The Lost City of Tayrona

Sunday, January 10, 2016

It would be an understatement to say that I was less than impressed at the prospects of a 4 day hike through the jungle. It would be an even bigger understatement to say I was a little over dramatic about the whole ordeal during the first few hours. And yes, I am slightly embarrassed of my stick-throwing-rock-kicking tantrum. But and it's a big but, I really couldn't be happier to have had this extraordinary experience. It was worth every bead of sweat (and there were many). I'm very grateful because for one, it was an extremely generous gift and two, I was given a chance to prove something to myself. The Lost City Trek would take us high into the Colombian jungle to The Lost City of Tayrona. 
The Lost City of Tayrona

The Lost City Trek at a glance

Agency: Magic Tour (Other agencies available in Santa Marta)

Cost: $200-$250

✓ Options: 4, 5 or 6 day trek

✓ Where to stay: Dreamers, Santa Marta (Before and after - also help with booking) 

✓ Included: All food and accommodation on the trek plus guides

✓ Food: 3 meals plus snacks - Veggie and Vegan options


All prices in US Dollars


Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
Welcome to the jungle


The Lost City Trek explained

The Lost City Trek is a 4-7 day hike through the stunning Tayrona National Park in the Magdalena province of Northern Colombia. The length of time and difficulty vary and you can take part in a 4, 5 or 6 day trek. 4 days being the most difficult.

We somehow managed to sign ourselves up for the 4 day trek, the shortest time scale and the most physically demanding. What were we thinking?

I won't sugar coat this, The Lost City Trek is tough. It's very tough. In fact it's actually the single toughest thing I've ever done! All of the guides that lead the expeditions are genuine members of the Tayrona indigenous community most of them know the area like the back of their hands. 

Most of the guides you meet have lived and worked within the national park all of their lives, even the ones who no longer live here still have connections through relatives and often through sentiment for the area. This may not sound like a big deal right now but it's pretty impressive when you realise how remote some of these communities are. 

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The hiking duo - Jamie and his brother Dan

The lost people of Tayrona

The communities that live within Tayrona National Park have lived a troubled existence especially during the times of paramilitaries that once occupied most of the park for a very long period of time. 

Nowadays, through tourism efforts these peoples are able to promote a sustainable way of living and education across the indigenous population of Tayrona. After years of friction between the indigenous communities of Tayrona and the infamous Colombian Paramilitaries and drug cartels the people of Tayrona now have full rights to the land in the national park. 

The people of Tayrona have full access to something they have believed is rightfully theirs for thousands of years. And now, perhaps these people have an alternative and hopefully brighter future to what was before. Thanks to tourism. It then leads to an important question of sustainability I hope these people are prepared to answer and deal with over the years to come. 

I couldn't help feeling a level of contempt for these people knowing that their families were free from the grip of cartels and paramilitaries. Knowing their lives are no longer bound to the Coca plant and knowing that their children won't have to face the hardships that their ancestors did. It's slightly off topic but I think it's worth mentioning.


The Darien Gap Explained

The main reason there is no land travel between Panama and Colombia is because a large number of guerrillas operating in that part of Colombia and an area known as the Darien Gap. We always joked that if we ran out of money we would risk a quick trip through the Darien but in reality it's no joking matter. It's an extremely dangerous place and people have been known to disappear and worse in this area. If there's one thing I've learnt it's that although stories like that about backpackers disappearing in the jungle sound far fetched they are very true.
The Lost City of Tayrona
Jungle trekker - The Lost City of Tayrona

Reaching The Lost City

The overall aim of the hike is to reach an ancient archaeological site named The Lost City or Ciudad Perdida en español. It genuinely couldn't be any more of a "Lost City". It's buried deep in the jungle, hidden behind hundreds of years of history.

Once you reach the Lost City, deep in the Tayrona National Park you are ultimately 4 days from any actual civilisation

You can only reach the summit of Ciudad Perdida on foot which makes reaching the top all that more breathtaking. The summit so imposing because of how secluded it is, the wildlife, the sounds of nature, the midnight fireflies you catch in the distance it all adds to the atmosphere of this wilderness setting.

It's ceremonious looking at this structure feeling above the clouds. Personally, for me, the most spectacular thing was finding out it was only rediscovered in the early 70's. I felt part of a site that so many people are yet to learn about. 

Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
On the way back down from La Ciudad Perdida
Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
Views from on top of the world
La Ciudad Perdida
The city itself was built and used by an ancient civilisation who lived deep in the Tayrona National Park. There are many similar civilisations spread across the Northern area of Colombia and, if I'm honest most of Central and South America. 

There's still a lot to be learnt about the people who lived at The Lost City and why they lived so far from other communities. The general consensus is that they were able to live here and thrive because of the river that runs through the park. 


I'm sure the guides only make you cross the river on the hike several hundred times to highlight its significance


Our night spent at The Lost City differs slightly from the norm, I really can't believe our luck but we were fortunate enough to spend a night at The Lost City actually on the Lost City site. Without exaggerating is extremely rare and only a tiny fraction of tourists ever get to do.  I'm very grateful for this and feel like we were really in the right place at the right time when we met our guide and selected our tour office.

At The Lost City camp there are only enough beds for 14 and somehow the stars aligned and things worked out that our small group would be that 14. I highly doubt this will be an option for other groups much longer once conservation and sustainability factors are in full force in the park.

Our night spent at The Lost City was one filled with icy showers, so much pasta, ghost stories and deep sleep. 

Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
We made it! Wake up early to get the perfect tourist free photos

Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
Jamie relaxing his legs - Looking out from The Lost City

Magic Tour, cost and food

We chose to go with Magic Tour who are based in Santa Marta. Most of the trek organisations are based here so it's usually best to spend the night and start early early. The four day trek costs $250 USD but all food and most provisions are included including camping at the several camps and mosquito nets which are a must.

Arrive in Santa Marta from Cartagena - busses can be booked from the hostels on Calle Media Luna in Cartagena

The food is some of the best we've had on this trip, even the vegetarian option which I fully did not expect. It's pretty remarkable considering the facilities that are available but they somehow make it work. 3 meals a day plus juices, fruit, cakes and snacks. 

Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
Do I look sweaty?
To summarise the trek to The Lost City of Tayrona there's plenty of photo opportunities and picturesque swimming holes to cool down in. On the way up there's a few questionable looking rickety bridges to cross. You come face to face with mule after mule after mule and maybe even every single mule in the whole of Colombia actually

But The Lost City Trek isn't all fun and beautiful nature, expect blisters, countless blisters. You are expected to climb lots of steps to get to the summit of The Lost City and this usually falls on the last day when you're almost ready to give up. Be prepared there's a whole load of carbs waiting for you at the top - well there was for us. 

Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
Indigenous communities of Tayrona National Park
Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
Hidden until 50 years ago - The Lost City of Tayrona
Colombia, The Lost City, The Lost City Trek, Tayrona, South America, travelsandmore, Travel, Travel Blogger
Cute dreamcatcher at The Lost City


The overall cultural and learning experience of The Lost City

Finally and much more importantly by taking part in The Lost City Trek you get to learn about the present and past day people of The Tayrona National Park and why they live so close to nature and the river. It's fascinating how they are able to keep ancient practices alive in modern times. What makes this better is you get to experience everything with your guide, who as I've mentioned is a native from Tayrona. The passion of these people is quite mind blowing. Each person you meet, guides and locals alike all have a profound sense of pride towards Tayrona, it's very inspiring! 

I think what I'm trying to say here is if you plan on doing The Lost City Trek don't take this tour lightly. There's definitely no room for underestimation as I learnt. It's difficult, that goes without saying. But it's worth every aching step and I think you'd struggle to find someone who who tell you any different. For me, I  was able to achieve something I genuinely didn't think I'd be capable of doing. If that's good enough for you along with everything else you discover and learn on this trek then bloody go for it, The Lost City awaits you. 

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