The Travel Dispatch

The Lost City, Colombia: A Complete Guide on Hiking to the Ciudad Perdida

This post was born 14 Jan, 2018 One Comment
Pin on Pinterest112Share on Facebook8Tweet about this on TwitterShare on Reddit0Share on Google+0Share on StumbleUpon1Email this to someone

It was 6 in the morning and I was knee deep in the Buritaca River about a three days’ walk from any paved road, mobile signal or A/C unit.

With trail shoes gripped in one hand and a walking stick enclosed in the other, I forged through its brisk waters, almost plunging into the shallows as my bare feet slid over the rocky floor bed. I emerged (mostly dry) on the other side, shoved my mud-caked shoes on my feet and dashed onto the trail ahead. Twenty minutes later I stood alone at the first of 1200 stone steps rising up the mountainside and pointing the way to the Lost City.

Hiking to the Ciudad Perdida. Stone stairs leading to the Lost City Colombia

What is the Lost City?

Swallowed deep in the jungled mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Northern Colombia lies the ruined city of Teyuna. The so-called Lost City. La Ciudad Perdida.

Older than its more famous Peruvian neighbor by six centuries, the archeological site of the Lost City preserves the natural “undiscovered” feel that the overrun Machu Picchu lost to mass tourism years ago. Thought to once be a regional hub for commercial and political activity from 800 CE until the Spanish conquistadors brought Catholicism and disease, the abandoned area was off the radar to outsiders until the 1970’s when it was rediscovered by treasure hunters seeking to loot hidden fortune.

More Than Just Archaeological Ruins

While the Lost City may have been lost to the world, it was never lost to the indigenous tribes still permeating the Sierra Nevada mountains. Descended from the original occupants of the Ciudad Perdida, the Taironas, these semi-nomadic residents kept mum on the concealed remains for generations; using it for ceremonies as it has been (and still is) as much a sacred site to them as the mountains themselves.

Believing the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are the heart and lungs of the world, its indigenous inhabitants shoulder the responsibility of maintaining the balance between man and nature. What you take from the mountains you must give back. With the looming threat of regional exploitation from those with Colombian business interests (think new tour companies looking to take over trails or development groups vying to be the first to build onsite luxury hotels) and from an increase in tourism, it becomes an increasingly hard job .

Because of this the tribes remain guarded and have yet to fully embrace the foreigners now roaming their lands daily. Despite this warranted wariness, the elder tribesmen keep one eye open to the benefits of tourism. Namely education. Not for them but for us – the visitors. One local tribe, the Wiwa, run their own tours to the Lost City for the purpose of educating the “younger brothers” (aka me and you) on their history, culture, and the significance of respecting the lands they call home.

Guests from other tour groups also get the opportunity to meet, speak with, question, and learn from the indigenous people. The result is a living, cultural learning experience disguised as an adventuresome trek to a vast city once believed to be lost.

Indigenous children of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta - scenes from the Lost City Colombia trek

How Do You Get to the Lost City?

It’s simple – you hike. For days.

There is no cable car, train, motorcycle, tram, or unicycle to the top. No caravan, tour bus, or taxi to drop you off at a crowded lookout point. The only thing carrying you through the 28 miles of dense jungle, mud-laden inclines, mosquito swarms, and gushing river waters to the Lost City and back is your legs and a desperate prayer or two.

Y Tho?

The romantic in me likes to think it’s the ancient Taironas’ way of forcing you to connect with the land. It’s genius really. Plant a massive city deep within a tropical rainforest. Obscure it behind miles of tangled trees and overgrown thickets. Raise the terrain to a near vertical incline. Block any trails that are too defined with a sinuous river. Cue the oppressing humidity and daily rains. Throw in some poisonous snakes and repellent-immune mosquitos. Oh – and make sure to sprinkle in some jaw-dropping scenery just to keep them going.

I mean seriously? What garners respect for Mother Nature more than immersing yourself in the thick of it and navigating through the good, bad, and ugly? It sure makes those first views of the Lost City all the more sweeter.

Day 1 photo of the lost city trek in Colombia

Essential Info For Visiting the Lost City

I’ve broken down everything you need to know about the Lost City trek including how to get there, what to expect day-by-day, how to prepare and pack, and more. You can read it in its entirety or skip to the sections that interest you below.

How many days do you need for the trek?

Four or five days is the standard amount of time it takes to complete the 28 mile roundtrip trek. Some tour companies offer a six-day option although I did not meet anyone during my hike who stayed on the trail this long.

The number of days it takes you to complete the hike does not affect the route. It just means the longer you stay the less hiking you do per day. The four-day option is the most popular.

The cost remains the same no matter how many days you choose and you are allowed to change your mind in the middle of the hike. I originally signed up for the five-day option but on Day 3 I decided I’d had enough of the jungle and asked if I could hike the rest of the way and finish on Day 4. Two people in my group did the vice versa and switched from four to five days.

Where do you leave from?

Most tours leave out of the port city of Santa Marta (an easy bus ride from Cartagena or Riohacha). Many travelers base themselves here when exploring Northern Colombia as it offers easy access to Tayrona National Park, various popular beach towns like Palomino and Costeno Beach, and of course the Lost City. The Masaya Hostel is hands down the best budget option in Santa Marta and makes a great base the night before your Lost City departure. You can explore more hotel/hostel options in Santa Marta here.

Can you hike to the Lost City independently?

No, at the time of writing this (Jan 2018) you must go with an authorized tour group.

The ultimate guide to hiking to the cuidad perdida aka the lost city colombia trek

Is the trek difficult?

I’m going to be honest – this is a tough trek and you should be a relatively fit and active person.

The trail conditions include steep descents, sharp (and long) inclines, rocky paths, river crossings, arduous climbs up stone steps, and more. Keep in mind you’re in the jungle where other factors are in play to add an extra layer of difficulty to your hike. This includes high heat and humidity, daily afternoon rains that cause muddy (and slippery) trails, and of course insects.

No matter how much DEET you bring it will not stop the constant attacks by mosquitoes and the even-worse sand flies. Don’t underestimate the amount of discomfort this brings. At times it was more unbearable than my tight and sore muscles.

Is visiting the Ciudad Perdida for you?

This is dependent on the type of person you are but if you’re up for an adventure, are in decent physical condition, and are ok with basic, no-frill camp conditions (more on this later in the post) than this is expedition is worth adding to your bucket list.

Only you know your limits but I jotted down a few things to factor in when deciding wether or not to embark on the trek:

1. Age (for the most part) doesn’t matter. At 30, I was the youngest in my group and all of us completed the entire trek. Myself and a set of grandparents were the first to finish. Another group had a Colombian family with children aged 12 and 14. To reiterate – no matter your age you should know what you’re getting into and be at a decent fitness level.

2. You can go at your own pace. All tours have 2 or 3 staff members hiking with you. One leading the pack and another bringing up the rear to make sure no one is left behind. As I mentioned earlier, you also have the option to extend to five days if you find yourself struggling.

3. There are pit stops on the way. Roughly every hour and a half there are break spots with benches and guides handing out fruit. You’re also free to stop along the trail whenever you need to take a breather.

4. Altitude it not an issue. The trail is long and goes deep into the jungle but it combines a good amount of ascents and descents so you never go above 5000 feet.

5. You are constantly damp. This sounds like a small issue but honestly this was one of the reasons I shortened my trek to four days. Not only do you sweat buckets the minute you leave camp but nothing dries overnight. You’re constantly putting on wet clothes and your day pack and shoes slip with sweat too.

6. You won’t get a good night’s sleep. More on sleeping arrangements later but you either sleep in a hammock or on a lumpy mattress. Both have mosquito nets which is a godsend but it gets stuffy (and once again you get damp) when sleeping beneath it. Making matters worse is the cooler temperature at night. You’re somehow chilly yet hot from the stuffiness. I got a minor cold in the middle of the hike and I think this was a contributing factor. Not to mention you itch from all your insect bites, your neighbor is probably snoring, and your wake up call is at 5am.

7. Once you make it to Day 2 there’s no comfortable way to get out. Once you’re committed, you’re committed. The trail is the same to and from the Lost City so the further you go in, the further you have to go to get back out. Day 1 is fairly easy so most people start struggling towards the end of the Day 2. If you decide you don’t want to continue on you either have to hike back or – if you’re really unable to walk – you can take one of the farmers/indigenous peoples’ mules. Trust me, no matter how much pain you’re in the mule is not a comfortable alternative. From what I hear it’s a nerve-racking experience and downright scary when the mule ploughs down the steep, near vertical declines. Please note the mule cannot climb up or down the steps leading to the Lost City ruins on the third morning. If you make it to the ruins, you have no choice but to climb back down to basecamp.

8. Mind the knees. When researching the trek I read so much on the difficulties of tackling the numerous steep ascents but so little on the equally as steep descents. Descending down these slopes is when most injuries occur (the most common of which being a twisted ankle). They are also very hard on your knees and those with a history of knee problems should be particularly mindful of this. One of the guys I met in another group had had knee surgery a year prior and messed it up again on Day 2 of the hike. He made it to the camp that night but had to stay behind the next morning and wait for us (and for his wife!) to go up to the Lost City and come back before taking a mule the rest of the way back over the last 2 days.

everything you need to know about hiking to the lost city colombia

When is the best time to go?

The trail is open year-round except for a couple weeks in September when the indigenous tribes of the region perform religious ceremonies at the Lost City to clean out the bad energy (brought in by the tourists of course). If you plan on being in Colombia around then make sure to check ahead of time to find out the exact dates of closure. Other than that tours run everyday.

December through March is the dry season and offers the best hiking conditions though please note it is still the rainforest so “dry” really just means torrential downpours are less frequent and the river won’t be chest high. For a quieter trail, avoid going mid-Dec through mid-Jan as the holiday season brings in the most visitors from both Colombia and abroad.

Trekking During Christmas Through New Years

This the busiest week of the year with visitors numbering up to 150. Don’t let this put you off though. I did the trek from Dec 27 – 30 and the guides did such a good job of staggering out the groups that the trail never felt crowded.

It was easy to break away from the pack (should you wish). I once found myself alone in the most beautiful part of the jungle for 4 hours. I also made it to the Lost City ahead of my group and had it completely to myself for 25 minutes before the next person arrived. We were able to wander it alone for a further 20 minutes before people started trickling in. This worked out well as I was able to have her take a photo of me amongst the empty ruins.

How do you book a tour to the Lost City?

There’s an option for every type of planner (or nonplanner). You can book in advance online, onsite through your hotel or hostel, or through one of the many tour offices in the center of Santa Marta. I booked mine with the receptionist at Masaya Hostel (you can book to tour here even if you’re not a guest). They were very helpful as I came down with the flu before I was supposed to leave and they let me change my departure date three different times with no hassle.

For now, you don’t have to book far ahead (a day or two is normally fine) but I suspect in the coming years as the trail gets more popular this will change. There are already discussions going on amongst the indigenous tribes and tour operators about the possible need for new regulations to avoid future overcrowding. I think it’s great they’re jumping on this before it’s a problem. No one wants a new Inca trail situation on their hands.

How many people are in each tour group?

This can vary depending on when you go. I went during the busiest week of the year and my group consisted of 14 people. My guide said we were the largest group he’d ever had. Normally they top out at 10. Despite the larger-than-normal number, my group of 14 was very manageable.

Which tour operator should you book with?

There are only a handful of licensed operators running tours to the Lost City. To help you choose the right fit, I’ve outlined the highlights of the reputable companies below. I recommend checking out their websites, looking up personal reviews on sites and blogs you trust, or speaking to fellow travelers who’ve done the trek before to aid in making your final decision.

1. Expotur: runs a very professional operation and offers tours in both English and Spanish. The guides are knowledgable of the area and work well with the indigenous tribes to provide a wonderful experience. They are endlessly patient and genuinely care about the wellbeing of their guests. If I’m one of those blogs you trust (aww thank you so much!) then I’m telling you to go with Expotur. My guides Enrique and Hugo made the whole trip for me.

2. Wiwa Tours: this is the one to book if you want a guide to the Lost City from a member of one of the local indigenous tribes. The whole tour agency is indigenous-owned. Offers bilingual tours.

3. Magic Tours: offers tours in English and Spanish. Experienced trekkers and trail runners can inquire with them about doing the tour in 3 days.

4. Guias y Baquianas: the first agency to ever run tours to the Lost City. Offers tours in English and Spanish.

5. Turcol: another reputable company who is highly experienced in running tours to the Lost City. Offers tours in English and Spanish.

What are the costs and what do they include?

Currently all tours (regardless of if you go for 4, 5, or 6 days) are COP 950,000 (approximately USD 326).

All the above mentioned tour agencies have an agreement in place to keep the price the same across the board. This fair business policy let’s you choose the company that best fits your needs without worrying about the cost.

Costs include transportation to and from the trek, all meals, accommodation, fruit snacks along the trail, filtered water at all camps, travel insurance for the duration of the hike, entrance fees to the archaeological park, contributions to the local indigenous community, and payment for your guides.

complete guide for hiking the lost city colombia aka the ciudad perdida

What are the accommodation options?

You’re in the middle of the jungle so it shouldn’t come as a shock that the sleeping arrangements are very basic. Each camp is outfitted with mosquito-net covered bunk beds and hammocks (complete with pillows and blankets). You don’t know which one you’re getting until you arrive each night. To be honest I’m not sure what factors go into choosing who sleeps where. Fortunately I was given a bed every night while other members of my group weren’t so lucky.

All campsites are equipped with cold water showers and bathrooms. I avoided these at all costs as the lines for showers were too long and the toilets were less than desirable. I much preferred the third option – the Buritaca River. Running alongside each camp, its cool waters were refreshing after a long day’s hike and provided a much better shower experience than cramped stalls laden with spiders and bugs.

Will you starve?

Most definitely not.

Get ready for carbo-load to the max. I was shocked over the amount of food they provided throughout the trek for all three meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not only that but the food far surpassed my taste expectations. It was always delicious and the chef assigned to our group mixed it up each day; providing a much appreciated variety from his pasta dishes, pancake breakfasts and fish/rice combos, to his chicken asadas and rich stews. Each meal even included a small packaged dessert.

Watermelon and other fruits were also provided at stops along the trail and each camp (including those where lunch was served) had canisters of filtered water that you could refill your water bottles with.

Is the trek worth it?

Absof*ckenlutely.

This was one of the top highlights of my time in Colombia.

Visiting Ciudad Perdida: The complete guide for hiking to the lost city colombia

What To Expect Day-By-Day

The following is based on my 4-day personal experience with Expotur. 

While the small details of your Lost City adventure will be different from mine depending on what tour company you book with, the below itinerary should be very similar no matter which agency you choose. The trail is exactly the same for everyone and most groups meet up at the same camp at night. If you are doing the five-day trek, Days 1 thru 3 will still be as detailed below while the full hike from Day 4 will be divided up over two days.

Day 1: Santa Marta – El Mamey – Camp #1

Trail Distance: 4.5 miles

Following an early morning departure from Santa Marta, your 4WD vehicle will drive two and half hours to the village of El Mamey, stopping once along the way for you to buy any last minute snacks or drinks. In El Mamey you’ll have lunch, then begin your hike.

Psssst…while at lunch on Day 1 you’ll most likely be offered a walking stick for the trek. Take one. It really comes in handy on the muddy and more treacherous sections of the trail. If you’re not offered one, ask your guide if he can get one for you. 

The first leg of the trail passes through the forested foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains on lands mostly owned by regional farmers. Yielding the dirt path to mules and motorbikes, you maneuver your way up an hour-long ascent until coming to a shaded rest stop. From there the trail descends at a slight and steady angle before plunging into what my guide calls “the red-ass hill.” It doesn’t describe the color of the clay so much as it does the color of your ass after falling down it. A not-so-rare occurrence our guide assured us.

Day 1’s rather pleasant (and least difficult) hike culminates at that night’s campsite where you are assigned a bed or hammock upon arrival. Typically this is around 4pm. After cliff jumping and washing up in the nearby river, an early dinner is served in the dining area normally around 6pm.

indigenous tribe camp in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Seen during Colombia's lost city trek

Day 2: Camp #1 – Mutanshi – Camp #3

Trail Distance: 9.1 miles

Your alarm (whether it be your phone, your guide, or a resident rooster) interrupts what little sleep you were in the middle of at 5am. After a hearty breakfast, you’re on the trail by 6am. This may seem too early but there’s a reason behind the madness. The trail is at its coolest during the early morning hours and the timing has you ending the first half of the day’s hike just before the worst of the midday heat. This is when you break for lunch; after which you depart in time to (hopefully) make it to the next camp before the standard late afternoon rains.

Day 2 brings the first truly challenging sections of the hike. The first hour warms you up with a steady, manageable incline as you pass through the last of the farmlands before the terrain transitions into a steep uphill climb that leads straight into indigenous territory. A rest stop sits at the top and after a brief squirt of water and a watermelon wedge, you continue onto a sharp descent over muddy and rocky terrain for a couple hours. Along the way you’ll stop at Mutanshi, a Kogi (one of the indigenous tribes living in the Sierra Nevada’s) village, to learn more about their culture.

After this you break for lunch and balk at the fact it’s only 11am. But remember – you did start hiking at 6am. Here you normally have a two-hour break (it’s shorter for slower hikers who arrive at camp late) to wash up in the river, put on dry clothes, hang your sweaty clothes to sundry, and have lunch.

After lunch you embark on one of the toughest sections of trail. Lying at the end of a questionably stable suspension bridge that spans the Buritaca River is a lean, seemingly never-ending ascent. Theoretically it goes on for an hour but realistically it takes closer to two for most hikers. But the reward at the end makes it worth it.

I mean, if you can call another three hours of hiking a reward. This last leg of the day’s hike marks my favorite section of the entire Lost City trail. The terrain transitions into a steady up-and-down rhythm as it leads you deep into the tropical jungle. Fifty shades of verdant green close in around you. Tarzan-less vines suspend from high-reaching canopies. Wild undergrowth clutches at your boots.  Native sounds combine in what some describe as nature’s symphony but what I describe less-lyrically as nature’s tone-deaf drunk uncle.

The enchantment of the jungle fades into a clearing where that night’s camp rests. Adrenaline is replaced with exhaustion as you eat dinner, play a game of cards with fellow hikers, and then retire to bed early.

The Lost City Colombia: Everything you need to know for hiking to the ciudad perdida

Day 3: Camp #3 – The Lost City – Camp #2

Trail Distance: 5.6 miles

For most groups the alarm rings earliest on Day 3 as hikers beg their guides to let them be first to depart for the Lost City. In the age of selfies and Instagram, everyone wants the coveted people-less snapshot of ancient ruins. I was less concerned with the photo-op and more concerned with having the Lost City to myself. Little did I know I would get both.

A note on when to depart…. all the guides are in constant communication with each other the night before so it honestly doesn’t matter when you leave. They do a brilliant job of staggering the time slots to avoid congestion. The Lost City is also a HUGE, spread-out site and you have ample amounts of time at the ruins. It’s possible to patiently wait until the people start trickling out so you can get that money shot.

Leaving between 5am and 6am, you take off in the pre-dawn darkness. Stumbling over rocks and river-hugging paths, you come to a knee-deep water crossing (chest high if you’re hiking during rainy season). This is your chance to put a little separation between you and the other members of your group if you so desire. In my case I took advantage of this, throwing off my trail shoes to splash my way past the more cautious river-crossers. On the other side I unceremoniously stuffed my feet back into my Nikes and dashed ahead onto the trail before the others even made it to the riverbank.

everything you need to know about hiking to the lost city colombia

Not far from this crossing is the first of approximately 1200 stone steps you’ll take to reach the Lost City. The climb is more difficult than the one you’ve built up in your head (which is saying a lot). Damp conditions render the steps slippery and certain passages are near vertical. At times, scrambling up them requires the use of your hands to help keep you steady – or in some cases to help pull you up.

Lightening your load…. before departing for the Lost City, you are given the option to leave any items you don’t need at the camp as you’ll return to the same location for lunch after visiting the ruins. The only thing you need for the Lost City section is water, your camera, and possibly a long sleeve shirt/loose jacket you can slip on. Not for the temperature but for protection from the mosquitoes whose numbers multiple dramatically at the Lost City. 

The lower chambers of the Ciudad Perdida greet you after the last step. Depending on when you arrive, you can either wait here for your guide or continue on. It is recommended to wait for your group as once gathered, your guide will give you a history lesson alongside tours of the grounds. As I was quite far ahead of my group, I roamed the Lost City alone for 45 minutes and climbed to the upper terraces before making my way back to the meeting point just as the last member of my group ascended over the final step. Being alone in the far depths of the jungle amidst archaeological ruins dating back to 800 CE was indescribable. Knowing the site was still held sacred by modern-day indigenous societies  made it all the more special.

The tour of the grounds lasts between one and two hours and then it’s time to return to camp the way you came. Personally I thought going back down the 1200 stone steps was harder than going up due to their steep and slippery nature. I fell twice and let me tell you it was painful. Luck somehow prevented me from smacking the back of my head on a rock.

Back at camp you collect any belongings you left behind and backtrack through the same trail you hiked the previous afternoon, stopping for the night at Camp #2 – the same place you had lunch the day before. On this night our guide arranged for us to have a talk with one of the local tribesmen so he could teach us more about his culture as well lecture us on the importance of protecting and preserving our natural surroundings.

The ultimate guide to hiking to the cuidad perdida aka the lost city colombia trek

Day 4: Camp #2 – El Mamey – Santa Marta

Trail Distance: 8.7 miles

If you’re doing the five-day trek, this day’s hiking distance will be split between Day 4 and Day 5. You’ll also have the luxury of an 8am wake up call.

Day 4 pushes you to your limit. At this point you’ve traversed 19.2 miles of difficult terrain in two and a half days and in less than ideal conditions. Chances are every muscle (including ones you didn’t even know you had) hurts, numerous bug bites are irritating the surface of your skin, and blisters have taken up residence on your feet. Not to mention the hike has in all likelihood lost its novelty by now. Think about it – you’ve left the Lost City, the most beautiful stretch of trail is in your rearview, and the remaining 8.7 miles covers topography you’ve already crossed.

Adrenaline and sheer will got me through these last sharp ascents and steady descents. There are no long breaks on this day, just a brief stop for a chocolate or fruit snack at Camp #1 (where you slept on Night 1 of the trek). Despite my physical ailments and general tiredness, I booked it – so ready was I to get out of the jungle. The typical 7 hour hike only took me 5. In hindsight I should have taken my time as I finished at 11am and had to wait 2 hours for everyone else in my group to finish.

The trek culminates in El Mamey at the same restaurant you started the hike from. After lunch a 4WD vehicle will return you to Santa Marta.


The Ciudad Perdida - Hiking to the Lost City in Colombia

Lost City Trek Packing List

As with any multi-day hike, the key is making sure you pack what you need without overpacking. Remember – what you pack you must carry on your back for the duration of the hike. You don’t want to make this trek any harder for yourself than it needs to be so pack light. Most tour companies and hostels/hotels will store your luggage and suitcases for the duration of your hike so all you need is a few items stuffed into a light daypack.

Below is everything you need to bring on your hike to the Lost City.

Backpack

I managed to pack everything into my 15L Pacsafe Venturesafe however I think a 20L daypack would have been a slightly better option. I know some of you are thinking both sizes seem on the smaller side. Trust me – they’re not! If you insist on having a bigger pack for this hike, there is absolutely no reason it should exceed 33L.

Clothing

1 x Pair of Proper Footwear: the number of people in improper footwear shocked me. Please for the love of God do not wear your Converse or Vans on this hike. You will regret it. The terrain is demanding and as such requires appropriate trekking shoes. Hiking boots or trail running shoes are preferable. I had the latter and they were perfect for navigating every aspect of the Lost City hike.

1 x Pair of Flip Flops: for wearing during the evenings, at lunch breaks, down by the river, and in the shower. Havianas make for a great option. I like the Luna design as the strap around the ankle prevents them from easily slipping off.

1 x Set of Hiking Clothes: one pair of quick-dry shorts (or hiking pants depending on your preference) and one quick-dry athletic top are preferable as they’re lightweight and will get decently – if not completely – dry overnight. There is no need for a second set of hiking clothes. Trust me, everyone wears the same clothes everyday.

1 x Set of Sleep Clothes: I brought a pair of lightweight pants and a T-shirt to wear during dinner and to sleep in.

1 x Long Sleeve Shirt/Light Jacket: I brought my thermal undershirt as it can get chilly at night. I ended up only having to wear it for one night. I debated on whether or not to bring my fleece jacket but decided to leave it behind. I’m glad I did as I didn’t need it. The camps provide you with thick blankets. If you are going in the off season (the months outside of summer) you may consider packing one.

1 x Extra Tank Top (optional): I could have gotten away without this but I wanted a shirt to throw on during lunch breaks after my midday swim but didn’t want to risk getting my sleep shirt dirty.

2 x Sport Bras: you don’t really need two (most women just bring one) but I was happy I brought two so I could rotate them each day.

1 x Bathing Suit: for the most part you bathe in the river.

4 x Pair Clean Underwear: at the very least.

2 x Pair Socks for Hiking: wet socks get super uncomfortable so at the minimum bring two pair. I did wish I had brought three.

1 x Pair Socks for Sleeping (optional): my feet get cold so I was happy to have the extra pair.

Overnight Hiking Gear

Water Bottle: one 1-liter bottle should be fine as both the lunch and nighttime camps provide filtered water to refill it with. Most of the rest stops sell water, soda, and gatorade as well. I brought my Camelbak bottle and it worked well.

Quick-dry Microfiber Towel: for after showers and swims. This was probably my only item that actually dried completely overnight. I have this Youphoria towel in the 28 x 56 size.

Dry Bag: this is for keeping your wet clothes separated from your dry clothes. I stored all my wet items in my 10L SealLine bag.

Waterproof Backpack Cover (optional): the guides provide garbage bags should you need protection from the rains while hiking. I would only consider bringing this along if you’re hiking the Lost City during the rainy season when there are torrential downpours.

Silk Sleep Liner: I didn’t use mine but it gave me comfort knowing I had it with me. The camp beds are not the cleanest and some people had issues with bugs. Silk liners help protect against that. They also provide an extra layer of warmth if you need it.

Packing Cubes (optional): these help the items in my backpack stay organized. I never pack a bag without them.

Headlamp: you’re in the middle of the jungle with all sorts of creepy crawlies (including deadly snakes) so it’s important to use a light when tromping around camp at night. The flashlight on your phone is fine if you don’t have a headlamp.

Ear Plugs (optional): if you’re the earplug type definitely bring them for sleeping. The amount of snorers at camp will drive you insane otherwise.

Toiletries

Shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, hair tie: self-explanatory.

Toilet Paper: the camps often run out so bring a small roll or pack of tissues just in case.

Sunscreen: some parts of the trail lie directly in the sun’s path.

Insect repellent: SO. MANY. MOSQUITOS. Get yourself a strong repellent with plenty of DEET. If you are buying yours in Colombia, Nopikex is the best brand to choose.

Itch Relief Cream: I won’t lie, it doesn’t matter how much and how often you douse yourself with DEET, you will get bit. Often the discomfort from the constantly itching bites is worse than the pain emanating from your stiffened muscles.

Mini-First Aid Kit: I always carry around this tiny kit. At the least you should bring band-aids for blisters that may form on your feet or hands. I had a gnarly one on my right hand from my walking stick.

Miscellaneous

Your Yellow Fever Vaccination: it is highly recommended you receive yours before visiting this region of Colombia and embarking on the Lost City trek.

Camera/Phone/GoPro: I brought my GoPro Hero Session and iPhone and kept them on power save mode to conserve battery.

Portable Power Bank: if you want your electronics to last for the duration of the hike, a portable charger is a must. 

Walking Stick: useful during the particularly rough sections of trail.

Hat (optional): I wore my baseball cap as protection from the sun and light rains.

Safety Whistle (optional): I take this with me every time I hike. You never know what will happen. All it takes is one wrong turn into the jungle or a dangerous spill down a steep slope to get lost.

Playing Cards (optional): there’s nothing to do in the evenings after dinner so me and the other hikers played a lot of card games.

A Book (optional): if you’re not into cards and need something to do, this works too but adds a bit more weight to your pack.

Small Amount of Cash (optional): for additional drinks, snacks, and beer if you so desire.

Travel Insurance: this is something you should never travel without – especially when you’re undertaking adventurous activities. I’m insured with World Nomads as they are one of the few companies who allow you to obtain and renew your policy while out of the country. Many insurance companies in the US do not offer this. World Nomads is available to people from 140 countries and it covers overseas medical emergencies, evacuation services, baggage issues, and a range of adventure sports and activities. You don’t have to be a longterm traveler to use them, they provide coverage for shorter journeys as well. Luckily I’ve yet to make a claim but it gives me peace of mind knowing I’m covered.

Want to reference this post later? Just bookmark the page or Pin the below to your Travel Pinspiration Board! 
The Lost City Colombia: A Complete Guide for Hiking to the Ciudad Perdida - includes what to expect, info on trail conditions, how to book your tour, what to pack and more tips to get through this 4 day trek.

Have you hiked to the Lost City before? If so is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments below or if you are planning on embarking on the hike let me know if you have any further questions!

Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?

The current Travel Dispatch journey kicked off in Panama on Nov 15 and is showcasing a classic “round the world” loop as I weave my way from Latin America to The Balkans, Eastern Europe to the Middle East,  and Southeast Asia back to the US over a period of 12 months and with a budget of $25,000. Finally along live by subscribing below!


You may also like...

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Thomas Espeute
Guest
Oh, My Goodness Kristen! It’s the best report/guide I’ve read about the Lost city tour! I haven’t been yet – I wasn’t sure whether or not it’s worth it, but your article has thoroughly convinced me. Your writing skills to describe the adventure and your ability to use the right words make this article easy to read. I can feel my wet feet and my sore red ass. It’s Fantastic! ^^ Also last year, the average price for the lost city tour was around 750 000 COP, so I guess it’s possible to bargain a little more or if you’re… Read more »