Much of the magic uncovered in a private journey to South America lies in its windows into the past. Some of the most awe-inspiring human civilizations reigned in South America from as early as Caral in the 26th – 20th century BC on the northern coast of Peru to the Incas, who forged their sweeping empire starting in the early 1400s until the Spanish conquest in 1532.
And although the Incas only made it as far as Ecuador, and just barely, other societies were flourishing on their own and much earlier. La Ciudad Perdida in Northern Colombia, or the Lost City in English, is one of these windows into a civilization built 650 years before the Incas created Machu Picchu.
Join us on our unfolding of the incredible history, mystery, and fascination tucked within the Lost City Colombia, and learn about how you can visit on your custom-designed trip.
The most frequently asked questions about Colombia’s Lost City
When it comes to a “lost city” nestled into an imposing mountain range surrounded by dense jungle vegetation, it’s only natural for potential and intrigued visitors to have a couple of questions. If and when you do visit this unique corner of Colombia, you are in for an authentic experience, to be sure. And we want to answer all of your potential questions to get you there.
1. What is it?
Colombia’s Lost City’s other name is Teyuna, which is also its original name before its rediscovery in the 1970s. Archaeologists have concluded that the Tairona civilization built this impressive settlement around 800 CE and think that anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 people lived here. Exploring these terraces naturally ignites the imagination, especially with the right private guide.
Teyuna is comprised of around 250 terraces fashioned from mud and stone, which once served as the foundation for houses across a swath of 300,000 square meters. And the most incredible part? These terraces are tucked away and just barely visible, peaking through a thick web of jungle vegetation worthy of an Indiana Jones reboot.
2. Where in Colombia is La Ciudad Perdida?
The Lost City, Colombia, is located in the northeast corner of the country in the heart of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountain range, a fascinating part of Colombia in its own right. The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta National Park covers 383,000 hectares and claims an extreme altitude range starting at 0 feet above sea level and soaring to over 18,900 feet above sea level.
3. Who lived there?
Against the backdrop of more renowned Central and South American civilizations like the Mayas, Aztecs, and Incas, you may be surprised to learn that the Tairona civilization was one of the fiercest and accomplished around. Local culture and communities still proudly refer to their ancestry tied to the Tairona and uphold a deep connection to their land and the natural world.
The Tairona staved off the Spanish conquest for an impressive 75 years, a longer period of time than any of the empires mentioned above could manage. And in addition to their superior war tactics, they were also known for their advanced agricultural techniques, metallurgy, pottery, and canal building and construction.
4. How to get to Colombia’s Lost City?
One of the reasons La Ciudad Perdida offers an immersive experience like no other is that you will need to take the “road less traveled,” so to speak. In other words, the only mode of transportation you have available to you is your own two feet.
You will follow a winding tropical and then mountain jungle path and finally climb just about 1,200 stone steps to reach Teyuna. The starting point for this worthwhile and wonderful experience can be found in the small town of Mamey on the northern stretch of Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
What activities or tours can you do in the Lost City, Colombia?
You can still thoroughly enjoy a visit to the Lost City even if archaeology isn’t your passion. From the reconnection with nature on the 4–6-day trek to two breathtaking national parks in this area and visits with local communities along the way, this destination offers something for almost everyone, and especially for wildlife lovers!
The trek to the Lost City
The trek to the Lost City is the main event for many travelers. It spans a total of 28 miles round trip through the unparalleled scenery of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. And our travel experts can cater this trek to your travel party depending on your timeframe; however, you will need at least 4 days.
For those who want to savor this journey as much as possible, we can tack on a couple days of hiking and camping, which also allows you to go at a slower pace, and take in the spectacular scenery. The trail bobs and weaves through mountainous terrain and follows the Rio Buritaca (the Buritaca River). We honestly recommend five days minimum, so you can enjoy every step without feeling rushed.
Connect with the descendants of The Tairona civilization
You have your choice of a private or small group guide before embarking on this adventure. However, either way, you will most likely have the privilege of being guided by a member of one of the local Wiwa communities and direct descendants from the great Tairona Civilization. You will also have the opportunity to meet a few local Wiwa communities on the road to Teyuna.
Discover the magic of the Sierra Nevada Mountain
The Sierra Nevada Mountain just so happens to be the world’s highest coastal mountain, and the beauty and diversity of its unique ecosystem will blow you away! This is the perfect destination for eco-conscious travelers looking to minimize their impact and re-connect with nature.
The ethereal Howler monkey’s call and countless bird songs provide the soundtrack as you trek through the Sierra Nevada, as well as the bubbling serenity of the 29 main rivers flowing through this mountainous jungle terrain. For all of these reasons and more, UNESCO declared this area a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve in 1979.
This incredible swath of Colombia between the Caribbean coast and the Sierra Nevada Mountain range also happens to be a bird watcher’s paradise! Some of the more notable species are the mountain parrot, the paujil, the condor, and the chicken hawk. In fact, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta claims a whopping 635 bird species total, with 36 of those species endemic to this area.
List of everything you have to know before going to the Lost City in Colombia
Before embarking on this once-in-a-lifetime travel experience, we have a few final considerations to make sure you know what to expect and how best to prepare. When planning the journey to the Lost City, it’s essential you manage your expectations about the difficulty, know when to go, what to pack, and what vaccines you need.
The road to the Lost City is not for the faint of heart
Almost everything you read about visiting the Lost City in Colombia will most certainly highlight the ultimate difficulty of the trek. But this caveat is usually followed by a version of: “it’s entirely worth it!”
Much of this struggle can be attributed to the intense uphill climbs in the hot humidity of the jungle. Therefore, we advise taking as many local hikes as you can where you live in the months leading up to your trip so that your ankles and tendons especially become stronger.
The best seasons to do this route and what to pack
Although you could technically embark on the road to the Lost City year-round, we highly recommend aiming for the dry season from December to March. Considering the already challenging nature of the trek itself, you won’t want to tack on added hardship with muddy loose trails and heavy rainfall.
Packing light is a must. You will have a mule carrying the weight of all camping supplies; however, you will be responsible for your daypack and all of your essentials. Make sure you bring a dependable bug spray, sunscreen, a lightweight brimmed hat, sturdy hiking boots, electrolyte or rehydration tablets, and a headlamp.
The Sierra Nevada jungle is the home of indigenous groups
Remember that the route to the Lost City of Colombia winds through ancestral lands of the local Wiwa communities. So, you will most likely have the chance to eat some of your meals in these communities and connect with some of the people there who know more about this place than anyone else. In this way, you take part in regenerative tourism and help communities reclaim autonomy over their heritage.
What vaccines do you need?
The only vaccine you will need to get before hiking to the Lost City is the Yellow Fever Vaccine, and make sure you get it at least ten days before your arrival. However, there is no malaria in this area, so you don’t need to worry about taking any preventative malaria medication.
Dengue Fever is also quite common in this area, and although there is still no vaccine nor medication to prevent it, you can take plenty of preventative measures while hiking. Always have your bug spray on hand, and no black! Mosquitos are primarily attracted to black, so loose/light-colored clothing is the way to go.
We hope you trust us when we say making the rewarding and challenging journey to Colombia’s Lost City will inevitably become the trip you relive with your loved ones for years to come! So, start making those wonderful memories soon, and contact us today to learn more about incorporating La Ciudad Perdida in your personalized travel experience to Colombia!