Nothing but the enchanting name of Ciudad Perdida (or Lost City) leaves you dreaming. We encountered this word for the very first time during the preparations for our trip to Colombia. Without thinking too much, we decided to add a big dose of adventure to our trip by attempting this 4-day “hike” in the jungle of the Sierra Nevada to discover an ancient Tayrona city. We already saw each other with an Indiana Jones hat to discover distant civilizations. In fact, it was a severe physical and psychological test for us, for which we were not at all prepared, since it was our very first trek, and we were far from having chosen the simplest . It took time to write our articles on Ciudad Perdida, to take the necessary step back and still appreciate this adventure, which remains something to do if you want to surpass yourself. We will tell you about the trek itself and our impressions in another article. Waiting, here are our tips for preparing the Ciudad Perdida trek in Colombia.
The Ciudad Perdida Trek, short presentation
The Ciudad Perdida trek is a 4 to 6 day hike that crosses part of the Colombian Sierra Nevada to reach Ciudad Perdida, an archaeological site of an ancient Tayrona city, founded around 800 years BC. It’s a bit the equivalent of Colombian Machu Picchu, but with far fewer tourists, given the journey to get there. Ciudad Perdida was discovered quite recently, in the 1970s. The area was the scene of armed conflict, notably with the taking of tourists hostage in 2003. The site has been open to tourism again since 2005. But before arriving in this sacred place, you will have to cross a dense and humid jungle for 2 days. We tell you the details of our trek from Ciudad Perdida in this article.
Trek de la Ciudad Perdida: Which agency to choose?
It is impossible to embark on the Ciudad Perdida trek alone; it will necessarily go through an agency. It is easy to understand: the hike is not signposted at all and you would be quickly lost without a guide.
The Ciudad Perdida trek is supervised by the government, which imposes the same price for all agencies. This is good news for tourists as it is impossible to get ripped off! All agencies also offer the same services, so the selection will be limited to the agency that best redistributes your money to the indigenous population you will meet on the way and to the guides.
After some research, we chose the Expotur agency.
In addition to redistributing its profits fairly, it offers English-speaking guides, a significant detail when you do not manage Spanish well. The Expotur agency is located on Carrera 3 in Santa Marta, very close to Plaza de los Novios. We had prepaid before departure to reserve the date, and the rest the day before departure at the agency. You can leave your large backpack in a locked room for the duration of the trek.
Budget for the Ciudad Perdida trek
The cost of the trek is 950,000 COP per person, about 250 €. It is quite a budget but everything is included in this price: the 4, 5 or 6 days (choice, this does not affect the price) of hiking accompanied by a local guide, all meals (even snacks and water) and accommodation in shelters. You will therefore not have to pay anything more, except a tip for the guide at the end of the trip (and the beers for comfort after a day of adventure).
Physical preparation for the Ciudad Perdida trek
The Ciudad Perdida trek is a long and tedious adventure that requires fairly intense physical activity over 4 days. However, with motivation any healthy person can do it. Understand by this that Sharone, without any physical preparation and with asthma arrived at the end (the last day on a mule, certainly, but at the end anyway!), But with great difficulty. The first days are going up a lot and the weather conditions can make progress difficult. It is therefore better to be a minimum prepared to enjoy this adventure.
Health and Prevention Point
You don’t have to be vaccinated to travel to Colombia, but trek in Sierra Nevada requires at least yellow fever vaccine. Because it is sure, you will be bitten by mosquitoes, sometimes carrying diseases. The vaccine takes ten days to be active, so remember to plan this with your doctor.
The question of travel insurance inevitably arises before leaving for several days in the wilderness. Even the slightest health concern can quickly turn into a drama because there is no telephone coverage in the area and the roads are not accessible by vehicles (apart from certain motorcycles). It is therefore important to provide serious travel insurance which covers trekking activity as well as medical repatriation by helicopter. We chose ACS Globe Partner insurance, as with all of our trips. It has always proven to be efficient, fast and professional, we highly recommend it!
You are in Sierra Nevada, a rugged jungle with a tropical climate, the happiness of mosquitoes and other biting beasts. It is essential to take with you an effective repellent, to put on your skin but also on your clothes and mosquito nets. We took two products with us: a French repellent specialized for tropical mosquitoes, and a local, warmly recommended by the guide. This is “Nopikex”, a repellent banned in Europe because of its toxic components. It exists in spray or in solid soap, we opted for the spray version to apply every 3-4 hours or as soon as you are wet. We didn’t see a big difference between the two products, because we were devoured with the two 🙂 (count between 20 and 30 bites per member). The Colombian product tastes awful of essence (yes, you too will taste it when it rains on your face and the water tastes awful), but does not seem to be much more effective than the European repellent. It’s up to you to choose your poison!
Obviously, the heat and the sun will accompany you throughout your trek from Ciudad Perdida. Cap and sunglasses are essential, to be paired with sunscreen for those with fragile skin. It is also possible to have some – very big – rain episodes, so remember to take a waterproof cover for your backpack to avoid getting all your things wet.
In your backpack
Traveling light makes sense during a trek in Ciudad Perdida! Every gram counts because with fatigue everything is amplified, and your light bag on the first day will have the effect of a ball on the last day. Take as little as possible!
Clothes and shoes
1 pants and / or technical shorts : you must be comfortable and above all the material must be as light as possible, to have a very small chance of drying overnight.
These technical pants for men or this one for women are good examples.
3 or 4 technical t-shirts : Idem, clothes in which you are well and which supports the important temperatures and humidity (in other words, which do not stink when you sweat!).
For girls, I recommend a good sports bra that will allow you to move freely, like this one that has proven itself!
If you don’t have technical clothing, good running pants will do the trick!
4 or 5 pairs of socks : don’t skimp on socks, it’s a real pleasure to have your feet finally dry!
Your best pair of sneakers : No need to burden yourself with large hiking shoes, unless you have fragile ankles. The trek can be done with a pair of comfortable sneakers, the lightest possible and in airy fabric to dry quickly. Some hikers even chose walking sandals, which was a nice option since they allow feet to dry during the day.
1 pair of flip flops, to rest after arriving at the camps and take a shower. Our Crocs flip flops have accompanied us for several years around the world and still do not show any sign of wear, they are flip flops of skill!
1 pajamas, with long sleeves and pants to avoid being devoured by mosquitoes.
Toiletry kit and pharmacy
This is what weighs heavily in the bag, so it should be reduced to the bare minimum! Here is what you need for the trek:
Toothbrush and toothpaste (the best is to have a foldable travel toothbrush or a small protective tube, it’s nice when it’s not full of mud!).
Solid soap, which will act as a shower gel and shampoo. Test this super natural Marseille soap.
Technical towel (you will find all sizes and colors here)
Deodorant : the top is a solid alum stone deodorant, it’s small, it’s light, it’s natural and it doesn’t run: all good!
Essential medicines : paracetamol, antidiarrheal, antivomitive, a muscle relaxant (or tiger balm to rest his muscles at the end of the day), disinfectant, a soothing cream for mosquito bites (or aloe vera gel, very effective), bandages for blisters and other sores and an antiseptic liquid to wash your hands before eating.
Read our article on the travel first aid kit
Discover our article on the perfect travel toiletry bag
It goes without saying that there is no internet connection during the trek, so you have to give up the idea of sharing your adventure live on social networks, a good way to disconnect to live the experience. In the camps, there are a few electrical outlets taken over, so your phone may not last very long. If you want to take with you other equipment such as a sports camera or a camera, be aware that the climate is very humid. The best solution is undoubtedly a Go Pro style sports camera with a waterproof shell to prevent any accident. If you really want to take your camera, it is better that the case is tropicalized or do as we do and use a plastic protective cover like this.
Read our article on our multimedia equipment while traveling
Ziplocs bags, if there is only one thing to take with you, this is it! They allowed us to compartmentalize our dirty and clean, dry and wet things and not get everything dirty in the bag while finding what we were looking for quickly. Also ideal for toilet products that tend to leak and to protect multimedia equipment.
A small flashlight, which will serve you in the camps in the evening. Indispensable because in the last camp, there is no electricity. Opt instead for a dynamo model or a headlamp to be able to have your hands free.
Ear plugs, to be able to have a restful sleep. Not to mention your neighbor’s snoring if you are unlucky, the nights in the camps are done with a roof over your head but no walls, so you have the sound of the forest and nature: bird , rivers, rain (sometimes downpours)… If for some people it is not disturbing and even soothing, for others it can prevent having a good quality sleep, and as the days are long and difficult better be well rested!
Refueling during the Ciudad Perdida trek
1 bottle of water per person : Provide at least a bottle of water of a liter and a half per person. You must start the trek with a full bottle of water, then it will be possible to fill it in the base camps. If you have a water bottle, this can be a good option even if the capacity is less important than a bottle of water, because you can fill it in the streams that you find on the way. No need to take chlorine tablets with you, the guides take care of everything.
Food is brought to the camps by porters, and you will have the pleasure of eating hot with every meal of the day. Breakfast entitles you to coffee or hot chocolate and fruit, sometimes eggs. The midday and evening meals generally consist of rice, patacones (fried plantains), beans and meat or fish, and you will always be entitled to a small comforting dessert like cakes 🙂 Notice to vegetarians, everything is planned ! It is possible to have meals without meat and / or without eggs, it is enough to warn before the departure of the trek and replacement food will be taken.
In addition to the three hearty meals a day, you will also have snacks during breaks during the day with delicious local fruits: pineapple, mango, watermelon … in some stops it is possible to buy sodas or juice on site fruit in small kiosks or to fill your bottles (but not always).
It is therefore unnecessary to bring food with you. You can bring some candy because the indigenous children asked us for it, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea … Here you are, now ready to prepare the Ciudad Perdida trek! We hope this article will help you get started on the adventure. Find our logbook to let you know our day-to-day feeling during this trek.
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment on them.
Our trip to Colombia
More travel tips
This article has affiliate links. If you buy your trekking equipment or your travel insurance through one of our links, you will pay the same but we will receive a small commission which will help us to continue our work on this site.