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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Machu Picchu is the biggest tourist attraction in South America, which means a LOT of people go there. Being one of them, I can’t complain about the crowd and it’s number one for a reason: the place is truly wondrous. That being said, I longed to go on a trek to an abandoned jungle city, without throngs of fellow visitors. Enter Ciudad Perdida, the Lost City.

Located a short ride from Santa Marta in Colombia’s north, Ciudad Perdida is a remnant of a lost civilization that was founded more than half a millennium prior to Peru’s crown jewel. Rediscovered 40 years ago, the Lost City isn’t as breathtaking a sight, but offers, for now, something Machu Picchu can never again: authenticity.

From the gorgeous jungle trekking, to the indigenous guides, to the city itself, Ciudad Perdida is the adventure many travelers seek. There are hills, valleys, rivers, and waterfalls, and a wide variety of exotic birds and insects. Pumas, jaguars, and other big cats are in the area as well, but rarely seen near the trail. You really can’t ask for more in terms of a walk through the jungle.

The government regulates access to the area and has set a flat rate of 600,000 Colombian Pesos regardless of what tour company you use or if you do a 4 or 5 day trek. Due to these guidelines, the tour operators work in concert with one another and many visitors end up being pooled with customers from other companies. Wiwa is the lone exception to this rule, but their guides do not speak English.

I went with Turcol, a suggestion from Pau at La Guaca, the hostel I stayed at in Santa Marta, and we joined forces with a group from Expotur Eco. The guides were kind, polite, professional, and only spoke Spanish, but members of our group served as translators. All of the guides were from the area (one of our guide’s house was at the first campsite) and their connection to the land greatly enhanced our stay in this special place.

Our group of about 20 was a mix of 4 and 5 day tours and the only difference in itineraries was in the last day or two. Rather than use the additional day to move at a more leisurely pace for the entire trek, those who opted for the fifth day moved with the 4 dayers for the first 3 days and essentially chilled out for the last couple days not far from the end of the trail. Having just one month for this trip, I went for the expedited version and the pace was still rather light.

The food was fine, we slept in beds each night, and there was beer for sale at each campsite. Our group was a great mix of interesting people that undoubtedly added to the overwhelmingly positive experience. I absolutely loved the trekking and the chance to visit a place like Ciudad Perdida before it rises to prominence on the tourist radar was priceless.

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