The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia


One of the most recommended routes in South America is the route to the lost city from the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. A mountain range open to the general public in the late 1990s after the cessation of FARC operations and the problem with drug trafficking patterns that reigned there. Today if you like great hiking trails and some dose of adventure, this is your trip.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

The most recommended route to the Lost City of Colombia

The knowledge of the lost City It is relatively recent. It is not until the early 1970s when it was discovered "officially" since the Tayronas, indigenous people who inhabit the Sierra Nevada knew him forever and were anxious to tell. They knew that tourism can do a lot of damage if it is not organized properly.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

With its opening to the public, walkers soon arrived, creating local operators 4 or 5 day routes and with a limited number of people. Going for free is not an option, since we are in an indigenous reserve and we must follow certain rules of citizenship.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

Given its initial success, the problems of supply, security and creation of camps in unsuitable places began. In 2003, a group of tourists was kidnapped, which forced them to deploy several army units throughout the route constantly. To this, several camps were dismantled due to landslide problems and placed in areas less exposed to natural hazards. These are things of the past.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

Today it is a 99% safe route although there are certain details to improve that we will discuss later to be able to mark 100%.

Facts about the route to the Lost city

Before hiring anything, the ideal would be to be in a good physical state and be aware of what we have ahead. Then the reality is very different and many people make the route more with their soul since their body carries it dragging all the way.

DistanceSlope of riseSlope of descentEstimated time
Stage 1 7.68 km523m 62m 3 hours
Stage 2 19.70 km1090m 923m > 8 hours
Stage 3 15.34 km703m572m 6 hours
Stage 4 15.48 km683m929m 5 hours
Total 58.2 km 3000m 3000m 4 days

Ahead, we have almost 60 kilometers of route with about 3000m of slope, at heights mainly below 1000 meters. If this adds to the mud, humidity, heat and weather conditions it is like doing some more travel. In any case we cannot catalog the route as hardbecause it isn't, it's character means, medium. Keep in mind that you are going in very different groups, with very prepared people and people who have not seen the mountain in your life. The latter leads to a low pace during the route and gives time to rest as many times as you want.

Route to the Lost City of Colombia

There are hard ramps, especially if it is raining. Even so with patience they are bearable and usually at the end of these there is always a refreshment post.

Approach Santa Marta to Machete Pelao (2h30 ') - Start of the route

In 4 × 4 vehicles we will travel from Santa Marta to La Agacatera, a few kilometers later at the entrance to Tayrona Park. From here a dirt or mud track, depending on the day, will take us to Machete Pelao. This track is very uncomfortable and is prone to landslides so we can find it closed early in the morning. In our case it was cut and we had to wait almost 2 hours until it was open.

Route to the Lost City of Colombia - Machete Pelao

In Machete Pelao you usually have lunch to later start the route. This stage is the lightest of the entire route to the Lost City.

Stage 1: Machete Pelao at Vista Hermosa Camp

A short stage of just 7.2 kilometers and something more than 500 meters of unevenness. Everything runs along a wide track where mules and motorcycles circulate to Camp Vista Hermosa. Other groups go directly to the next camp (Adam).

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

The track is built to cover the minimum possible path and looks like a firewall. There is hardly any zig zags and to climb a slope goes directly to the braves. All straight, which hinders its progress especially in muddy conditions.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

More information in the following article: Day 1 to Lost City - Machete Pelao - Vista Hermosa.

Stage 2: Vista Hermosa Camp to Paso Lorenzo Camp

It is perhaps the longest and toughest stage of the entire route to the Lost City. Almost20 kilometers to walk and about 1000 meters of unevenness on muddy slopes. The best are the landscapes, which are sublime and finally the route will be mainly protected by trees and without motorcycle tracks. The previous stage was very exposed to the sun.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

More information in the following article: Day 2 - Lost City - Beautiful Vista Camp at Paso Lorenzo.

Stage 3: Camp Lorenzo Pass - Lost City - Wiwa Camp

Day D. More than 15 kilometers ahead and the day we will arrive in the Lost City to stay with our mouths open. A completely lost place of the hand of God and in a spectacular location.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

From the Paso Lorenzo camp we will have to cross the Burataca River, and it is right to cross it for the second time when we will reach the 1200 steps that separate us from the Lost City. A worthy rival for Machu Picchu.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

More information in the following article:Day 3 - Arrival in the Lost City or Lost City

Stage 4: Wiwa Camp - Machete Pelao

With the main work done, it's time to return along the same road for more than 15 kilometers and steep slopes. The route to the Lost City is linear and every road has to be traveled in reverse to return.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

This day is accompanied by two very steep ascending sections, separated from each other by two descending sections. In total about 15km and 1000m of unevenness.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

More information in the following article: Day 4 - End of the route to Lost City - Back to Santa Marta.

Stage 5 (optional): Vista Hermosa Camp - Machete Pelao

If we choose this option, tell you that you only have 7 kilometers of descent with just less than 600 meters of unevenness. Therefore the previous day we would have spent our energy on two strong sections of ascent and one of descent, taking an additional day of rest in the cabin Adam before arriving at Machete Pelao. I think it is not worth it.

Practical data to go to the Lost City

Before leaving for Colombia

  • Guide of the Lonely Planet of Colombia
  • Airport Transfers
  • Car rental in Colombia with a 15% discount

4 or 5 days to make the route to Lost City?

It all depends on our physique. If you do routes frequently or find yourself in good shape, choose the 4-day option. The hardness does not lie in the length or unevenness of the route, but in the conditions of the route and the excess heat / humidity.

The 5-day option only differs from the 4-day option in that instead of going from the Wiwa camp to Machete Pelao directly, it is done one more night at an intermediate point. This only avoids walking 7 kilometers more and only 550 meters of slope of all descent. In my view unnecessary.

By the way, the cost of the 4-day route with respect to the 5-day route is null. Both have the same price.

What to take to the Lost City

All agencies indicate that we carry the minimum possible weight, but it is because they think of all physical conditions. If you carry more weight there is no problem if your body holds it. That was my choice and it went pretty well. From my point of view we must take:

  • A t-shirt and spare pants. If possible, removable for long night wear and avoid insects.
  • A first aid kit. They lack it ...
  • Strong anti mosquito repellent. They are a big problem.
  • A frontal or flashlight.
  • Canes will be extremely useful in mud and rain conditions. Then you see a lot of people with sticks ...
  • A small towel and a toiletry bag with the basics.
  • Cap, sunglasses and protective cream.
  • Clean socks for each day.
  • Boots, not short shoes. The latter is a scourge and looks too much. In mud you will pay dearly to see how you get wet first.
  • Optional a sleeping bag or camping sheet. There have been cases of beds or hammocks with bed bugs.
  • A thin long sleeve t-shirt. In the last camp you can cool a lot at night.
  • A poncho and plastic bags to protect everything from the backpack.
  • Newspaper to dry the boots. Drying things is very difficult in such a humid environment and with a newspaper we can extract the moisture inside the shoe.
  • Stoppers if you don't like to hear snoring during the night.
  • Obligatory insurance.

Am I going to get wet on the route to the Lost City?

Almost certainly. The area is very rainy and the rains are constant, especially in the afternoon after 15:00. Therefore it is strictly necessary to store everything in plastic bags and wear a poncho that covers the backpack in addition to our body. Wearing a gore-tex jacket is wasting time ...

Since there is a lot of quagmire, taller boots tend to get less muddy and do not enter water at ankle height. In any case, if it rains well, we will reach openwork up. In addition there is a lot of river to cross and it is possible that we screw up in one of them.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

In the camps there are shopkeepers to dry clothes. This does not dry overnight and the boots either. The latter we can use newspapers to extract moisture from inside. Highly effective.

Do not forget to put in the medicine cabinet any solution for the blisters. With wet socks they come out fast or for those who do not walk regularly, it is essential.

Any problem with insects or snakes?

The main problem is mosquitoes. They are voracious and only with the best repellent can we avoid them. They attack at all hours and it is convenient to check our mosquito net before going to bed.

The spectacular route to the Lost City of Colombia

In addition to the repellent and long night clothes, some solution that avoids the itching caused by the bites should be carried. No one is saved from them.

Snakes appear on the road at dusk and during the night. It is convenient to arrive one hour before nightfall at the camp to avoid scares.

If I am not able to finish the route to the Lost City, what do I do?

For everything there is a solution and this always has a cost. Getting down on a mule until the first camp costs 120000 pesos. From this you can get down to Machete Pelao by motorcycle by 20,000 pesos.

How much does it cost to go to the Lost City?

There are about 4 or 5 agencies that organize the trekking. All with the same agreed price. The service in all is very similar, with similar approach cars, ..., etc. A good option is to do it via Civitatis since the price is the same and the quality is guaranteed.

 Lost City Tour

Which agency to choose for the route to Lost City

To this I have some observations. Only one company makes use of local people as guides, the Wiwas, one of the Tayrona communities. Therefore part of the money invested goes to them. The downside of this is that sometimes the guide has limited Spanish and his explanations are very light. They do not speak English and the distances and slopes are not very controlled.

Other companies, on the other hand, make use of guides from nearby cities and in several languages, which leads to having large groups. Therefore, nothing is perfect.

What are the camps like in Lost City?

The one who expects comfortable hotels or mountain huts in European or North American style makes it clear. The camps in Lost City are basic but sufficient.

They all contain beds or hammocks with mosquito nets covered by a roof and without walls. Bathrooms and showers, between 2 and 4 of each per camp. There is also a dining area where we can charge our devices.

Route to the Lost City of Colombia

The light goes out at 8:00 p.m. and everyone must go to sleep. The camps have ropes to hang clothes. There is also the option of leaving things if we go back to sleep in the same camp later.

How are the meals on the road?

The food is not very varied where patacón is served in all dishes. To this is added rice, a small salad plus chicken or fish. There is 100% vegetarian option.

Sometimes you put pasta and steak with roasted or mashed potatoes. The dessert is usually an energy bar or some oreo cookies. The drink is always with natural juices or panela.

Breakfast is with scrambled eggs and fruit. Coffee, juice and chocolate.

Note that there are refreshment points where pineapple, watermelon or oranges are offered for free. You can also buy things along the way, especially drinks.

Is there water along the way?

All camps have free potable water. There we can refill our bottles. If we run out of water along the way, there are some stalls that sell them, along with other types of drinks. Always at a high price given the complexity of the supply.

Can you buy food during the route?

There are drinks, fruits, nuts as well as energy bars that can be bought.

Is there any kind of danger on the Lost City route?

The route is safe at the level of robberies and kidnappings. It is protected by the army in all sections and lately there are no such problems.

The problem may come if we stay in a camp exposed to landslides, such as the one after the Paso Lorenzo camp on the banks of a river.

Another detail is the rivers to cross. There are barely two bridges on the entire route. The rest of the rivers are crossed to the brave ones, by means of a rope to grab us and in other occasions by a cart hung in the trees. The most dangerous stretch on the last river before reaching the famous 1200 steps that end in the Lost City.

Route to the Lost City of Colombia

This stretch of the river, already crossed previously ..., can come very grown and the currents are very strong. There is only rope from one point to another in a river 1m deep and 20/25 meters wide. Here people have a very bad time and there could be an accident on days with heavy rains.

It would not be the first time that a group does not reach Lost City to find this stretch of the river in extreme conditions.

Many will wonder why there is no bridge ... There are 2 problems with this. The first to bring the materials here. The second that being an unstable area, the bridge could be destroyed with a flood.

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