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The Lost City Hike / Ciudad Perdida Hike - Hiking - Colombia

Treks to Teyuna (or Ciudad Perdida) combine the opportunity to see some of Colombia’s natural beauty with a fascinating insight into the ancient indigenous Tayrona culture. Usually a five-day trek, the moderately difficult, 40-kilometer (25-mi) hike passes though the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta's incredible rainforest, taking you across various streams and rivers, through Kogi Indian communities, alongside a beautiful waterfall and finally up a set of 1,200 or so steps to this immense ancient site.

To get to Cuidad Perdida, use a tour operator from Santa Marta or Taganga. Agencies authorized to run the trek have agreed upon a standard price of $280 for an all-inclusive five-day/four-night hike. This fee includes transportation, guide (usually Spanish-speaking, though English translator are available), lodging (usually hammocks with mosquito nets), food, water, entry fee and insurance. Travelers carry their own packs; mules haul the food. Solo travelers or small groups need not worry about finding companions for the trek; tour operators compile a list of people who want to go to Ciudad Perdida and send out groups of four to 12 almost every day. Sometimes, when demand is low, operators group together with others. During the tourist high seasons, the end-of-year and Semana Santa (Easter) holidays, advance reservations are necessary. Facilities along the way are basic.

Entry to the park is limited to 50 people per day, and tickets are distributed among the authorized operators; thus, making the trip with an independent guide is not advised. Local authorization is essential as your guide will be required to provide legitimate documentation and a visiting permit during the tour. Always check beforehand what equipment is necessary as different operators require you to bring different things, though you can check out VIVA's Lost City Hike Packing List. Be sure you are up-to-date on your tetanus and yellow fever vaccinations.

The only authorized rote now is up the Río Buritaca valley. Although tour operators use different lodges in the villages, their itineraries are essentially the same:

Day 1 – At 8-9 a.m., tours leave Taganga and Santa Marta for El Mamey / Machete de Pelado (2-3 hr). After lunch, the trek to Ciudad Perdida begins. The uphill path has some stretches that are in good condition, and others that are muddy. Some sections have little shade. There is one river crossing. After about 3 hours, trekkers arrive at the first camp, which has hammocks with mosquito nets strung in a roofed shelter and showers. Dinner is served.

Day 2 – After a 7 a.m. breakfast, trekkers strike out for a relatively easy, 2.5-4 hour hike uphill to the next camp. Along the way is a waterfall. After lunch and a swim in a river near camp, hikers visit the traditional Kogi village, Mutanyi.

Day 3 – This day begins early, with the wake-up call at 5-6 a.m. for breakfast. After the meal, the trek begins, with several river crossings (the first in a cable car), lots of uphill stretches and regular snack stops. After 4-6 hours, hikers arrive at the campsite, where dinner is served. This night's lodging is in tents and has limited shower facilities.

Day 4 – After an early breakfast, trekkers set off for Teyuna, or Ciudad Perdida. The one-hour hike cuts through jungle, then fords a river and continues up the 1200 steps to the site. After spending 3-4 hours exploring Teyuna with a guide (and lots of heavily armed Colombian soldiers), hikers head back to camp for lunch. Then it's slipping and sliding downhill to Day 2's camp (3-4 hours), where they dine and sleep.

Day 5 – Awakening and breakfasting before dawn, hikers begin the long-day hike (5-8 hr) downhill to El Mamey, taking a swim break along the way. After lunch at El Mamey, it's back to Santa Marta and Taganga, arriving at 5:30 or 6 p.m.

Rains can delay departure times. Most agencies provide snacks along the way. While on many days you'll only be hiking a few hours a day, this trek cannot be considered “easy.” The jungle climate makes the hike challenging. Daytime temperatures average 26ºC (79ºF) with high humidity and frequent rains. At night, it gets down to 18-22ºC (64-72ºF). This part of the Sierra Nevada experiences two dry seasons (verano, January-March, and veranillo, July-August) and two rainy seasons or invierno (April-June and heavier rains September-December). The depth and strength of rivers depend on recent rains. The park may close temporarily, depending on natural, access, maintenance and other conditions.

A few of ICANH's recommendations about trekking to Ciudad Perdida are:

. Pack only the essential; limit weight to 10 kilograms (22 lb).

. Take all your trash back to Santa Marta, as the site has no garbage service.

. Do not damage the ruins or natural environment.

. Do not bother the wildlife.

. Respect the privacy of locals: Do not enter their homes, or take photos of them or their belongings without permission.

. There is no cell phone reception or other communication means in the park.

The area has considered very safe since 2005, when the Colombian military secured the area after a 2003 kidnapping of eight tourists. To enhance your overall experience and learn about Tayrona culture, check out Santa Marta’s Museo de Oro Tairona before the trek.


Hiking Types:
National park, Hike, Historical site

Relative price: Mid-Range

Currencies accepted
Colombian Peso, US dollar

28 Jul 2011

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