Last Updated on January 6, 2023 by Audrey Scott
The hike to the Lost City in northern Colombia takes you 46km (28 miles) round trip through the jungles, hills and river valleys of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We’d had our sights set on the Lost City Trek for years, so expectations had built up. Fortunately, the challenge, landscape, and experience exceeded so many of them.
This Lost City Columbia Hiking Guide shares why that is and includes a day-by-day overview of the Lost City Trek, all you need to know to choose the right tour, how to pack and organize so that you can enjoy the Ciudad Perdida and this multi-day hike to the fullest.
We were out of breath, having just climbed 1,200 stone steps when Celso, our indigenous guide, called for us to join him around a group of stones arranged in a circle in a clearing. In the middle of the circle stood another square stone on top of which lay a pile of coca leaves placed as an offering. Celso explained with trademark calm in a slow, deliberate voice, “This is a place where we should let go of our impurities, our negative thoughts and emotions.”
We stood in silence, not only to “cleanse” ourselves so that we might better experience this sacred site, but also to enjoy its peace and quiet. To Celso, we were then prepared to further visit Teyuna, otherwise known as the Lost City (La Ciudad Perdida) in Colombia, the ultimate destination to which we’d been trekking in the rain forest for the previous two days.
Here’s why you might want to consider putting the Lost City or Ciudad Perdidia in Colombia on your travel or hiking wish list, in case it isn’t there already. In this Lost City Colombia Guide we include the day-by-day hiking experience plus all you need to know about to choose a Lost City tour and how plan, prepare for and pack to be able to enjoy the complete Lost City Colombia experience.
Update: This article was originally published in June 2015 and updated in May 2022 with information about the new G Adventures Lost City Trek itinerary.
The following experiences are from our G Adventures Lost City Trek. If you are considering this tour and want to know what to expect, here’s a taste of the itinerary and route, interaction with local indigenous guides, campsites and Wiwa community project. Disclosure: This tour was sponsored and provided to us in conjunction with our partnership with G Adventures as Wanderers.
About this Lost City Colombia Trek Guide
When I researched the Lost City Trek as part of our travels in Colombia, I found a fair bit of conventional history about the site, often paired with a photo or two of the final destination, including what I refer to as the “golf course” shot.
What I didn’t find much of was information on what the actual journey to the Lost City was like, including the hiking experience, difficulty, landscapes, sleeping and eating conditions, weather, and more. That's the goal of this Lost City Trek day-by-day section.
The landscape along the trail is more beautiful and varied than we had expected and the Lost City site itself is far more extensive than most photos indicate. We especially appreciated having an indigenous guide to put everything into cultural and historical context.
Celso, a member of the local Wiwa indigenous community, shared his culture with us and linked it to the other indigenous communities, their relationship to nature and their shared connection to the ancient Tayrona civilization.
Our days usually began early, around 5:00 A.M., so we could get on the trail while it was still cool and so that we could complete our day’s journey before the rains of the mid-late afternoon. We appreciated getting up early, and we enjoyed all the benefits of the early morning – light, coolness and silence among them.
Lost City Trek Map
The map below shows the basic Lost City trail with different options for campsites and sections. We did a four-day hike, but if you opt for a five-day Lost City trek then your second and third days will be shorter as you'll have two days to complete that same route. The current G Adventures Lost City Trek is five days.
Hiking to the Lost City in Colombia: Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 of the Lost City Trek
All Lost City treks, no matter which tour company you choose, seem to set off from Santa Marta in northern Colombia. From there, a jeep or van transfer takes 45 minutes along the highway.
You’ll likely stop at a convenience store for last minute snacks and water. From there, you’ll head up a dirt track into the mountains.
After you arrive in Machete, you’ll have lunch, say goodbye to the driver and meet your local indigenous hiking guide. Then, the hike begins. (Note: this is when you should ask the people coming off the trek if they have a walking stick they can give you. It is really helpful for balance and ease on the trail.)
The beginning of the walk eases you into things, with a swimming hole a close 25 minutes from the trailhead. After cooling off in the water, you’ll have a steep uphill for around 45 minutes, then a bit of a break, then a long descent into the valley where the first campsite is located.
Day 2 of the Lost City Trek
If you are doing a 4-day Lost City Trek, then this is a long hiking day. If you are doing a 5-day route like the G Adventures Lost City Trek then this will be a similar distance as the previous day, 7-8 km, to Wiwa Camp (Campsite #2).
The first segment of the day takes you uphill and across some beautiful terrain, including some local farms. After a jump in a swimming hole and lunch at Campsite #2 (Wiwa Camp), we continued all the way to Campsite #3 (El Paraiso or Paso Lorenzo Camp), located only 1 km downhill from the site of the Lost City.
If you are doing the 5-day Lost City Trek, then you would stop at Campsite #2 for the night.
This day takes you through a great deal of varied landscape — deeper into the tropical jungle, across rivers and by a couple of Kogi village communities along the way.
Day 3 of the Lost City Trek: Visiting La Cuidad Perdida
You rise very early on this day (around 4:30A.M.) so that you can set off at dawn and enjoy the Lost City in the softest light and coolest air possible. After a short walk from the campsite, you reach the starting point of the 1,200 stone stairs you’ll need to walk and scramble to reach the terraces of the city above.
It’s not an easy climb, and can be a bit treacherous if wet or damp, but if you take care and get into a meditative rhythm, you’ll find it goes very quickly.
After the steps, you’ll have reached the lower chambers of Teyuna, also known as The Lost City or Ciudad Perdida. It is believed that this was a capital city built by the Tayrona civilization in 800 A.D., approximately 600 years before the Incas built Machu Picchu in Peru.
When Spanish colonialists came close to finding or approaching the in the 16th century, the Tayrona people opted to abandon the city instead of allowing it to fall into Spanish hands.
Of course, the Lost City Colombia was never truly “lost.” Teyuna was overtaken by jungle for the next several hundred years, as only the shaman (holy men) of the four indigenous groups who live in the area were aware of its existence and would visit it regularly for ceremonies.
It wasn’t until the early 1970s that the site was “discovered” by the outside world. Tomb thieves cleared out much of the gold, valuable artifacts and other remains. Due to this misfortune and the fact that no written record of the Tayrona exists, much about the city and civilization remains the subject of speculation.
The Wiwa, Kogi, Arhuaco, and Kankuamo indigenous groups that remain in the area are believed to be the descendants of the Tayrona and have carried on their stories and traditions.
We noticed when we arrived at the Lost City, Celso let down his hair, the surprising length of which is said to represent the wisdom that flows from the sacred mountains through the rivers to the coast. He was dressed in white, as was his custom, to represent the purity and integrity of the snow-covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, out of sight in the distance.
Throughout our journey, he shared stories that had been passed on to him, through generations, from shaman to shaman, from elders to children, about the Lost City / Ciudad Perdida. The stories told of its creation, the symbolism of the different terraces, and the Tayrona relationship with nature.
The indigenous people that inhabit the area around the Lost City in Colombia believe they are the symbolic “elder brothers,” there to protect both the sacred Sierra Nevada Mountains and their “younger brothers” – meaning the rest of us.
The sense of responsibility to the equilibrium and the good and health of others was evident.
After your visit to Teyuna, the Lost City, you return to El Paraiso or Paso Lorenzto Camp (Campsite #3) for a quick lunch and begin your return all the way to Wiwa Camp (Campsite #2).
For us, we were met with an afternoon downpour that made it feel as though we were skiing through mud crevasses in the rain forest. We were glad for the experience. It was actually more delightful than it sounds as the rain was warm and everything around was so green and lush drinking in the much appreciated water.
Day 4 of the Lost City Trek
Start/Finish: Wiwa Camp (Campsite #2) to Machete and Santa Marta
This is another early rise since much of the trail is uncovered and therefore becomes quite hot as the day goes on. Try to make it as far as you’re able before the sun becomes too strong.
As you’ll remember from your first day, much of the trail is up or down, without much in between. After a stop for fruit at the first campsite and a jump in the swimming hole, you find yourself back where you began, with a celebratory lunch in Machete.
Then you'll transfer by vehicle to Santa Marta for a nice, hot shower and to reunite with the rest of your stuff.
Lost City Trek Difficulty and Hiking Conditions
We’d give this trek a medium-high difficulty ranking for all the reasons we’re about to elaborate. This means that you should not require special training to hike the Lost City Colombia trail, but you should be relatively active and in good physical shape.
You should either be accustomed to or be prepared for day-long treks with steep, slow uphill climbs and long walks in intense heat and humidity.
Lost City Trek is Not a Technical Trail
The Lost City Trek is not at all technical, meaning that you will not need any special equipment (e.g., climbing ropes or other fittings). The trail is well-maintained and for the most part, it’s an easy path to follow. But, it’s necessary to have a guide to navigate the rivers and some turns.
You’ll have to cross a few streams or rivers — with river shoes on or with your shoes and socks in your hand — but that is part of the fun.
Altitude, Steep Hills and Valleys
Altitude is not really an issue, as the trek’s highest point is around 1,500 meters/4,920 feet. However, the Lost City trail seems to either be straight up or straight down without much flat so there's a lot of steep ascents and descents on the trail.
Our advice is to take it slow and steady on the uphill. Keep in mind that it’s not a race. It’s better to hike deliberately and slowly and take fewer breaks than to go quickly and wear yourself out with frequent and longer stops to recover.
Heat and Humidity
One of the challenges of the Lost City Colombia Trek is the combination of heat and humidity. I’m not sure we’ve ever poured sweat with such intensity and consistency. It actually felt great, like a cleansing process.
Just be sure that you drink plenty of water to replenish. Note that respite from the heat comes a couple of times a day in the form of rivers and swimming holes to jump into.
Bugs Along the Trail
Another challenge and irritation of this trek: bugs and their bites. There are lots of them, especially mosquitoes at the Lost City itself. We suggest applying plenty of bug repellent (bring on the DEET if you need to).
If you are especially susceptible to mosquito bites consider hiking in long trousers as Dan did. Finally, pick up a pack of generic B-complex tablets (“Compejo-B generico” runs 25 pills for $1.00) in a pharmacy in Santa Marta before the hike, as certain B vitamins are said to repel mosquitoes.
Another thing to watch out for are fleas and/or bedbugs in the hammocks and/or blankets at the campsites – this is where we collected most of our bug bites (especially campsite #2). We recommend carrying a sleep sack, so that you have another layer of protection while you are sleeping.
Finally, check your body closely for ticks when you emerge from the Lost City Trek. We each had a few on us; they are very tiny and difficult to see, so look closely. (Note: For advice on how to properly remove a tick, check out this article.)
Rain and Mud Along the Lost City Trail
We had been warned plenty about rain and mud, but didn’t find wet weather too much of a hindrance. Yes, it rained from time to time (usually mid-afternoon), but it was often so hot anyway that the cool rain was welcome.
Be certain any valuable electronic gear is well-protected and any dry sleeping clothes are at least wrapped in plastic (e.g., ziploc, garbage bags or a dry sack) inside your backpack. Then, have an outer backpack cover to protect your backpack from the elements.
If you fall in the mud, just go with the flow and don’t think about it too much. You can always wash yourself and your clothes later.
Best Time to Hike the Lost City Trail
While you will experience heat and humidity almost all year round in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of northern Colombia as it is a rain forest, there is still a rainy and dry season. December through March is considered the dry season and so it often is considered the bet time to hike the Lost City Trek.
In general, May through September is considered the rainy season for the region. This means expect more downpours and higher river crossings. That doesn't mean that you should avoid those months altogether as the rain can be a welcome relief from the heat and provide an interesting experience. For example, we did our G Adventures Lost City Trek in early June and thought the few rainfalls were kind of pleasant and added to the experience.
Note: The Lost City Trail is usually closed in September for trail maintenance and to do upkeep on the campsites and other services.
Lost City Trek Food
You will certainly not go hungry on the Lost City Trek. Each group is assigned a cook and not only will you be served three large meals a day (e.g., fish and rice, pasta, chicken and potatoes), but you will also enjoy well-placed fruit stops along the trail. These are very welcome for the additional boost of energy and hydration just when you need it.
If you are vegetarian or have food restrictions (e.g., gluten or lactose free), alert your trekking company and your guide in advance so they can respond accordingly.
Lost City Trek Campsites and Sleeping
There are a handful of different campsites along the way that the tour companies use. We can only speak firsthand to the ones that we stayed in — Adán Camp, Wiwa Camp, and El Paraiso — but we understand that the other campsites are quite similar in design, comfort and services.
Not always, but often, you’ll have an option to sleep in a hammock or on a mattress/bed (both with mosquito nets). We always chose the hammocks, but some may prefer mattresses.
There are cold water showers and flush toilets at all the campsites. Clotheslines will be strung around so you’ll be able to hang up your wet clothes from the day. However, the rain forest is damp so do not expect anything to fully dry overnight, if at all.
Evenings also get cool, so keep a long-sleeved shirt or fleece jacket handy at night.
Organizing a Lost City Tour: Your Options
Choosing a trekking operator
You cannot do the Lost City Trek independently (at this time), meaning you must go with one of the four or five authorized tour operators. We took our Lost City Trek with G Adventures and can highly recommend the experience.
G Adventures work with a local organization that provides indigenous guides so that their travelers are able to learn about the indigenous cultures and communities still living in the Sierra Nevada mountain area.
Regardless of which operator you choose to take you on the Lost City Trek, we suggest you select one that works with indigenous guides. The cultural and living history background is essential to a full Lost City Colombia experience.
How many days do you need for the Lost City Trek?
Most trekking operators offer four-, five- or six-day trek options. We did the Lost City Trek in four days, but now all the standard G Adventures Lost City Trek offerings are five days. As the route is the same, the main difference is that a five-day trek includes a relaxed day #2 with only a few hours of trekking to the second campsite.
As for the six-day option, we can’t really imagine taking that much time to do the trek. But if you are worried about your trekking abilities and stamina then talk with an operator regarding what they suggest.
Leaving your luggage behind during the trek
Most accommodation and tour operators/trekking agencies will allow you to leave your big bags or luggage with them for the few days that you're doing the Lost City Trek. We left our big backpacks at our hotel in Santa Marta and we saw other travelers leave their bags at the tour operator/trekking agency office.
Lost City Trek Essential Gear and Packing List
Much of what we include in our Hiking Essentials Checklist holds true for the Lost City Trek. However, we offer a customized Lost City Trek packing list with recommended hiking gear for this specific hiking experience. The goal is to ensure you have what you need for the tropical rain forest conditions but that don't overpack and weigh yourself down with a heavy backpack.
While there is the option on some of the route to hire a mule to carry luggage and belongings, it's best not to count on it. You should pack and plan as if you will be carrying your pack the entire length of the trail.
Trust us, pack light. You’ll quickly begin to feel the extra weight going up those steep hills.
Hiking Backpack for the Lost City Trek
When we did our Lost City Trek we just repurposed our regular travel and laptop daypacks. This worked fine at the time, but since then we have invested in real hiking backpacks that fit our backs better and don't cause any aches and pains in the shoulders or back.
Here are two recommended options for hiking backpacks that will fit the hiking clothing and gear you need, but not be too big or bulky:
- Women's Hiking Backpack: I have a larger version of this Deuter ACT Trail Pro SL Backpack (22-Liters) and love it. The SL backpacks are designed for women's bodies and I find this backpack fits me really well, is well designed with its own backpack cover and zippered areas, and is both light and sturdy.
- Men's Hiking Backpack: Dan loves Osprey hiking backpacks as they fit his body type (e.g., tall) and back really well. He likes the Osprey Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Backpack for day hies or for multi-day hikes like this where you don't need to carry a lot of gear.
Refillable Water Bottle for Drinking Water
You will go through several liters of water each day (if not, then you’re not drinking enough) since you’ll be sweating constantly. Bring with you 1-2 refillable water bottles or a water bladder so that you always have at least one liter of water on you at all times.
Each campsite offers clean water, so you can refill your water bottles every couple of hours on the trail. If you really want to play it safe consider carrying with you a SteriPEN or sterilization drops.
Consider bringing electrolyte sports drink tablets or packets with you to help you replenish some of the minerals that you’ll sweat out each day. And let’s face it, sometimes drinking liters of water gets boring and you want some flavor.
We highly recommend carrying a walking stick. We were very thankful for ours, especially when things got muddy and slippery. Hikers just finishing and on their way out of the trail donated their wooden sticks to us. If this doesn’t happen, then ask your guide for one and he will find a walking stick for you, or fashion one for you with his machete.
Alternatively, bring your own walking sticks (these are good travel-friendly walking sticks). We usually just use one stick each so a set of two is sufficient for two people.
Hiking Clothing for the Lost City Trek
You really don’t need much in the clothing department. Don’t worry about packing clean clothes for each day. You will be sweating buckets within minutes every morning of getting out on the trail.
Here’s what we suggest for hiking clothing and gear essentials:
- 1 set of hiking clothes: T-shirt (preferably quick dry), shorts, hiking socks. This means you will wear the same clothes every day. Don’t worry about it. Everyone does it. And you’ll be thankful not to carry the weight of extra clothes.
- Note: if mosquitoes love you, consider wearing hiking pants the whole time. Dan did this and it cut down on his mosquito bites considerably. If you are especially sun-sensitive, consider bringing a very light long-sleeved hiking shirt, but be aware that you may be warm.
- Hiking shoes: We wore low-rise hiking shoes (his and hers) and these worked great for us. Other people wore light trainers, however some mid-ankle support is useful because of the pitch of the terrain.
- 1 set of evening clothes for post-shower and sleep: T-shirt, long pants (or pajama bottoms), socks. To ensure these remain dry, pack them in a plastic bag or other impermeable container inside your backpack.
- Extra t-shirt: Just in case.
- Underwear for every day of your trek: With an extra pair thrown in for good measure, if you like. Recommended his and hers quick dry underwear for men and women.
- Extra pair of socks: Just in case your first pair get soaked beyond comfort while rock jumping at the river crossings.
- Bathing suit: Keep near the top of your backpack to have handy for swimming holes.
- Long-sleeved shirt: For cool nights or sleeping (recommended his and hers).
- Fleece jacket: For cool nights or sleeping (can double as a pillow, too).
- Rain jacket (optional): We didn't use ours due to the heat and humidity. We appreciated the cool rain. Not to mention, a rain jacket in the tropics can feel like a personal sauna.
- Flip-flops or river shoes: To use in river crossings, showers, and evenings when you wish to get out of your hiking shoes. Women's Tevas | Men's Tevas
Other Essential Hiking Gear
- Waterproof backpack cover: You never know when a rainstorm will hit, so it’s essential to keep a rain cover for your backpack close at hand. Your guide will likely also have a supply of plastic garbage bags in case you need extra rain protection.
- Quick-dry travel towel: To dry off after showers, and also after a swim. Hang it on the outside of your backpack in the morning so it dries quickly in the sun and air as you move.
- Silk sleep sack: To provide an extra layer between you and the hammock (or mattress) and blanket. Fleas and other bugs in the hammocks bit us and other travelers we spoke to.
- Headlamp: Most of the campsites do not have electricity, so be prepared. Carry your own headlamp to find your way to the toilet and to sort through your stuff at night in and around your hammock.
- Silicone earplugs: A precaution in the case your camp has a snorer. We know from our Lost City experience that this can demolish a good night’s sleep.
Toiletries and Health Kit
You will have access to a shower every evening, and you will be so thankful for the cold water shower to wash away all the sweat and salt on your body from the day’s efforts.
- Shampoo, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste: The basics.
- Sunscreen: The higher the SPF, the better
- Sunglasses: Of course.
- Bug repellent: You will apply this frequently, especially at the Lost City itself. The mosquitoes there are big, aggressive and plenty.
- Hand sanitizer: To be on the safe side.
- Pack of tissues or toilet paper: The campsites all have toilet paper, but it’s always a good idea to carry a pack of tissues in case of messes, spills or emergencies.
- Vitamin B Complex: Take one pill per day (called Complejo-B in Spanish, available at pharmacies in Colombia). Supposedly, mosquitoes don’t appreciate the smell and taste of your blood when B-1 Thiamine is present. It is debatable whether this really works to repel mosquitoes, but we appreciated using it and felt that it helped.
- Foot care and blisters: Duct tape is very effective for hot spots and blisters on your feet. Also consider picking up some Compeed, which is magic when you already have blisters.
- Medical Kit (for emergencies): Your guide will also have some basic first aid items with him, but it's always good to be prepared. Our basic medical kit includes: Band-Aids, anti-bacterial gel (for cuts), rehydration powders or electrolyte tablets, Azithromycin/Ciprofloxacin (or another medication against stomach bacteria), Tylenol/Panadol (anti-headache/aches), Immodium (or some sort of “stopper” if you get diarrhea), tea tree oil (great to apply to mosquito bites) Note: all these are easily and inexpensively purchased at local pharmacies, including in Santa Marta from where you depart for the trek.
Electricity and Charging Batteries
While a couple of the campsites do have electricity, it’s unreliable. Prepare yourself for not having access to electricity during the trek. Some tips to handle this and further your battery power.
- Put your smartphone on airplane mode. There is no connectivity along the trek anyhow, so don't waste your phone’s battery power trying to find a network.
- Consider buying a phone case that doubles as an extra battery. It provides another 1-1.5 charges.
- Take an extra camera battery or two.
- Don’t spent time reviewing your images, as this will eat up your battery power quickly. Unless you are reviewing images to determine whether you’ve captured a specific shot, there will be time enough for photo review when your trek is finished.
G Adventures Lost City Trek Options
G Adventures Lost City Trek Tours
Here are some of the G Adventures Lost City Trek small group tour options. These G Adventures tours all include an indigenous guide and all the support you need for a successful hike to La Ciudad Perdida in northern Colombia.
Colombia - Lost City Trekking (7 days)
The Lost City Trek tour we took that included all the experiences in this article, including an indigenous guide and cultural experience. The tour is 7-days and begins and ends in Santa Marta with 5 days of hiking the Lost City Trek.
Colombian Culture, Caribbean and Lost City (22 days)
This comprehensive 22-day G Adventures tour in Colombia takes you from the capital city of Bogota through Colombian coffee country to Medellin and finally to the Caribbean coast to explore Cartagena and Tayrona National Park before ending with the Lost City Trek (5 days). This tour is very similar to the experience we had with G Adventures in Colombia when we combined the Colombia Journey tour with the Lost City Trek. It's a great overview of the main regions of Colombia. Highly recommended.
Colombia Caribbean Adventure: Lost City Trek and Medellin (12 days)
This 12-day G Adventures tour in Colombia takes your from Cartagena to Medellin with the Lost City Trek in-between. This allows you to explore two of Colombia's most dynamic and fun cities with the adventure of the 5-day hike to the Lost City or Cuidad Perdida.
Colombia's Caribbean Coast & Lost City (14 days)
This 14-day G Adventures Colombia tour allows for an in-depth look at northern Colombia's Caribbean coast in Cartagena and Tayrona National Park before heading into the Sierra Nevada mountains for the 5-day Lost City Trek.
Have other questions about the Lost City Trek in Colombia? Just ask in the comments below and we’ll incorporate the information into the article so others may benefit.
Disclosure: Our Lost City trek was provided to us by G Adventures in cooperation with its Wanderers in Residence program. Check out this article for all the different G Adventures tours we've taken and recommend. As always, the thoughts contained herein — the what, the why, and the how — are entirely our own.
150 thoughts on “The Lost City, Colombia: A Guide to Hiking to La Ciudad Perdida”
Thanks for all of the detailed info. We’ll be doing this trek in November, so we’re looking forward to it all the more now.
You’re welcome!! Glad to hear that this information is timely for your upcoming trek. Enjoy!!
can anyone recommend a well equipped outdoors store in santa marta. thank you.
I don’t know of an outdoors store in Santa Marta, but I’m sure the trekking agency you decide to work with will be able to recommend a place to either buy or rent equipment. Otherwise, you could pick trekking gear up in Bogota.
whoa – what a massive, amazing resource! Thank you so much for writing all of this up — can’t wait to put it to good use. It’s pinned away now 😉
Glad you found this article useful and hope you can put all the info to use soon!
Was in Colombia recently and missed this … next time!
The Lost City will be still there whenever you return 🙂
Colombia is a excellent place to visit it is beautiful the food ,nature and the people
Great travel expedition in Machete. I am thrilled about the encounter you had with Teyuna, the Lost City. I am planning to tour all such attractions during my stay in Columbia so that I could have an amazingly beautiful trekking experience as well. Thanks for sharing!
thank you so much for the very detailed article. i am actually going to colombia in 2 weeks and planned to do the same tour. you helped me a lot with your information.
thanks a lot
You’re welcome, Isabella! Really glad that the article came out in time to help with your upcoming Lost City trek. Enjoy!
Great read! Trek looks fab, definitely plan to do this when we head to Colombia! Cheers Guys!
Its always wonderful to go and experience an isolated, totally disconnected civilization.
Loved the beautiful images as well.
Great photos! I am also thinking of going there. Did you find it safe to travel?
Yes, we definitely found the Lost City trek route very safe. The area had a history over 10 years ago in paramilitary and guerrilla activity, but it is currently not an issue for trekkers. If you’re curious about our thoughts on safety throughout the rest of Colombia, you might enjoy this article; https://uncorneredmarket.com/colombia-travel/
Fantastic resource! We’ve really started to get into hikes and trails and this is precisely the information we really appreciate but seldom find! We’re looking to head that way, sooner rather than later, so we’ve bookmarked this for when we make it there!
We often write resource articles after a trek with all the information we would have wanted to know beforehand. So, glad you found this article useful for your upcoming trip to Colombia. Enjoy!
Awesome article, very helpful! What time of year did you complete the trek? Just looking for some weather tips for a November adventure 🙂
Laura, we completed the trek in early June. As Colombia is so close to the equator we’re told that the temperatures don’t vary much throughout the year, so expect it to be hot and steamy. We’re told November is usually part of the rainy season so you may have more rains than we did, but with it being so hot the rains are actually kind of refreshing 🙂 Have a great trek!
This is a great overview of the trek. I did it three years ago and it would have been handy to have this info beforehand. We signed up for the five-day trek and ended up shuffling groups and doing it in four. From what I remember, day three would have been pretty short with a lot of sitting around, and we were eager to get to the city!
Thanks for the kind words about this post! Our goal was to write all the information and advice we would have wanted to know before taking this trek. Definitely understand wanting to get to the Lost City faster and opting for the four days instead of five 🙂
Very detailed and helpful post, lots of pictures. I appreciate the reality check of the weather, bugs and sleeping arrangements!
You’re welcome! Glad you found it useful, especially the reality check on weather and bugs and such. Better to be prepared than not 🙂
What an adventure … hopefully this doesn’t turn into another Machu Picchu one day!
Definitely understand, Adam! Don’t imagine that it will turn into another Machu Picchu, but that’s where limits on the number of trekkers per day might help.
What did you do with the rest of your things during the trek? We hope to be in Colombia for 3 weeks. I certainly don’t want to carry three weeks worth of stuff on the trail!
Emily, good question! We left our big backpacks with the majority in left luggage at our hotel in Santa Marta. When we finished the trek we were very thankful to have some clean clothes in those bags 🙂
Thank you! This experience seems established enough to have worked out a solution. Very grateful!
Loved the article. Great insight and information! Heading there in a couple weeks and your advice will be great! Thanks again!
Thanks, Matt! And great to hear that you’re headed out on this Lost City trek soon. Hope you have a wonderful time!
Lot’s of great info, we will be doing the trek with G adventures in Feb. 2016.
Great to hear this Bryan! Enjoy your trek and let us know if you have any questions before then!
Sounds like quite an adventure. The rappelling actually sounds like a lot of fun.
Hola Audrey, awesome blog. You would be laughing i am from Colombia but living in Colorado, USA. I am a photographer. So, i am concerned in hiking with my slr camera, lenses and tripod. Do you have time to photograph landscaping? Can you photograph the natives ? Thanks a lot for your help, G
Germán, thanks for your kind words about our blog! as for your questions, we did trek with a DSLR camera (but no tripod) and found there was time to photograph landscapes. I would recommend packing a dry sack for your gear as you may run into crazy rains along the way. As for photographing the indigenous people we met along the way we would always ask permission through our guide or directly. Some people were OK, while others preferred not to have their photos taken. So, it really depends on the situation and the people you happen to meet.
Enjoy your trek!
This was a really great post! We are going to do this trek in January and I can’t wait!
I am curious if you got any vaccines before going. It looks like they aren’t necessary but for the jungle trek would you recommend getting the yellow fever and hepatitis A/B vaccines?
Great to hear that you’ll be on this trek in just a few months! As for vaccinations, there are no special vaccines needed for this trek. However, we usually recommend that people traveling in this region have Hepatitis A & B vaccines, as well as checking whether you might need a tetanus or typhoid booster. Here are a couple more medical-related articles that might be useful: https://uncorneredmarket.com/world-travel-resources/travel-health-insurance-vaccinations/ & https://uncorneredmarket.com/around-the-world-travel-health-tips/
Have a great trip!
Hi – thanks so much for this information – so useful! I have two questions for you as I’ve heard a couple of horror stories. Firstly, were there parts where you found yourself clinging to cliff-edges with sheer drops below? Secondly, I know it’s the jungle and there’s a host of wildlife around – it’s their habitat! But were you finding gigantic spiders and snakes at every corner?
Leila, thanks for your questions. I’ll answer them the best we can.
1. I don’t remember any cliff-edges or sheer drops from our Lost City Trek. Dan is afraid of heights and really hates that type of stuff, so he certainly would have remembered that 🙂
2. No gigantic spiders or snakes that we saw. What you do need to watch out for are the little bugs – mosquitos, fleas, bedbugs. That’s why it’s good to bathe yourself in bug spray and wear loose long sleeves in the early evening when the bugs like to come ou.
If you have any other questions, just let us know!
Sounds like a lot of fun and you documented the trip well! I have a question though, are reservations required to do the trek? It is a little pricey for me but I would love to see the lost city!
Hanah, it is required that you trek with an authorized company for the Lost City Trek so reservations are required. The reason for this is that it’s a natural heritage area and site so this requirement is for conservation and protection. Maybe it’s possible to adjust some of your itinerary to prioritize this expense? It is a great hike!
Thank you for getting back to me. It looks so great I’ll make it work 🙂
Just back after our four day trek and your check lists was a great resource. We had a wonderful time and would highly recommend this to others. A few updates which I think are worth mentioning.
* Although not a technical trek, a high level of fitness is suggested. You will enjoy the walk much more. There are only up bits and down bits. And on the way back this is reversed.
* Parts of the track are very poor and require good footwear and concentration. We walked in the dry season, I would hate to think what the mud would be like during the wet.
* It is possible to buy water and other drinks along the route to supplement what you cary. We did take our own purification tablets as extra precaution to what was used by the local camps.
* All out bedding seemed to be clean and fresh and no bed bugs. Perhaps this is more seasonal. However I would suggest a sleep sack.
In response to Leila above there are no sheer drop offs or cliffs. There is one section where the track gets very narrow and you need to watch your step. As our guide warned us “stop before taking a picture”. No ropes were needed.
All in all a GREAT trip
Mark, great to hear that this article was helfpul for your trek and thanks for your feedback and follow-up from your recent trip. I do agree that a certain level of fitness will help you enjoy the trek more, as we saw a few people who decided to go by horse/donkey for part of the time because they didn’t feel good in the heat and hills. Very glad to hear that the bedding was clean and fresh! Hopefully, that’s the norm from now on, but a sleepsack is always good to be on the safe side.
Glad you had a great time on the trek!
Any comments on visiting there in late February early March.
We trekked in late May/early June, but I believe February and March would also be good times for the Lost City trek as it’s in the dry season. That means you won’t have to deal with as much mud or flash storms. And, the mosquitos might possibly be less as well 🙂 Good luck and enjoy your trek!
I really wanna do this trail, but is insecure about the wildlife out there 🙂 I am totally panicking if there is mice around me, especially in my camp. I can’t really find anything about this online, so either they are so common that people are not even bothering mentioning them, or they are not there? And what about other wildlife?
Happy to hear you didn’t encounter any big spiders 🙂
Thanks in advanced,
I really do not remember mice at the Lost City Trek campsites. This is in contrast to the Torre del Paine campsites in Chile where mice were everywhere ate through people’s food bags. As for other wildlife, the biggest bother are mosquitos and fleas/bed bugs (although someone who trekked more recently said he didn’t experience them). We didn’t see any snakes or other such creatures on the trails (as opposed to Australia where we came across several poisonous snakes), but as this is a jungle you should be prepared that it’s always a possibility. Hope this helped push you over the edge to do the trek!
Thank you so much for your answer! It definitely helps a lot. I know that you never know, but if you didn’t see 50 mice every night in camp why should we? I have been to Alice Spring and meet 100s of mice, and that was a great surprise and really freaked me out 😉 So I guess that Torre del Paine isn’t the place to go 😀 Now I can’t wait to go, thanks for this great blog post with so many great advices 🙂 Happy Spring!
I never wrote a big fat thank you! This blog post really made me take the jump doing this, and me and my boyfriend had such a great experience! It was a hard trek, but it was worth it! So thank you SO much!
Great to hear this, Sisse!! Thanks for letting us know about your trek and glad you had such a good experience! Now, where will your next trek be? 🙂
Thank you so much for this detailed guide, it is exactly what we needed and we will now be changing a few things as we prepare for the trek!
You are welcome, Victoria. Glad to hear we could help inform your Lost City Trek!
We will travel to Colombia in June for three weeks. We were thinking to do this trek, (certainly after reading this article) but we have one more question:
What with your big backpacks? We’ll both have a large backpack with us packed for three weeks, is there any place/option you can leave your big backpack and take your smaller one with you for the trek? 🙂
Greetings from Belgium!
Tine & Fabio
You have two good options for your big backpacks. Leave them at the hotel where you’re staying before (and after). Or, leave them at the trekking agency’s office. We did the first option, and saw others do the second. Hope you do the trek – it’s really wonderful!
Thank you so much for your quick reply! We can’t wait to take off! 🙂
We are now one week back from our amazing trip to Colombia.
The Lost City Trek was our highlight. It was amazing. All things you described were spot on.
Thanks again for the article, it’s an experience we’ll never forget!
T & F
This article is great! I’m traveling through Peru right now and headed to Colombia next and am really hoping to do this trek. But I also have some questions about backpacks. K have two with me right now: one 65 liter and one 20 liter. The 65 liter one is way too big and I’m assuming the 20 liter is too small. Did you see any companies renting out backpacks for the hike? Say around 30-40 liters?
Lauren, I didn’t see any companies renting out backpacks, but it’s always worth asking the trekking company you’re going with whether they offer that service. I imagine that someone in Santa Marta must.
You might be able to get away with just 20 liters since you really don’t need all that much with you…it’s really hot and everyone wears the same thing every day 🙂 With our trek, Dan carried a 30-liter backpack, but this was essentially for the two of us as I my backpack was mostly filled with camera equipment.
Thanks for this reply about the backpack size to take. I’m doing the Trek at the end of this month ( Dec – 17) and initially though of taking a laptop bag.. but realised it would be too small. I had asked a colleague of mine who goes on big treks – 15 -20 days and he suggested a 25 liter backpack. I wanted to check with you if that seems like an ok size – I’m going on my own.
We did take our laptop backpack with us on the Lost City Trek and it worked fine. Since it’s a hot climate and food it provided at the campsites you really don’t need to take very much with you. If you do want to get a more proper trekking backpack, a 25-liter backpack would be a good size. Have a great trip!
This is an amazing guide, and your photos are spectacular! What camera do you use? How did you protect it from the humid/rain/river crossings?
We had both an iPhone and a DSLR (Nikon D7100) on the trip. The photos you see are a combination of the two. We also carried a 10-liter dry sack for emergencies. Fortunately, we didn’t need it!
Thanks! Glad the guide is useful! We carried a Nikon D7100 and for most of the time we had it in the camera bag, but when it did start raining or with river crossings we put the camera bag into a dry sack. Our guide also carried extra thick garbage bags to help protect things from the rain. Hope this helps!
Your blog has helped me immensely in my thoughts of preparations for this hike. I have bookmarked this site, and will use it as a bible in the next few weeks prior to. I’ll look forward to more of your inspirational travel stories as well. Thank you, and cheers!! Instagram: kirbythekoala
Hi there, thank you so much for your informative guide; I was quite nervous when a friend suggested doing this trek but am feeling more confident about doing it since reading your blog.
One question; I’ve been told by friends that you need to cross rivers that are chest deep. Did you find this to be the case when you went? I’d be doing it at the same time of year you did (soon!). I guess I’d be OK with that if there was a rope to hold onto and the water flow wasn’t too strong, I’d be OK with cage thing as per your picture – it’s just the getting swept away part that concerns me. Any insight specifically on river crossings much appreciated, Sarah.
We certainly did not have any river crossings that were chest deep. The most I remember was perhaps a bit below the knee (I’m not that tall) so it wasn’t a problem with getting my shorts wet. When we did reach a crossing with high water our guide found a different area where the water wasn’t so high (eg, or had the cage). But, water levels do vary each year so perhaps it’s good to ask the trekking company in advance to be sure. Enjoy the trek!!
Thanks for the article, it’s really useful and well written. A friend and I are thinking of doing the trek in July, we’re wondering if you or anyone else knows how frequent the tours are e.g. Do they leave Santa Marta every day?
Thanks a lot
I believe that between the 3-4 companies offering tours you should find at least one departure a day in July. As mentioned above, we recommend going with a trekking company with indigenous guides. Enjoy!!
I’m planning this hike in July to celebrate my 40th and the fact that I’m now moving out of Colombia… this guide has been so helpful- thanks! 🙂 I have a question about footwear: I have a good pair of hiking boots, but would prefer keeping them dry-ish. Do I need a good pair of shoes for river crossings or will flip-flops be sufficient?
We used our Tevas (river shoes) for the river crossings and they worked fine. The currents weren’t very strong when we went, so a sturdy pair of flip-flops should probably be sufficient. Good luck and enjoy the trek! It’s a great way to celebrate!
Hi! Thanks for the care you put in to this blog! A friend and I are considering this trip but we only have 10 days in Colombia –arriving and departing in Cartagena. We are not sure that doing this trek will leave time to do anything else. I just had a clarifying question –Is there transportation arranged for the way back or do you have to walk back the same way you came in? Meaning is this really an 8 day trip? I am guessing not, but thought I would make sure.
Thanks in advance!
Yes, transportation is arranged for your return to Santa Marta. From there you can easily hop a bus to Cartagena. It’s possible to do the trek in 4 days, and get returned to Santa Marta after lunch on that fourth day so you still have the afternoon to clean up and regroup. If you do the tour with G Adventures, they offer it in 5 days. Either way, you should be able to fit this trek pretty easily into a 10-day trip. Good luck!
I’m so glad I found your blog! This is all very helpful. This trek will be my second trip with G Adventures! I’ll be doing it next month. Do you think it makes sense to buy a mosquito net for my head during the day? Also, you mentioned ticks, That makes me extremely nervous. Were you able to easily remove them? Which vaccinations did you get before your trip? Do you suggest bring trekking poles or just using a stick? Last question (hopefully), did you encounter bed bugs? I hope to pack light like you and all your photos look amazing.
Glad this post was useful for your upcoming G Adventures Lost City Trek! I don’t think you need a mosquito net for your head during they day – they weren’t nearly as pesky and annoying as the bush flies in Australia (where we did end up buying a net to maintain our sanity). The ticks we picked up were quite small, but were easy to pick out with tweezers. If you’re concerned, perhaps pick up a proper tick-removing kit. At other times of year you might not encounter any ticks. As for vaccinations, it’s probably best if you have Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations to be on the same side (More info: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/colombia). We did notice either bed bug or flea bites (not sure which), but another commenter who went on this same trek after us said no one in his group got any bites like that. So, it may be that they’ve gone through and switched out/cleaned the hammocks or blankets.
We did not bring trekking poles with us, but instead when we first started the trek the group before us handed over their stick. Otherwise, your guide can easily find one along the way for you.
Also, I forgot to ask, what size was your backpack?
We both carried backpacks that were around 30L, but we could have probably gone even smaller as they weren’t completely full. Those were just what we were using for the rest of our Colombia trip so we repurposed them for the trek. As you know, the smaller and lighter, the better 🙂
Fantastic and informative overview. We just completed the trek and found the information here to be very useful in preparing. Thanks so much!
Great to hear this, Linda!
I am researching, writing and producing a 72-page curriculum guide about Colombia for the non-profit Memphis in May International Festival for the festival’s 2017 salute to their honored country of Colombia. This guide is printed and distributed to teachers in all elementary, middle and senior high school teachers throughout Memphis and Shelby County, and also presented in PDF form on their website (www.memphisinmay.org). I want to include a lesson plan about Colombia’s Lost City, but I think it would add a personal touch by having students reference your blog about your trek through the Lost City. The lesson plan would describe the Lost City, its location, history, ecological significance… and then would encourage students to “plan” for their own exploration of the area…. then referencing your blog for details from someone who had actually explored this great place (what to pack, how to prepare, what to expect, conditions). To do so, obviously, I would need your permission… and hopefully, to provide your permission for us to use on of the photos from your blog for reproduction with this lesson plan. I appreciate your consideration.
We received your email about this as well and I just responded. If you didn’t get it for whatever reason, please let me know!
Hi Audrey and Daniel, this post about the Lost City is superb. I am flying to Colombia on Sat only for this trek. I initially was thinking G Adventures but then switched to a local company ( Expotur). However, Im very apprehensive about the possibility of diseases. I’m thinking malaria, zika etc. Can you please give a few pointers? Did you take any special vaccines/injections before doing this trip ?
Best protection is to try and prevent mosquitos and other bugs from biting you. As mentioned in the article above, we took B-Complex pills (bought at pharmacy in Santa Marta) and lathered on lots of insect repellent to keep away mosquitos (and other bugs). Dan also wore trousers the whole time as he often gets eaten by mosquitos. However, the mosquitos in the Lost City Trek area are not malaria mosquitos.
When we did our trek Zika was not an issue, but as I read on the CDC website there have been Zika cases found in Colombia recently. You should ask the tour company whether any Zika cases have been found specifically in the Lost City Trek area. Again, the best course of prevention is to try and avoid being bitten in the first place.
We always have the standard travel vaccinations up to date — Hepatitis A & B, Typhoid, MMR, Tetanus — so we didn’t get any special vaccinations before doing this trek. Given that you are only going to Colombia for this trek, which is only a few days, I wouldn’t worry about getting special vaccinations for the trip.
Hope this information helps!
Hi! I’m really interested in doing this trip and am in the middle of preliminary research. G Adventures looks like a great group to book with, but I found another trip through TripAdvisor for much less – just $399 for a 4 day trek. TripAdvisor doesn’t say which company will be in charge of the trek, however. Do you know why G Adventures charges so much for their trip (i.e. are they THAT much better than the other ones), and do you know of any reason why I shouldn’t book through TripAdvisor? Thanks so much for your tips and any additional insight you may have!
Some of the difference in price is probably connected the following reasons: G Adventures’ tour is seven days, meaning that the price is for a five-day trek and also includes hotel in Santa Marta the day before the trek and the day the trek ends. Additionally, they usually work with two indigenous guides if the groups are bigger than a certain size. This allows more interaction/engagement with the guides and also provides more support as one indigenous guide is at the front and the other is at the back. The G tours also have one of their own guides (CEOs) who helps with translation (as the indigenous guides don’t speak English), organize meals, sleeping arrangements, etc., and just work to smooth things over in case there are any heath or other issues. And, as it’s a big international company they also have lots of experience and a set process for handling emergencies or other unusual situations.
As I don’t know which tour is being offered through TripAdvisor, my thought is to see if you can ask a few questions before you book. Here’s what I would want to know:
1) Does the tour have an indigenous guide? For us, this indigenous perspective on history, nature, and culture really added to the trekking experience. Most of the tour companies operating Lost City treks do not have indigenous guides.
2) If you do not speak Spanish, then is there someone to translate for you? We saw that some of the other groups would have a translator in addition to the official guide.
Good luck with your planning!
Thank you so much, Audrey! That was immensely helpful (as is this blog post more generally). I think I’ll probably end up booking through Expotur, for the sole reason that I (unfortunately) don’t have 7 days for Santa Marta/the trek. Not sure if you keep in touch with the folks at G Adventures, but if you do, you may want to suggest that they look into possibly hosting a shorter 4 day trek. If they had that option now I would 100% go with them. Thanks again for your guidance. Your blog was actually the reason I started looking into this trek in the first place, and I can’t wait to spend my 30th birthday on it 🙂
Hi! I’m wondering where people stay before and after their hike to the Lost City. I’m planning to fly into Santa Marta from Bogota in a week from today, and wonder if it’s easy to go directly from the airport to the trekking office/departure location, or if it’s necessary to stay in Santa Marta on the eve of the trek. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for all the other info and tips in your article!
We stayed in Santa Marta the night before the trek began and I think this is the safest option. On the first day of the trek we began in Santa Marta and then had 2-3 hours of transport to the starting point of the trek. So, it may be kind of risky to try and go from the airport directly to the trekking office in case there’s a flight delay. The trekking company you are working with should be able to tell you what time they depart in the morning and then you can make your decision based on that. Good luck!
Great insight into the trek!
I’m thinking of doing this in December going solo?
Would you recommend this? We’re there others doing the same?
Matt, I don’t remember seeing any solo trekkers with a guide, but I’m sure you can put in a request with one of the authorized trekking companies to get your own private guide. Since a trekking guide/company is required for this trek it’s not really possible to walk it completely on your own. Some of the campsites are shared between trekking companies and some are independent.
I loved your story on the Lost City. All your comments are so well thought out. Many thanks. My question is about the swimming holes and swimming in the river. I am a non swimmer. Are they very deep? How do I prepare?
Some of the swimming holes do get deep in the center (e.g., a few meters), but you can always just stick to the edges and dip your body in the water there to cool off. One of the holes also had a sort of sitting area under a waterfall where you could just relax. The other thing is that you don’t have to go into the swimming holes. You can always just stick your feet in there to cool off and enjoy the atmosphere under the trees.
Thanks Audrey. I have one more question: did you wear a water proof sandals when crossing the river? I am planning to take my trekking shoes for the trek… but did not want to get them wet; hence is my question.
Bhanu, we both carried river shoes with us (e.g., Teva sandals) and sometimes we would change into them to cross rivers and other times we would take off our trekking shoes and just walk barefoot. It depended upon the depth and also whether the bottom of the river was rocky. We do recommend bringing a pair of river shoes/waterproof sandals/flip flops with you also for changing into at night to give your feet a break, wearing in showers/toilets, and walking around the campsites.
I have a question about this trek, as I am doing it in October (2016). I am not planning to take malaria tablets and just use DEET and take some precautions like wearing long sleeved top/bottoms etc. Could you please advice me on that?
Great that you’re doing this trek soon! The mosquitos along the Lost City Trek are not malaria mosquitos, so your plan of not taking any malaria medicine and focusing on preventing bites makes sense. If you really do dislike mosquito bites consider taking B-Complex pills as this is supposed to make you less attractive to mosquitos.
Thanks so much for this useful post, I really appreciate all of the detailed advice. Nick and I are planning on South America for 2017 (finally getting there!) and will hopefully do this trek as well. We’ll be in Colombia in November / beginning of December so I’m hoping the rains won’t be too bad. We’re in Grenada (southern Caribbean) right now and the rains have been few and far between this rainy season 🙂
Cheers and happy travels!
Great to hear that you’re descending upon South America soon! It seems like every year the rainy season and weather cycles change, so fingers crossed it won’t be too wet for your Lost City Trek later this year. Even if it is rainy, it’s warm rain and a great experience either way.
Thanks so much for your very informative blog. We are going to do this trek in February – what will the temperature be? And will it be very humid at that time of year?
February is a great time for the Lost City Trek! This will be the end of the dry season so you should have very little (or perhaps no) rain so it shouldn’t be very humid. I believe temperatures will be in the 80s, so you’ll likely start your walking early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat in the middle of the day.
Hi, did you take your main backpacks or do the mules take these or is it best to leave them at the hostel and just take small day bags? Thanks
I’d recommend to leave your main backpacks in Santa Marta either at the hostel or at the office of the trekking company you’re using. Then, just carry day packs with some clothes, camera, water bottle, sleep sack, etc. You can take a look at the packing list in this article for recommendations on what to bring. Enjoy the trek!
What a great blog, so useful, and wonderful photos. Do you think telescopic walker poles would be helpful or would a stick picked up along the way suffice?
Glad this blog post was useful! We found that a stick picked up along the way sufficed, but if you would feel better with your own walking poles then bring your own if it’s easy to do. Just know that they may get a bit muddy along the way 🙂
Of your campsites (Adán Camp, Wiwa Camp, and El Paraiso), did all have the option to hammock camp? We have our own, bug-netted hammocks and would like to use them. This would solve the tick, flea, bedbug issues that you had. Tx -alan
Alan, at the campsites the hammocks were tied between wooden poles. You could either add yours or take one of the standard hammocks down and replace it with your own for the night. I don’t think this would be a problem at all, but perhaps just double check with the tour/trekking company you’re working with that it’s OK.
This article helps me a lot. would for example never had thought of bringing TP or a long sleeve shirt for sleeping in. 😀 going there at the end of the month for a 4 day trek. can’t wait.
Do you have any recommendations for hikes or tours around Sao Paolo, Brazil?
Gísli, so glad to hear that this article was helpful for your upcoming Lost City Trek! I’m afraid we haven’t yet been to Brazil, so cannot make any first-hand recommendations for Sao Paolo. Have a great trip!
My partner and I are planning a trek to the Lost City next month, February, 2017. We would be most grateful if you could help us with some logistics and other questions.
We are looking at the possibility of flying into Bogotá, Columbia and from there taking a flight to Santa Marta. Questions:
1. Is it necessary to begin from Santa Marta?
2. Did you book your trekking company in Santa Marta? Is that where you started?
3. Did you stay in the area before/after the trek? If so, were there other interesting adventures?
4. Did you explore the National Park, Tayrona nearby?
5. Did you find the bugs exceptionally bad on the trek to the Lost City?
6. We will have a couple of weeks to enjoy Columbia and would love to hear of any other activities you may have found in the area.
Thanks for inspiring us!
Great to hear you’re thinking of doing the Lost City Trek. As for your questions:
1) As far as I know, all of the treks begin in Santa Marta with a transfer out to the starting point (Machete). However, you could always coordinate with the trekking agency to meet the group at Machete if there’s something in the area you’d like to do first.
2) Our trek was through G Adventures and it was booked before we got to Santa Marta. However, there were other people we met at other tour companies/trekking agencies who booked their trek once they got to Santa Marta.
3) We only spent the night before/after in Santa Marta and it was a nice town, but don’t know that we needed to spend much more time there. Prior to Santa Marta we were in Cartagena and that’s worth spending a few nights.
4) Yes, we did explore Tayrona National Park before our Lost City Trek (and Cartagena). We did a great day trek out to Cabo San Juan. It’s also possible to spend the night out there if you prefer. It’s a beautiful area.
5) The bug were bad, but I don’t know if they were exceptionally bad. As mentioned in this article, we were also taking B-Complex vitamins which is supposed to deter mosquitos.
6) Colombia is beautiful and fascinating. For more ideas on what to do, check out our Experiential Guide with 25 things to do.
Hope this helps and have a great trip!
Thanks very much, this is an amazing resource.
My friend and I are planning on going the end of March, the beginning of rainy season, that makes us slightly worried.
could you help us out what to expect regarding:
(1) height of rivers / slipperiness
(2) amount of rain / sun
It seems like you had a great adventure regardless of the visit being in the middle of the rainy season. I’m hoping that the rivers will not yet be too high and that part of the trip will be dry and sunny.
Thanks very much!
Our trek was in early June, so more towards the end of the rainy season. The height of the rivers were fine for us – there was one spot that was high, but they had the cage contraption already set up to get across. All the other rivers were easy enough to walk across. But again, we went a couple of months later. As for rain, we had sunshine for most of the time, but there was one day with a big downpour that we waited out a little bit and then just decided to walk in the rain as it was warm. The mud did get a big slippery so the guide found me another stick and I used two sticks to go down some of the more slippery hills. But, it was all quite manageable.
Mosquitoes can get bad at times, which is why we recommend in this article to pick up B-Complex pills in Santa Marta (supposedly repels mosquitos), lather on bug cream, and wear long-sleeve shirts/pants (if necessary). The hammocks usually have mosquito netting around them so you shouldn’t be bothered at night.
Hope this helps and good luck with your trek!
Thanks for the write up. I have been to Colombia many many times, and always wanted to go to la ciudad perdida. Problem has been the age of the kids. They will be 10 and 13 at the end of the year and are fit and active (we trekked from Leticia in Amazonia 4 years ago, but that was a single day)..
What do you think about the 5 day version?
Good question regarding your kids. I’m inclined to say that if they are accustomed to heat and humidity they should be fine if you take things slowly with 5-6 days. However, I’d ask the trekking agency you’re planning to go with whether they have experience with kids of a similar age doing the trek. Also, donkeys can be hired for certain segments of the trek that might help as well. Good luck!
We’ve just done the trek and a 13 year old girl was part of our party. She doesn’t regularly do evercise but had no problem, she had to wait for us 50/60 year olds. She loved it, had a great time. What an amazing experience. We did the five day trek. Pack light, bring a warmer long sleeved top and trousers for evenings, itcanget a bit chilly. . Flip flops are good, we forded streams in bare feet. They were up to knee level at worse. We slept in beds every night, some had pillows, all had blankets and mosquito nets. Wear comfortable supportive shoes or boots, well worn in. Blisters aren’t icy fun. It rained once at night. The best thing we brought? Silk sleeping bag liners.
It was tough, I’m a reasonably fit 60 year old and found the long uphill climbs exhausting, but well worth it.
Wow, you guys are pretty hardcore, backpacking in the jungle, so to speak. Colombia has a rich culture, one I am only beginning to explore. It is as close to Eldorado as possible, and ancient artefacts reflect it. I will probably set on my own journey of Colombian discovery one day, route will be slightly different. Or possibly, I will digress to Los Nevados National park on my road there.
What great and wonderfully helpful information you have posted!!! We will be traveling for the trek in mid-March. It seems that you recommend the typhoid vaccination and felt that malaria pills may not be necessary, but I saw no mention of yellow fever?? Can you please comment on what you feel the latest vaccines and/or precautions might be to consider. Also, did you find the river to be moving quickly and difficult to cross??
Thanks so much….
Julie, for the latest information on recommended vaccinations for Colombia you can check out this CDC page: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/colombia
And for Yellow Fever specifically: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever-malaria-information-by-country/colombia#4753
The last article seems to indicate that Yellow Fever may be present in the Santa Marta/Tayrona National Park/Lost City area. I’d check with a nearby travel clinic just to confirm. One thing that has changed since our visit is the appearance of Zika in certain parts of Colombia. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be taken to prevent this so best thing is to cover up as much as you can.
When we trekked in early June the rivers were easy to cross. There was one place where it was high and fast, but there was a sort of cage contraption (see photo above) that was set up to go above the river. Our guide was quite careful in testing the waters first to make sure it was safe, and then finding another spot if he thought it could be dangerous.
Enjoy your trip!
Thought of just a couple more questions. We know the highest elevation is 5000 feet, but wondered if you knew the altitude in Santa Marta where we will be starting and/or at the Tayrona National Park where we have planned a day trip. Also, did you bring tablets, use a filter or steripen to treat the water provided at the campsites? Really appreciate your help. This is our first trip to hike in South America 🙂
Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park are both on the coast, so you’ll be starting at sea level and then working your way up to 5,000 feet. The campsites provide clean drinking water and we just drank that straight. However, if you do have concerns then I’d bring a steripen with you to be extra sure. As mentioned above, you might also want to bring some gatorade or electrolyte powder to mix with the water to replenish some of the minerals you’re sweating out.
Enjoy your first hiking trip in South America! Hope it’s the first of many!
Audrey…..Thanks so very much for your quick reply. Try as I might, I can’t seem to find the article you referenced about possible yellow fever in Santa Marta. Is there a way you can further guide me to that information.
So sorry for any inconvenience
Julie, I just checked the Yellow Fever in Colombia link and works ok so give it a try again: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever-malaria-information-by-country/colombia#4753
Are people allowed to do this trek without a guide do you know? Thanks in advance!
Great question. I was wondering the same thing.
Connie, it’s not allowed to do the trek without a guide from an authorized trekking agency. You can choose to do a group or individual trek with one of these trekking agencies.
Thanks for the write up, Audrey! Just booked the 4-day Trek for mid-March.
You’re welcome, Jonathan! Hope you enjoy your upcoming Lost City trek!
Thank you for the information it was helpful and accurate in most circumstances. However, I was surprised with the food at the camps. Frankly, I never figure out who was the cook …
I went with Expotur , which has relatively large groups – When I went it was roughly 10+10 people. Moreover, different companies seem to share the same accommodation and food (with some exceptions). That brought the number of guests roughly to 30-35. Now add 10-15 of support staff and guides. We are talking about around 50 to be fed!
Cooking was thus done in mass production and the serving time was the same for all groups. In fact, at the peak time of lunch/dinner you may have around 10+ people in the kitchen doing various jobs including preparing food and salad. Obviously, if 10+ people are handing the food the notion of the cook is lost.
My impression was that in the kitchen “anything goes”. Several people (if not all) got a stomach ache during the trek but the last day was a “mayhem” at the toilets from the pasta and chicken. Also, a young man served me coffee in a dirty cup because he couldn’t find a washed one. I understand that during camping such events can happen, but the way I experienced it was a systematic lack of roles in the kitchen something which is a disaster waiting to happen and in fact, it did happen.
It is a shame that it is not allowed to do it on your own…
Stavros, thanks for your comment and information about the cooking/eating situation on your trek. When we went on the G Adventures Lost City Trek there were other people staying at the campsites, but we had our own cook who traveled with us and only cooked for our group. It’s unfortunate to hear about the disorganization and questionable hygiene on your trip.
My friend and I just booked the G Adventures tour for the end of July / early August and we are super excited! Thank you for this very helpful article. Will definitely help us in preparing and packing, and knowing what to expect.
You’re welcome!! Glad this post was helpful to get you ready for your upcoming Lost City Trek. Enjoy!!!
Hey Audrey! I’m writing a post on Colombia and I’d love to link this post for any reader who wants further information! You guys have so much invaluable info here.
It looks like you had the time of your life. Definitely adding this to my bucket list!!
Of course! please provide a link to our post! Hope it’s helpful for your readers.
Those are really helpful information and a nice teaser for the trek. I’ll be doing the trip with G soon as well.
Could you tell me how they’ve organized the big luggage? Do you leave behind at some accommodation or it will be brought all the way with horses/mules?
Great to hear that you’ll soon be on the G Adventures Lost City Trek. As for your big luggage, just leave it behind at the hotel in Santa Marta. They will keep it for you until you return from the trek.
Have a great time!
Think about leaving it in the hotel you will be going to AFTER the trek. If, for example, you are staying in Palomino after (lovely, and closer than Sta Mta) it would be a pain to go back into town (90 min) and out again.
Thanks for the clarification, Andrew. If you aren’t planning to return to Santa Marta then arrange for your luggage to be left wherever you will go after the trek.
Thank you so much for such elaborate article!
I’m going to Colombia for 3 weeks and thinking about fitting this in my schedule. But do wander whether it will suit me as I’m not an experienced hiker and physically not super fit. I’ve done some tough hikes, but I’ve always been very afraid of descending, especially if you can see the edge of the mountain.
Is the Lost City hike steep and narrow? Do you get the ‘falling of the edge’ feeling there?
Do you have any other wonderful but relatively flat hike to advice?
Thanks a lot.
Although the Lost City trek does have some steep hills, I don’t remember it as being particularly narrow or feeling like we were close to cliffs or edges where we could slide off. Most of it is in a rainforest so the path goes between the trees.
As for other hikes in Colombia that might be flatter, perhaps look into hiking in the cloud forest of Cocora Valley in coffee country (Armenia), This is more of a day hike vs. multi-day hike, but it is beautiful and really unique (see #10 here: https://uncorneredmarket.com/25-travel-experiences-colombia/).
Enjoy your three weeks in Colombia! It is a beautiful and diverse place!
I asked on this site almost a year ago about travelling to the lost City with kids. We returned last night from the four day trek with 4 adults and kids (15, 13, 10, 10). We used Wiwa tours.
Absolutely unforgettable experience and well worth it with the kids. They were younger/ significantly younger than anyone else we saw but all made it through and were delighted despite 1x fever and 1x stomach bug.
3 of the 4 (the younger ones) were very physically active anyway, and this showed through.
However we did realise on day 2 that with illness we would need help. We thus hired a mule (350,000 pesos for the rest of the trek) which was an absolute godsend. Meant the kids could take turns for a short break if they wanted to (or if they simply wanted to ride for fun). The mule also carried the 2 heaviest backpacks which helped (they were quite heavy as had most of kids stuff in as well as adults).
Worth noting that there are parts of trek (including final climb to the city) that the mules cannot do/ cannot do with riders, so they should be considered a help with the trek, not a substitute for some pretty significant walking (middle 2 days were 12 hours long with breaks).
Also need to be conscious that sleeping conditions are basic (at each site the organisers made sure kids got beds, not hammocks which helped), and they need to be non-fussy eaters. There is no choice of menu (the food is good), and the fuel is needed.
This trip has really made the holiday. Now time to chill by the Carribean Sea. (Hotel Aite in Palomino is fabulous- stayed on the way up, but unfortunately fully booked for the New Year)
Thanks for all the advice on this site.
Andrew, thank you for returning and letting us know how your Lost City trek went with children. Really appreciate you sharing this invaluable first-hand experience. So glad that it was such a great experience and this was one of the highlights of your visit to Colombia! Sounds like you and the guides were able to adjust and figure things out with the mules and other help. Yes, the campsites are pretty basic (hopefully you didn’t come across fleas!) and the food is hearty and meant to fuel you for the long walks, but doesn’t offer a lot of options.
Enjoy your chilling time by the Caribbean Sea and a very happy 2018 to you and your family!
Thanks for the detailed info, I would like to ask about your luggage whilst doing the trek did you leave it in your hotel/hostel? or can you leave your stuff with the company you’re booking your trek with?
Both options are possible. We left our luggage at our hotel in Santa Marta and then stayed there for another night when we returned from the trek. This was the easiest option for us. We also saw other travelers leave their luggage at the trekking agency/tour company’s office. Have a great trek!
thank you for this wonderful post. This has made me even more excited about goingto Ciudad Perdida!
I have a question concerning bedbugs. My nightmare. A traveller suggested carrying a personal hammock, which I found a genius idea.
Do you think I should get a random small backpack that I could throw away after the trip in case I would find any bedbugs, or will it hurt my back too much?
Should I buy some anti-bedbugs spray to spray all of my belongings, just in case?
What kind of bed linen would you recommend for it not to be attacked by bedbugs?
Thank you a lot for the kind help!
We just talked to a traveler who did the Lost City Trek recently and he said there were no bedbugs or fleas at the campsites. Hopefully, you’ll find the same during your upcoming trip.
Couple of thoughts regarding protecting yourself from bedbugs:
1) Use a silk sleep sack as the silk is supposed to not let bedbugs through.
2) Carry a plastic garbage bag and wrap your backpack and clothes in it at the campsites. This isn’t 100% foolproof, but it will add an extra layer of protection to your items.
3) Immediately take all your clothes and backpack to a laundromat at the end of the trek.
4) You could spray your things, but I imagine bedbug spray is pretty toxic so you may not want those chemicals on your skin.
Hope this helps!
Cheers for this Article! It looks beautiful and it’s great to see travel content on Columbia, as I feel as though it wasn’t as popular previously!
Thanks, Tash! Colombia has become a more popular tourist destination these last years, but there’s still so much to explore there.
wow. super helpful and thorough, thanks so much! i wasn’t aware of the ticks, a bit nervous now but still considering.