Grueling, relentless and uncomfortable. These are adjectives I’d use to describe the Lost City trek in Colombia’s northernmost region. There’s good reason that this ancient empire remained undiscovered until 1972, when treasure looters stumbled upon its corridor of stone steps.
Still, without a challenge, there’s no sense of achievement – and boy do you feel like you’ve earned it when you finally reach the ancient ruins.
Though there will be moments when you wish you’d gone to Tayrona National Park instead, the Lost City trek is a very worthwhile experience, and here’s why.
THE LOST CITY TREK IS REMOTE
Sure, the air is humid, your clothes will stick to your back and mosquitos will eat you alive, but being able to deal with these conditions is what sets you aside from the majority of travellers.
The Lost City has managed to retain that air of mystery that’s quickly fading from places like Machu Picchu, because there is still no easy way to get there.
IT’S GOOD EXERCISE
At times, the path is almost entirely vertical, strewn with loose rocks, fallen trees and mudslides.
The Lost City trek takes between 4 and 6 days, depending on your level of fitness and eagerness to escape back to civilisation to wash away the grime. This is a great opportunity to get your blood pumping and feel like you’ve treated your body well for a few days. God knows, the temptation to drink ice cold beer will be strong back in the cities.
IT’S A REASONABLE PRICE
The main tour operators are Magic Tour, Turcol and Expotur, all of which had a set price of $600,000 COP at the time of writing.
I booked a 4-day trek with Magic Tour, and they did a fantastic job of taking care of our physical and mental state for the duration of the trip – dishing out fresh melon and snacks along the way and offering words of encouragement.
They also pick up from Taganga as well as Santa Marta, which is a bonus.
THERE’S BEAUTIFUL SCENERY
Even before you reach the Lost City itself, the scenery is strikingly beautiful.
On the rare occasions that you stop for a rest and some rehydration, you’ll have the chance to admire unspoilt vistas in an area of Colombia that, until recently, very rarely saw a human face.
YOU SLEEP IN COMFORTABLE BEDS
Though basic, the accommodation on the Lost City trek is pretty comfortable. Some nights, you’ll have a hammock, while others you’ll sleep in a loft on mattresses.
The close proximity to your companions takes some getting used to, but there’s always a private mosquito net to separate you.
You’ll be so tired you’ll sleep through anything, and it’s wonderful to hear the sounds of the jungle in the night. Blankets are provided, as it can get quite chilly in the early hours.
THERE ARE SWIMMING STOPS
At regular points during the trek, you’ll have the chance to take a dip. Some of the pools have high platforms, which are great fun to jump off.
Of course, there are also times when you might have to get wet just to continue along the footpath, especially if you’re there in the rainy season.
YOU MEET INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
Some of the cabins and lunch stops along the Lost City trek are owned and run by indigenous people. As the guides cooked up a feast of vegetable soup, we watched an adorable Kogi child run around camp torturing the cats.
Most of the Lost City trek companies donate part of your fee to these local tribes, which helps to support and empower them.
THE LOST CITY ITSELF IS INCREDIBLE
It’s not just the interesting design of the Lost City ruins that makes them so attractive, but the landscape around them.
The area is surrounded by dense green forest, with the occasional tall palm towering overhead.
The Lost City is located overlooking an immense valley, and the distant thunder of waterfalls is barely all that breaks the silence.