Ciudad Perdida, (Lost City) is the third of the triumvirate of 'must-sees' on Colombia's Caribbean coast (the other two being Cartagena and Tayrona). The six-day trek is right up there with the Inca Trail in Peru and Roraima in Venezuela, as one of the classic South American adventures and is a truly memorable experience.The site
Discovered only as recently as 1975, Cuidad Perdida was founded near the Río Buritaca between 500 and 700 AD and was surely the most important centre of the Tayrona culture. It stands at 1100 m on the steep slopes of Cerro Corea, which lies in the northern part of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. The site, known as Teyuna to the indigenous locals, covers 400 ha and consists of a complex system of buildings, paved footpaths, flights of steps and perimetrical walls, which link a series of terraces and platforms, on which were built cult centres, residences and warehouses. Juan Mayr's book,
The Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta(Mayr y Cabal, Bogotá), deals beautifully with Ciudad Perdida.
Archaeologists and army guards will ask you for your permit (obtainable in Santa Marta, MA, Turcol or ask at tourist office). Don't forget that Ciudad Perdida is in a National Park: it is strictly forbidden to damage trees and collect flowers or insects. Note also that there are over 1200 steps to climb when you get there.Trekking
Six-day trips can be organized by the tourist office and Turcol in Santa Marta . Price includes transport, mules or porters, guide and food. It is three days there, one day (two nights) at the site, and two days back. The route goes beyond Parque Tayrona on the road to Riohacha, then past Guachaca turns inland to the roadhead at El Mamey. The climb broadly follows the Río Buritaca, and apart from crossing a number of streams, is up all the way. Ciudad Perdida is on a steep slope overlooking Río Buritaca.
You will need to take a tent or a hammock and mosquito net (on organized tours these may be supplied by the guide), a good repellent, sleeping bag, warm clothing for the night, torch, plastic bags to keep everything dry, and strong, quick-drying footwear. Small gifts for the indigenous children are appreciated.
Be prepared for heavy rain - the northern slopes of the Sierra Nevada have an average rainfall of over 4000 mm per year. Check conditions, especially information on river crossings, and ensure you have adequate food, a water bottle and water purifying tablets before you start. Try to leave no rubbish behind and encourage the guides to ensure no one else does. Going on your own is discouraged and dangerous. Route finding is very
difficult and unwelcoming
, paramilitaries and drug traders increase the hazards.Properly organized groups appear to be safe.