Hiking the Lost City Trek

The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
82 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
South America
Length of time
3-4 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 350
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
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How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
23rd/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 10% SUMMARY RATING: Unmissable


The Cuidad Perdida (Lost City) was first built around the 12th century and was abandoned when the local people (the Tayrona) fled deeper into the jungle to escape the Spanish Conquistadores and their insatiable drive for gold.  Only rediscovered in the 1970s, the Lost City itself is an inspiring site to visit – mysterious terraces going up the mountainous jungle and built far before the likes of Machu Picchu.  But it is the trek itself – 4 days through some of the most beautiful jungle in Colombia and through some of the still existing hill tribes – that makes this a wonderful experience

It was a lot harder than we thought – 44km (27 miles) of quite steep terrain and, of course for this part of the world, hot and humid – so be prepared, but make this a must do if in this part of the world


#1 Seeing the inspiring "Lost City" - nestled up in the jungle and what must have been practically impossible to find, the terraces and surroundings are super cool and come with a great feeling of accomplishment for actually making it there!

#2 Trekking through the remote Colombian jungle as the paths winds through dense foliage and dramatic drops

#3 Meeting the local wildlife!

#4 Wandering through some of the remote local villages which feel far, far detached from the mainstream Colombia

#5 Swimming in the refreshing rivers at the end of the long days hike. A quite wonderful experience as you see the canopy above you and with monkeys and parrots looking on

#6 Meeting the new local wildlife - this mother gave birth to 8 puppies under our bed on the final night. Poor thing put our exhaustion into perspective!

Rough itinerary

  • Day 1 – you’ll be picked up in Santa Marta or wherever you’ve arranged (we were picked up from just outside Tayrona National Park), meet your group, drive up to the start of the hike, have lunch in one of the final small villages before you start what is a total of around 1.5 days hiking up to the Lost City
  • Day 2 – full day of hiking
  • Day 3 – you’ll rise early and cover the final 1-2 hours ascent to the Lost City and spend around 3 hours checking the fantastic site out before heading back to where you slept for lunch and then starting your walk back
  • Day 4 – around half a day walking back to the first village you had lunch at, have lunch there again and then head back to Santa Marta or wherever you’ve arranged to be dropped

Travel Tips

  • Its hot, humid and actually quite challenging – 103k steps and 950 floors climbed according to my iphone.  We’d over the past few weeks done quite a bit of trekking through Ecuador and Patagonia, but found this to be harder
  • Stick with the 4 day hike – whilst it is challenging, as long as you have a reasonable level of fitness, stick with the 4 day hike.  There are options for 6 days, but I think that is a bit unnecessary
  • Things to bring:
    • Your phone – I know its obvious!  But useful for photos and flashlight
    • Insect repellent – you’ll be in the jungle . . . at night
    • 5 change of clothes (including socks) as if you’ve been hiking ALL DAY
    • Proper waterproof hiking shoes.  We actually didn’t get any rain, so probably could have done the hike with basic trainers.  But if it does rain, you don’t want trainers
    • Blisterex / anything for blisters.  Many people got blisters, including me, and isn’t much fun if you can’t cover them properly.  As soon as you feel the rubbing that might lead to a blister, get the blisterex on.  Don’t go with basic plasters / bandaids – you want the super sticky film coverings
    • Ear plugs and eye mask (see below)
    • Pack light – you’ll be carrying whatever you bring
    • Optional would be to bring a powerbank for the phone, but most places we stayed at had a place for charging – you just need to be patient to wait your turn
  • There is no Wifi – enjoy!
  • The places you stay in are basic, but comfortable.  Think less hostel, and more rows of beds in the open (ie no separate rooms) with roof for cover and all with mosquito nets.  My tip though would be that if you’re a light sleeper to bring ear plugs and an eye mask, just because people will be getting up in the middle of the night with torches.  The facilities are also basic (I think there was hot water in one place, not the others), but the food is good – and, lets face it, your going to scoff down anything after that much hiking
  • Enjoy the rivers at the end of the day – two of the places you stay will be next to a river.  Make sure you jump in the water after your hike for a wash and generally to enjoy the water while looking around at the surrounding jungle.  I actually think this may have been our highlight.  The air is quite warm so you’ll warm up quickly afterwards
  • We went with Expotur who were great.  4 day trek was COP1,150,000 (around USD320)
  • If looking for a place to stay nearby, I can’t recommend highly enough Maloka Barlovento or any of the hotels nearby in the spot just to the east of Tayrona National Park.  The hotels themselves are lovely, but the nearby beach in between the sea and the lake is gorgeous.  We ended up staying there for 4 nights because we liked its so much
  • Book recommendations:
    • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the traditional must read literature.  At times it can be a little slow going, but it created its own genre (magic realism . . . obviously) and very much tells the story in a round about way of many of the difficulties faced by Colombia
    • To give a perspective of just what it must have been like for the American civilisations before the Spanish arrived, I highly recommend 1491 by Charles Mann.  It will change your view from what is likely to be that of basic jungle tribes / Indians hunting the buffalo on the plains to what they really were – in many ways equally sophisticated civilisations to those of Eurasia
    • For a broad, often quite opinionated, overview of modern South America, I also recommend Viva South America Oliver Balch
  • Broader Colombia – for how Bogota can fit into a bigger 3 week trip to see the highlights of Colombia, see 3 weeks in Colombia for itinerary and tips

Experiences nearby

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Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone