The Lost City ( La Ciudad Perdida)
Are you in a search for La Ciudad Perdida, the lost city, Trekking through the Colombian jungle for 4 or 5 days is beautiful, sometimes strenuous, always sweaty and at times very wet! t’s located in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the highest coastal mountain range in the world, and home to four indigenous tribes, the Wiwa, Kogi, Arhuaco and Kankuamo, who escaped Spanish colonization by seeking refuge in higher altitudes.It is believed to have been founded about 800 CE, some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu. This location is also known as Teyuna and Buritaca.
Ciudad Perdida was discovered in 1972, when a group of local treasure looters found a series of stone steps rising up the mountainside and followed them to an abandoned city which they named “Green Hell” or “Wide Set”. When gold figurines and ceramic urns from this city began to appear in the local black market, archaeologists headed by the director of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología reached the site in 1976 and completed reconstruction between 1976-1982.
Members of local tribes—the Arhuaco, the Koguis and the Wiwas—have stated that they visited the site regularly before it was widely discovered, but had kept quiet about it. They call the city Teyuna and believe it was the heart of a network of villages inhabited by their forebears, the Tairona. Ciudad Perdida was probably the region’s political and manufacturing center on the Buritaca River and may have housed 2,000 to 8,000 people. It was apparently abandoned during the Spanish conquest
Ciudad Perdida consists of a series of 169 terraces carved into the mountainside, a net of tiled roads and several small circular plazas. The entrance can only be accessed by a climb up some 1,200 stone steps through dense jungle.
Since 2009, non-profit organization Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has been working in Ciudad Perdida to preserve and protect the historic site against climate, vegetation, neglect, looting, and unsustainable tourism. GHF’s stated goals include the development and implementation of a regional Management Plan, documentation and conservation of the archaeological features at Ciudad Perdida and the engagement of the local indigenous communities as major stakeholders in the preservation and sustainable development of the site.
THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT
The names of the Lost City :
It’s known by many names, but the one that has greater significance is its ancestral name: Teyuna, the Origin of the people of the earth. This explains why the elder brothers, the Kogui and Wiwas believed that the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta is the heart of the World.
Building Period :
The Lost City was built 650 years before Macchu Picchu. Approximately in the year AD, the Tayronas were already beginning to place the first stones of what is currently the archaeological site most representative of the Colombian Caribbean located at 1.300 meters from high cliffs over the Valley of Buritaca River. Although recent studies, they indicate that towards the 6th century there were already settlements near this territory.
Abandonment of the Lost City by indigenous people :
It’s estimated that is was abandoned by the Tayronas towards the year 1650, after the arrival of the Spanish ad moved to the north. In its time of greatest splendor it could host up to 1.800 indigenous people who fortunately were not reached by the invaders due the harsh geographical y climatic conditions that still limit the access today.
After almost 400 years of abandonment, sadly it was discovered by Guaqueros (Tomb raiders) almost by accident in 1973, while they were exploring nearby ancient settlements, they found a staircase of 1,200 stone steps that at that time it was covered with moss, earth and roots. Only until 1976, the Colombian government knew of its existence by rumors that had spread in Santa Marta about Treasures of Gold and Quartz.
Visiting the Lost city
Who is the Ciudad Perdida Tour For ?
A Ciudad Perdida tour is a challenging hike that is more appropriate for those in good health with an adventurous spirit. There are five basic questions you should ask yourself:
- Can you hike for at least four or five hours per day, several days in a row?
- Can you cope with all the rain, mud, bugs and heat?
- Do you have problems sleeping in basic conditions with few amenities in the jungle?
- Can you handle steep ascents and descents?
- Do you have knee, back or other problems limiting your hiking abilities?
When to Go to Ciudad Perdida
The dry season typically runs from December to March. So, this is normally the best time to go. The Buritaca River will be lower and easier to cross. And the track will be less muddy. But it’s possible to go anytime of the year. Consider they might usually Close the park during February
Other times of the year, there can be anything from torrential downpours to light sprinkles but it may not rain every day. The Buritaca River will be flowing faster and will be deeper. And the water may be up to your chest for some river crossings. So, this can slow things down and the guides will use ropes to help you cross.
Going to and from Ciudad Perdida you will cross the Buritaca River almost twenty times. And this is much easier during the dry season. In addition, the 1,200 steps leading up to the ruins will be slipperier than usual if it has recently rained.
Also, keep in mind that it’s hot and humid in this jungle year-round. But the elevated camps at night can be quite cool if it has been raining or it’s windy.
What to Pack for a Ciudad Perdida Tour
Since you will need to carry everything, you will want to pack as little as possible. You obviously will need a backpack. We recommend that you line your backpack with a large garbage bag and putting everything in the bag to help keep things dry.
You want to keep everything inside your backpack dry, so you have something dry to change into at night. Also, keep in mind it is humid in the jungle. So, it seems like nothing dries overnight.
Here is our recommended Ciudad Perdida packing list:
- Hiking boots or hiking shoes
- Hiking pants (long pants if prone to mosquito bites) or capri pants for women
- Shorts – at least two pairs – most of our group hiked in shorts
- Socks and underwear for how many days your tour is
- T-shirts or tank tops (Quick-dry is best)
- Swimsuit if you plan to swim in the river
- Clothing for night – trousers, pajama bottoms or sweats and T-shirt
- Sandals or flip-flops
- Flashlight – not all camps have electricity and if they do they typically turn off lights early
- Insect repellent
- Toiletries – soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, small shampoo and conditioner
- Towel – quick dry is best
- Toilet paper
- Zip-loc plastic bags for your camera and other electronics
- 1.5 liters of water (only for first day, purified water provided on other days)
- Bottles for water
- Personal medications (if you take any)
- Ibuprofen for headaches and sore muscles
- Camera and extra batteries – not all camps have electricity and those that do only have afew outlets for the whole camp
- Wooden stick or hiking pole
- Identification document
- Cash – keep in mind drinks are typically 5,000 pesos and of course there are no credit card machines in the jungle
Tour Options for Ciudad Perdida
A guided trek to Colombia’s Lost City is the only way to visit the site, as it is sacred indigenous land now protected by the Colombian government.
Each of the four tour companies offers a similar tour package that includes:
- Luggage storage while you are on your tour
- Jeep ride to the nearby town of El Mamey where you start the hike
- Meals during the tour including breakfasts, lunches, dinners and fruits and snacks
- Accommodation in hammocks or bunk beds with mosquito nets, pillows and blankets
- Experienced guide
- Travel insurance
- Entrance fee for the site
- Contribution to the indigenous communities
- Jeep ride back to Santa Marta
One differentiator is that not all the company tour guides speak English. So, if you need English, that is something to look for when choosing a Ciudad Perdida tour company. When I went, I saw several tour groups that had guides that only spoke Spanish. So, they had translators that had to repeat things in English.