– photo of hiking trail to Ciudad Perdida by Matt Leppignton, a copywriter and independent researcher from the UK. Matt likes to travel to places that are steeped in history, especially those that have traces of advanced ancient civilisations.
Ciudad Perdida (translated to English, it literally means “Lost City”) is the archaeological site of an ancient city in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range in northern Colombia. It is believed to have been founded about 800 CE, some 650 years before Machu Picchu. Reclaimed by the jungle, Ciudad Perdida was re-discovered in 1972, when a group of local treasure-looters found a series of stone steps rising up the mountainside and followed them to the abandoned city.
Later, archaeologists reconstructed the lost city, which has now become popular with visitors. The hike to Ciudad Perdida is about 42 km in total, and requires a good level of fitness. It includes a number of river crossings and steep climbs and descents.
“I did the 4-day trek and it was amazing! I actually got a huge blister on both of my little toes after the 2nd day and it made the walk quite uncomfortable, but I met lots of friends along the way and the scenery and environment were so breath-taking that it was hard to complain. On the final day, my blister burst and I was in agony for a while but it was still worth it.”
Read our full conversation with Matt:
I visited Ciudad Perdida in early march, before Colombia locked down in response to the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, Colombia’s lockdown was one of the earliest in the world. It only had around 60 cases when it closed all its borders and quarantined. I was stuck in Cartagena for a month after the lockdown was imposed.
I speak basic Spanish but I’m not fluent. It was a bit awkward trying to find information about the lockdown. I was only told about it by the hotel staff a day before it happened. So I was in a super budget accommodation without windows in Cartagena for the first 4 days of lockdown with 4 Venezuelans who were blasting music all day and watching films till like 3 am. After the first 4 days I was told that we could go to the shop but I almost got arrested on my way there. The police demanded that I return to the hotel, even though I had no food anymore.
So it was a little difficult when the lockdown first started but after several days I moved to an apartment with a kitchen as I figured if I’m gonna be stuck here I may as well go somewhere that’s comfortable. They had huge price reductions too, so it was a good deal and it was in a safer part of town and closed to some big supermarkets. You could only go out once per week depending on your passport number and wearing masks outside was law.
I am safely back in the UK now but I actually quite liked it in Cartagena during the lockdown. I had a balcony and a view of the sea and it was always hot.
I didn’t know too much, no. I’d heard you had to trek to get there which I loved the sound of because it makes it feel rugged and off-the-beaten-track, but I was pretty sad to find out that hundreds of tourists start that hike every day (meaning there are upwards of a thousand on the trail at any time) and this trail cuts straight through indigenous land. The natives aren’t particularly happy to see thousands of westerners every day and I felt pretty bad about contributing towards mass tourism in the area, even if they do get paid for it. Money isn’t that important to them. They still view the lost city as sacred to them.
People definitely became aware as the indigenous people wore all white and were commonly seen along the trail. We also learnt about them and their history from our guides. They’ve had a rough time since the Spanish arrived, then the gold diggers and the drug cartels and now tourists. I guess in that sense at least it isn’t violent but you get the very distinct impression that they want to be left alone.
I think the only thing to lower the impact would be to have less people visit the site, which seems unlikely as it is one of Colombia’s biggest tourist destinations.
Follow our blog for your daily dose of travel inspiration, information and tips. We try to publish atleast one article each day. Check this space for all the latest posts.