top of page

Discovering the lost city Ciudad Perdida in Colombia: A Jungle Trek

Updated: Jan 8

What could be more exciting than an old, long-forgotten city?

Ciudad Perdida in Colombia sank into the dense jungle for a long time and was only recently "rediscovered". Deep in the mountains, it can only be reached on foot - one of the most exciting tours in South-America.

We are in the year 1972 AD. The whole world has been discovered. The whole world? No! A small, lost city (in spanish: Ciudad Perdida) in the deep, Colombian jungle is resisting development and waiting to be awakened from its 350-year slumber.

Unfortunately, however, it is not a prince (or sympathetic Gallic warriors) but grave robbers who put the Ciudad Perdida back on the world map. Now the ruins must endure another almost 40 years of gang warfare and drug cultivation before being invaded by a new species: Wanderers!

Because the largest rediscovered pre-Columbian city in South America (next to Machu Picchu in Peru) can only be reached by a multi-day tour on foot.

Columbia jungle mountains

Ciudad Perdida Colombia -Factor: ♡♡♡♡♡♡

Difficulty: Hike, medium

Walking time: 4 days,

Altitude difference: 2140m (ascent and descent)

Length: 44 km

Starting point: El Mamey 150m

Best time: The driest time is between December and March. During all other months you have to expect heavy rainfall, which makes especially the river crossings more difficult. In the high season from late December to mid-January and in July/August the camps can be overcrowded.


Day 1: Santa Marta - El Mamey - Camp1 (Casa Adam), 6.8km approx. 4h,

Day 2: Camp1 - Camp3 (Paraíso Teyuna) 14,7km ca 7h,

Day 3: Camp 3 - Ciudad Perdida - Camp 2 (Casa Mumake) 6km, 7h,

Day 4 Camp 2 - El Mamey - Santa Maria 16.5km, 7-8h.

Below you will all essential info and a packing list

Map: I have saved the tour on Kommot. You can see them as soon as you've logged in.

Best time: mid / late June to mid September - there should be no more snow in the gravel fields.

Starting point for the hiking car park on the Vršič Pass

Note: If you are not yet tired, you can continue to climb to the top of Prisojnik (2547m) in an hour. Total time with the summit 6:30 hoursThose who set out here mean business.

In the deep jungle above the Caribbean north coast of Colombia, the top priority is: sweat! With an average of 75% humidity and over 30 degrees, you don't have to make much of an effort to let the water flow out of all your pores. Although the hike to the jungle city - 44km and 2140 metres of altitude spread over 4 days - is not particularly hard or far, the temperatures, which feel like a visit to a steam bath, make it a challenge. Sabine (hiker around 50, not particularly outdoorsy) groans right at the first climb

"I feel like a living water filter."

Early in the morning on the first day ... 

the trekkers are picked up in Santa Marta on the coast and driven to El Mamey. The small village is the loading station for mules, because from here, after a few kilometres, only a narrow path leads further into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.

Ciudad Perdida Colombia female guide

Denise is 29 years old and one of only six women who work as trekking guides on the trek. Her job is to guide the ten members of the group safely to Ciudad Perdida and back again. She does this with great enthusiasm and calls the wildly mixed international team between 20 and 60 years old "Águilas" - "eagles" in German. No one yet suspects that her battle cry "Vamos Águilas!" (Let's go eagles!), will rouse the group from their deep sleep every morning from now on!

The second guide Gustavo - actually a Venezuelan journalist working in Colombia due to the supply crisis in his country - speaks perfect English and serves as a translator, as Denise, like most of the other hiking guides, only speaks Spanish at the moment. Only the peace treaty of 2016 brought the South American country back on the travel list after 52 years of civil war, and while visitors queue up at Machu Picchu at sunrise, the "Águilas" have to share camps with only one other group in June. "Still, I wouldn't recommend you come during the Christmas holidays or in July/August, the camps are overcrowded" Denise advises her group as they reach their first accommodation, "Casa Adán".

Click on the picture to start the photo gallery:

The so-called camps are actually just corrugated iron roofs under which there are bunk beds, benches and tables. There are also simple showers and toilets. Those familiar with overcrowded dormitories in the mountains with the associated foot odour will be pleased - as there are no walls, the air can circulate undisturbed, allowing Sabine a pleasantly cool night, even though it was unbearably hot during the day. Ear plugs are helpful ... which is a pity with the nocturnal jungle noises, but necessary with the snoring fellow hikers.

Day 2 - Walking in the Tropical House ...
Ciudad Perdida Colombia  River crossing tourists hiker

The next morning Denise asks her group if they heard the frogs croaking at night. Clement, a funny Frenchman, laughs "Ah I thought that was Sabine sobbing herself to sleep." The day before, he wasn't quite so amused. It was a matter of getting down the loamy paths, which had turned into a muddy slide in the afternoon's continuous rain, unscathed. After several pirouettes, he had landed in the mud - much to the amusement of everyone else. But since nothing dries in the jungle once it is wet, he had simply jumped into the natural pool with all his clothes on! Cleansing and group entertainment in one.

Ciudad Perdida Colombia  tayrona indigenous girls

From Camp 1 at the latest, the eagles know why they are doing the hike. The narrow path winds through dense jungle past plants that they otherwise only know from the tropical house.

Colourful flowers grow on trees and along the path, hand-sized butterflies buzz through the air, waterfalls rush down into the depths and loudly scolding birds rise from the treetops.

Again and again, watercourses have to be crossed. Sometimes this is done by jumping from stone to stone, but most of the time it's shoes off and through. While Sabine's water currently only reaches just above her knee, in heavy rain it can quickly rise up to her hips and higher. "Sometimes we have to rope up the tourists to get them safely to the other side," Denise says. For the Águilas, the river is a blessing: During their lunch break, they splash around on the Rio Toño Arzario and lie down on the big rocks in the middle of the water to rest. A girl with a pig on a leash and loaded with bags wades leisurely past them. She belongs to the Kogi tribe, whose ancestors originally built the Lost City.

Ciudad Perdida Colombia  tayrona indigenous lady necklace

Pre-Columbian capital of the Tayrona

In pre-Columbian times, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was home to various indigenous communities, of which the Tayrona tribe was the dominant and most developed. From the 9th century onwards, for unknown reasons, they retreated more and more into the inaccessible areas of the mountains and, beginning around 1000 AD, built around 200 terraced towns at altitudes of 900 to 1200 metres. 

This created a network of scattered towns that were accessed and connected by paved paths, bridges, footbridges and stairways. For the construction of the settlements, the steep terrain was levelled and terraces were artfully built from stones. The palm-leaf-covered round houses were built on these raised platforms.

On the way to Camp 2, Sabine and Clement can marvel at some of these huts, which the descendants still build and maintain today - just as they did back then. "In the meantime, the inhabitants had to put up a fence around the villages," Gustavo tells us, "tourists just walked into the huts and took pictures of everything without asking. As we walk along, he explains to Sabine why the Kogis always wear white clothes.

"White is the symbol of purity. They see the earth as a living being and believe that "the great mother" determines everything."

In their view, modern people have disturbed the balance of nature, so in September every year the Ciudad Perdida is closed for a few weeks so that it can recover from the negative vibrations of tourists." The indigenous name for the Lost City is Teyuna - With an area of about 2 km² and 2000 to 4000 inhabitants, it was probably the political and economic centre between the 11th and 14th centuries.

Today it is the highlight of the four-day trek.

Ciudad Perdida Colombia  hiker ruin tourist female
Day 3: Off to Ciudad Perdida!

On the morning of the third day Denise shoos her eagles with the by now dreaded

"Vamos Águilas!"

before sunrise.

To get to the ruins, 1100 steps have to be conquered, which is only a bearable task in the cool morning hours.

"You have to be very careful here, because most accidents happen on the wet uneven steps" warns Denise before the ascent. The stairs lead steeply up the mountain like a green tunnel. Sabine carefully places one foot diagonally over the other, as the mossy stairs were clearly built for much smaller feet. At the top, the dense forest thins out and in the glow of the early morning sun, the hikers walk along the amazingly well-preserved walls through the former city. Denise has brought lollipops for her eagles as a reward for the steep climb, and while her group comfortably sucks on a wall, she tells them:

"The Tayrona civilisation was the first highly developed indigenous culture encountered by the Spanish in the Americas in 1499."

It was here in the Sierra Nevada that the conquistadors first heard about alleged gold and gemstone treasures. The myth of El Dorado was born and greed was kindled. Although the tribe defended itself fiercely, in the course of 75 years of uninterrupted warfare it was almost completely wiped out." Gustavo points to the terraces. "According to legend, the surviving inhabitants planted a tree at each hut before leaving their homes and then fled deeper into the mountains. After that, the town was soon swallowed up by the jungle and the memory of it was lost."

Lost in thought, Sabine, Clement and the rest of the group wander through the town that no one had entered for 350 years. At the vantage point above the temple complex, two heavily armed soldiers remind us of the time that followed the rediscovery: the confrontation between grave robbers, drug gangs and the army. And although the army has a permanent base here, the situation is now relaxed. The soldiers pose friendly for photos and do not look like they are on heightened alert. Sabine sits overjoyed on a wall in the sun, looks at the ruins amidst the jungle-covered mountains and grins broadly at Clement

"We made it! Mud, sweat, rain and sun - sitting here looking over the lost city - it was definitely worth the search for the Ciudad Perdida."

A loud "Vamos Águilas" reminds them that they still have a long way home ...


What could be more exciting than an old, long-forgotten city? Ciudad Perdida (literally "lost city") sank into the jungle during the Spanish conquest and was only "rediscovered" in the 1970s. Deep in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, it can only be reached on foot - one of the most exciting and sweaty hikes in Colombia.

For tourists, the Ciudad Perdida can only be reached on a four- to six-day trekking tour booked through agencies with licensed guides. Currently, there are six licensed operators running tours to the Ciudad Perdida.

How to get there:

Fly to Bogota and from there continue by domestic flight, or bus (19h) to Santa Marta. All tours start from here.

Ciudad Perdida Colombia accommodation bunkbeds mosquito net


There are several simple camps along the way, which are booked in advance by the tour operator. You sleep in bunk beds with mosquito nets. Food and water (for refilling) are included. In some camps there are small kiosks where beer or soft drinks can be bought.

Mountain guide:

We booked the tour through Expotour.,,

(+57) 5 430 7161, Carrera 3ra. # 17 - 27, Edificio Rex Santa Marta


Built between the 11th and 14th centuries by the Tayrona tribe, Ciudad Perdida is one of the largest rediscovered pre-Columbian cities in South America, along with Machu Picchu in Peru. A sweaty four-day trek leads through dense jungle to this "Lost City" located at 1100 metres above sea level.

Packing list:

- Small or medium backpack with rain protection.

- Trekking shoes and sandals or flip-flops for the camp.

- Hut sleeping bag.

- Change of T-shirt for each day (it is almost impossible to dry clothes in the humidity),

shorts for running.

- Long-sleeved T-shirt and long trousers for the evening.

- Waterproof packing for the change of clothes.

- Swimwear.

- Towel.

- Socks.

- Insect repellent.

- Sunscreen.

- Water bottle.

- Personal medication.

- Camera.

- Torch

  • Instagram Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon
  • Facebook Social Icon
bottom of page