I could get and plopped in. It was gorgeous, with yellow and white butterflies flitting above the water, and small fish visible in the shallows.
The second time I visited this part of the river I was alone, and stood on a submerged rock as the cool water flowed over me, reviving my aching muscles. Soon after two of the Wiwa children arrived, splashing and swimming around, enjoying the water. They share a lot of the same loves as we do – and even have a small football pitch next to the camp.
The following day we hiked back to the first camp, and on the 5th day back to Machete. I was exhausted. I really should know by now that hiking is not my forte, but I simply couldn’t resist the chance see the Lost City!
What I loved about Wiwa Tours & the Lost City Trek:
Wiwa Tours is the only company that has indigenous guides, so I felt we had a more ‘authentic’ experience. We learned a lot about the culture of the people, and met the Shaman, whereas other groups did not. This added an extra, fascinating dimension to the tour which we otherwise would have missed. Our guide Jose Luis was very knowledgeable and chatty, but not intrusive. On the last day, the others joined with another guide to hike the 4-day itinerary, and Jose Luis stayed with me so we chatted together some more.
What I didn’t like about the Ciudad Perdida Tour:
Wiwa Tours’ five-day itinerary was different than other companies as they spread out the walking instead of just splitting the last day into two. Or so I thought. The company had mixed our group of eight people – two of which were a couple who only had 3 days to do part of the trek then visit an indigenous village for an hour, 5 of us on a 5-day trek and one guy on a 4-day trek. With only one guide we had little choice but to follow the schedule for the 4-day itinerary, which I found very difficult – up until the fourth day when our group split. However, this seemed to be the norm with other companies too.
Is the Lost City Trek Worth It?
Overall, the Lost City Trek was a tough hike, but it was definitely worth it to see more of the Colombian jungle and the remnants of the Ciudad Perdida. Meeting the shamen was very interesting, and I loved learning about the indigenous cultures here. If you have the time to spare, I definitely recommend spending the 4, 5 or even 6 days doing the Ciudad Perdida tour to learn more about the culture in Colombia, and to enjoy the beautiful scenery here.
Have you done the Lost City Trek Colombia? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below.
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This article was not sponsored in any way. I paid for the Lost City Trek myself, and had a really great experience so I wanted to share that with you.
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Tales of a Backpacker is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. I only recommend goods and services I believe are useful and reliable.Last updated: February 19, 2019