Lost City: Welcome to the new Machu Picchu


Lost City: Welcome to the new Machu Picchu

Location: Colombia

Lost City (or Ciudad Perdida) lies about 40 km southeast of Santa Marta.

My Experience

I made this great hiking with my girlfriend Romina and it’s a pleasure share some of our pictures and our impressions. To give some idea about this trek, Peru’s Inca Trail attracts almost 20 times more visitors a year. The Lost City trek in Colombia is a relatively well-kept secret in South America.

Steep climbs, slippery mud, river crossings and venomous creepy crawlies, the trek to Colombia’s Lost City is challenging, even without knowing exactly what to expect. Well, I just want to focus your attention to one think…

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Afraid over the bridge?!? Not so much

The Trek

After meeting in Santa Marta in the morning we reached the village of El Machete after 90 minutes driving. We had a lunch before starting our wonderful hiking. The walk takes more about 1 and ½ days uphill to the Lost City, the round trip covered 40 km, but don’t worry, every day it was covered from 5 to 8 km. The route follows a simple there-and-back itinerary: day one to three will take you to the Lost City and days four to six bring you back along the same path.

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Where the Lost City is

Along the way the food was surprisingly good and the accommodations are comfortable, often located by rivers where we can cool off in natural swimming pools. Anyway there’s no electricity so dinner is served by candlelight, and my sleeping cycle quickly synced up with the natural light (We usually went to bed around 20:30 and woke up at 4:45). There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sounds of hundreds of crickets and frogs.

Let’s talk about the scenery: it’s nothing short of astonishing; during the day, nature manages to leave its mark as well. The trail leads through some dense jungles along green hills and waterfalls. I saw many brightly coloured tropical birds along the way, and sometimes a hummingbird zipped past. Whenever we took a dip in the river, we were surrounded by butterflies.

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Wildlife on the way to the lost city


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Sierra Nevada area with its wildlife

Indigenous people

Perhaps more interesting than the city itself is that in the valleys and mountains here still live wiwas and kogis, indigenous tribes descended from the Tayrona civilization, who seem impervious to westernisation. We encountered several villagers along the trail, on horseback, washing clothes in the river, or carrying heavy bunches of plantain. They are shy, sensitive people, and for the most part appear startled and quickly scurry away.

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Village of local people of Tayrona


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In front of the leader of Tayrona people

Some wear a special pointed hat; these are the Mamas (priests) who hold special status in their society. The Kogi belief system is based on Aluna, a Mother Nature creator figure. They call outsiders like us Younger Brothers, who they believe are hurting the balance of the Earth’s ecology.

There is already some tension between the Kogi tribes due to the money one of them receives. For instance, the more remote tribes never wear shoes as they believe their soles hurt Mother Nature, whereas the central tribe now uses money to buy rubber boots.

The Lost Civilisation

When we finally reached the uninhabited Lost City. After a final hamstring-straining 1,200 stone step climb, we can appreciate why, with 69 terraces carved into the mountainside, it was once an empire in the sky. Anyway, what’s the Lost City and why is so important?

In pre-Culumbian times, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta was home to various indigenous communities, of which tha Tayrona, was the dominant and most developed group. The Tayrona are believed to have evolved into a distinctive culture since about the 5th century AD. A millennium later, shortly before the Spaniards came, the Tayrona had developed into an outstanding civilization, based on a complex social and political organization and advanced engineering.

The Tayrona people constructed hundreds of settlements, all of a similar pattern. Due to the rugged topography, a large number of stone terraces supported by high walls had to built as bases for their wooden houses. The terraces were linked by a network of stone paths and stairways.

Anyway all the best stories end up with a bad final. Tayrona was the first advanced indigenous culture encountered by the Spaniards in the New World, in 1499. The Spaniards came in the Sierra Nevada, but met with brave resistance from the local people. The Tayronas defended themselves fiercely, but were almost totally decimated in the course of the 75 years of war. A handful of survivors abandoned their homes and fled into the upper reaches of Sierra Nevada. THEIR TRACES HAVE BEEN LOST FOREVER.

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Welcome to the lost city of Tayrona

The Lost City was discovered in 1975, this is the largest and is thought to have been the Tayrona Capital. The site itself, a high plateau surrounded by brilliant jungle, is amazing and we really liked to share it with our group of travellers and few Colombian soldiers stationed there when we arrived.

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Military take a look the lost city constantly

Sleep in hammocks among local communities while absorbing the unique culture of the area, then trek through lush jungles and across streams before arriving at the ruins of Tayrona. Explore the uncrowded ruins at leisure and marvel at what would have been here in years gone by. Well it was an amazing experience and I can really say I got here first and had the Lost City all to myself.

How to get there, best time and cost

The only way to reach the Lost City is by foot and the trail begins in El Mamey (or Machete), a 90 minute drive from Santa Marta.

The best time to do this 4/5/6 days trek is between November and April, the cost is fixed at 700.000 COP, even if you choose 6 days trekking instead of 4 or 5 days.

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Here how to discover South America in 2 minutes! Me and my wife in our best 120 shots of 6 months of travel… Enjoy


  • English-speaking guides are difficult to find. If you have a bilingual trekker in your group, ask them if they mind playing the role of translator.
  • There are toilets at all camps. Bring your own toilet paper but remember to throw it in the bin provided rather than flush it. Basic, cold showers are available on nights two, three and four.
  • Just pack light: Take the essential items if you want to complete the trek relatively unscathed. Take the optional items if you want some degree of comfort along the way!
  • Food and drink (usually) are included by the tour operator.
  • It’s important to be aware that the mountains are sacred to all the indigenous people that live there, so it’s essential to leave absolutely no litter, and behave with respect within the Ciudad Perdida site.
  • My last tip: Don’t get stuck with the thing that ruins your day, life is too short to be wasted in your crap. Smile and be positive because there are so many beautiful reasons to be happy, one of those is travelling.

Author of this post:  Davide
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my name is Davide and I’m Italian. I’d always loved to explore far away places and someday, planned to travel the world. But like always, it was a case of when and how. I did a lot, and now I am ready to write, to tell and to share the tips I’ve been learning, feelings and emotion of years of travelling.


  • Agness of Fit Travelling

    This is the first time I am reading something about this lost town. Great post, David and Stefano. I love reading your adventures and experiences!

    February 12, 2017 at 11:29 pm
  • ThriftyTrails

    I hadn’t heard about this place! I love when I heard that there are still groups of people that take care of Mother Nature like the tribe you mentioned. If only the rest of the world would care even a fraction as much as the Tayrona people then we would be in a much better position. Thanks for sharing!

    January 6, 2017 at 4:40 pm
  • Midori

    Woow! Didn’t know about this awesome place! Thanks for sharing!

    January 6, 2017 at 10:27 am
  • theluxlola

    That is awesome! I’ve always wanted to visit so hopefully I get to soon and put your advice to use! Great post 🙂

    October 14, 2016 at 5:57 pm
    • Davi85travel
      Davide Fancellu

      Thank you so much for your comment; please if you will go there you will enjoy for sure! nice experience, I have wonderful memories!!

      October 14, 2016 at 10:59 pm

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