Colombia doesn’t readily spring to mind as a trekking destination but for those looking for routes truly off the beaten track, it’s an excellent choice. One of the most exciting trekking options is the trek through the jungle-clad mountains to Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City) – considered by many to be on a par with Peru’s Machu Picchu (but without the crowds). The ruins are located in the jungle-clad mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The only way to reach them is either by helicopter or several days’ trekking.
Built around 800AD, Ciudad Perdida was the main settlement of the Tayrona tribe; it was home to several thousand people. When the Spanish explorers arrived in the 16th century, they brought diseases to which the Tayrona had no immunity and no medicine to cure. A large proportion of the population died and the survivors abandoned their home, leaving it to be covered by rampant jungle vegetation. The city lay hidden for centuries and was only rediscovered in 1975. After a period of plundering of gold and other treasures from the city, the Colombian government took control of the site to ensure its preservation for the future. Today, only a handful of certified operators are allowed to guide clients to the site.
To reach Ciudad Perdida requires trekking through tropical forest which is bursting with all manner of flora and fauna. There are some steep ascents and descents and the paths can get very muddy, all adding to the challenge – and the enjoyment. The route includes crossing hanging bridges which wouldn’t look out of place in an Indiana Jones movie, wading through rivers and past waterfalls – perfect for adventurous trekkers. It takes several days to reach the ‘Lost City’. Hammocks slung inside wooden shelters provide a bed for the night. As the dark closes in, the surrounding jungle becomes alive with noises made by its many varieties of resident!
Finally, the effort is rewarded as the jungle finally reveals its secret. A final steep climb up 1,200 steps leads to the site which consists of around 80 circular raised platforms perched on a rocky pinnacle. These platforms once provided the base for the wooden homes of the Tayrona people. A large central terrace is thought to be where the residents gathered for meetings and religious celebrations.
Goal reached, pictures taken, there’s only one thing left to do; trek back through the jungle to the start point with the knowledge that Colombia is a great place to go trekking!