The Lost City is a single site, yet it has many ways of perceiving itself depending on what eyes it is seen through. We want to show you how this beautiful place has been conceived depending on the observer through time. We hope that this article will increase the value that this archaeological site, the Lost City, has for you.

The Lost City according to its builders

As the first inhabitants of this area spread to different parts of the Sierra Nevada their culture also developed. For example, the architecture of the Tayrona people is the result of centuries of adaptation to the different environments they inhabited, such as plains, valleys and mountains.

Spiritual indigenous leader home Lost City

The first constructions in this area date back to the 6th or 7th century BC so we can imagine the first builders raising the stone and earth platforms and building roads to connect each new village with another. For them, this site became their place of dwelling and doing their daily activities such as growing corn, avocado, cocoa, cotton, among others. Commercial exchanges with people who lived in other areas, pottery, gold work and hunting in the surroundings. The Lost City is a place with enough water, either from rain or from nearby rivers, and it is also very rich in biodiversity, surely for the inhabitants it was a very suitable place to live.

Over time, it may also have been seen as a refuge from colonization during the 16th and 17th century, to which unfortunately came diseases brought from the new world and for which the natives had no natural defenses. Epidemics could cause a social unstability in many villages and hence abandoned and the survivors spread to other areas. Although the latter is only a hypothesis that can be taken into account since the abandonment of indigenous villages was common during the conquest due to epidemics.

From this moment the site remained uninhabited until its discovery in the 70s of the 20th century.

The Lost City according to its discoverers

Broken clay pot
Methods of looting archaeological artefacts involve the destruction of their containers, such as this clay pot

Unfortunately, those who discovered the site were ‘guaqueros’ (grave robbers and traders in archaeological objects). For them, it was the equivalent of discovering a gold mine.

Soon, those who had discovered the Lost City began to attract the attention of other guaqueros, who also found the place. By then, a dispute broke out to control the area, so Ciudad Perdida was seen as the originator of a bitter confrontation, which gave it the name Infierno Verde or “Green Hell”. 

Many archaeological pieces began to flood the market and the looting that was taking place became noticeable. In addition, one of the original discoverers of the Lost City informed the authorities in Bogotá about the site and what was happening. From then on, efforts would be made to protect the site and make it an object of study.

The Lost City according to archaeologists

To discover this archaeological site officially, a commission was created to study it. The Buritaca river valley also had other sites that were numbered as they were located, so for the archaeological record, what is now popularly known as the Lost City, was called Buritaca 200. For the archaeologists, Buritaca 200 was a great opportunity to learn more about the culture that had inhabited the area. However, even though the ruins had resisted the passage of time, they required restoration. These works, both the arrival of the first commission to the site, and its study and restoration were done with the help of guaqueros and locals who knew the area and the ruins very well.

The Lost City according to actual indigenous tribes

Frog carved on stone
For the indigenous tribes, objects as this frog of stone are offerings Tayrona made many years ago and must be kept where they buried them. They help to keep the balance of the earth.

The indigenous people claim that they have always known about the existence of the Lost City, in fact they say that in their oral tradition there is a story about the site. From a scientific point of view, the archaeological evidence shows that the site was totally unknown to anyone for approximately 400 years.

In any case, today Ciudad Perdida is a sacred place for the indigenous tribes that inhabit the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, it is a point where they make offerings to the gods or guardian spirits to maintain the balance of the Sierra Nevada and therefore of the cosmos. For them Ciudad Perdida is called Teyuna in honor of a mythical hero who gave birth to the fathers of the natural elements.

The Lost City according to the rest of the world

The restoration and study works were from 1976 to 1986 when it opened its doors to the public. Since then it began to position itself as a tourist destination of worldwide interest. So the famous trek to Ciudad Perdida became for many another item on their bucket list or a challenge to be faced.

After doing the trek for many it becomes their highlight of their trip to Colombia, a lifechanging experience or a dream come true.

So now the question is…

What will the experience of the trek to Ciudad Perdida be like for you?

We cannot write for you what the trek to Ciudad Perdida will mean to you, so connect with a place that has been conceived in so many ways through time and discover the treasures it has for you! Write your own story!

We have said ours is a community-based tourism company, but what do we mean when we use these words? Aren’t there other companies that also do community tourism in Santa Marta? In fact, what is community tourism? In this article we will answer these three questions.

What is community-based tourism?

In the community-based tourism concept there are some key factors that we take into account: firstly the participation of local residents in tourism activity, by inviting tourists to stay in their homes, eat local food, provide a cultural exchange, among others. And secondly, the way the tourism activities improve their economy and quality of life. In many cases the community can partner with the private sector, which provides logistic, clientele, marketing and other expertise.

Community-based tourism makes it possible for visitors to discover things that would otherwise be impossible or difficult to see or experience, such as get to exclusive places to see wildlife, or other off the beaten track tourist attractions and/or know the traditions of very reserved communities. On the community side, however, it opens up to commercial and cultural exchange that also allows it to gain visibility locally and even internationally.

Community tourism in Santa Marta

Today Santa Marta has a growing portfolio of activities that belong to the community tourism category, some of them in the urban area where there is a social work in the background and approach with some popular neighborhoods of the city, in the rural areas, with peasant communities, where you can do some activities of the agrotourism and ecotourism, and of course, with the indigenous communities Arhuaca, Kogi and Wiwa, to know their vision of the world, their crafts and culture.

Is safe the community tourism in Santa Marta?

Fortunately we can say yes to that question. Perhaps what could concern you a little more about this type of tourism in Santa Marta is the issue of infrastructure. Some places are quite far from the city, have limited or no mobile coverage, and also have limited some services or amenities. However, as we mentioned earlier, the fact that the options of community-based tourism in Santa Marta continues to grow, is also a guarantee that efforts are being made to continually improve. For example, in Ciudad Perdida there is already an internet connection in every campsite, two years ago the communication was much more limited.

Tourism companies in Santa Marta that do community-based tourism

If you are a tourist, you will have seen that the most important tourist destinations in the city are right… on the outskirts of the city. And it is on the outskirts of the city, in the rural area, in the mountains, where we find the peasant and indigenous communities that move most of the community tourism in the region.

Many times these initiatives require the support of already established companies, as we saw, this partnertship benefits both parties. Although this is true in the majority of cases there are businesses created by the communities themselves, in this way they get even more resources. Mega Sierra Tour is in this category, we are a company created by the community and for the community.

The communities are Mega Sierra Tour

Rural school at El Mamey
El Mamey one of the communities represented by Mega Sierra Tour

At this point you can see the difference between those businesses that support community tourism and those whose very roots are in the community. For this reason we take pride in the work we do and the impact we generate. In total, Mega Sierra Tour represents 6 communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, two of them are La Aguacatera, and El Mamey, the community of the village where the Lost City trek starts. The others are: Honduras, Casa ‘e tabla, San Martín and Quebrada del Sol.

All of them, have a great potential for ecotourism, that is why Mega Sierra Tour and Asojuntar G.B.D are working on the “Colibrí Trochilinas de mi Sierra” initiative, to bring more development to these communities. We know, both, our beloved customers and all the people that work with us, will be supporting this great project called Mega Sierra Tour, a company that takes care of the people and the environment.

Would you like to know a little bit about the logistics of the Lost City trek? Let’s see what happens behind the scenes that makes possible this adventure.

Before the trek

The day before the trek they made sure that the pick up for the departure was arranged and clear. We should know what time we will pick us up at our accommodation, if we had to arrive at the office or if they would pick us up on the way to Ciudad Perdida.

Starting the tour

They carried the group’s information on a form. The driver and the guide kept one each. They also sent forms to the indigenous and peasant communities and to the ICANH (Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History) which is in charge of the conservation of the Archaeological Park.

Our guide was very early in the public market of Santa Marta acquiring all the supplies needed for the trek. He took into account the size of the group and our food preferences. All supplies were carried in the same vehicle that transported the group that day.

After having the supplies, the pickup started. Meanwhile, at the office, they were registering everyone’s details to the medical assistance service and reporting to Migración Colombia (Colombia’s immigration office). Well, they do that and more boring office stuff, but quite important as you see.

The trek

When we arrived at El Mamey, we had lunch. In the village, we ate lunch in restaurants of the peasant community. There you can leave the luggage you do not need for the trek, it is free of charge and safe. You can pick up your luggage on the last day of the tour.

At this time we could get to know our guide better, who gave us more information about the tour and some recommendations.

During the trek, our cook went ahead of us, he must arrive with enough time to prepare our food. In the old days the cook had to carry everything! They even cooked with wood, for which the cook was also responsible to get. For this reason, even today the cook is called porter. Everyday, both the guide and the cook get up early to have everything ready to start the hike between 6 and 7 AM.

The mules on the trail carry the food to each camp and only carry supplies. Since the price is based on the animal carrying several bundles of food, renting a mule to carry just one backpack, is quite expensive.

Staff and communication

Alfredo Campsite - Lost C‫ity
Alfredo camp, one of the campsites where to stay the first day of the tour.

As most guides do not speak English, there is an interpreter who also helps the guide in some cases. For example, if there are tourists who are very far behind, the guide stays with them and the interpreter can go ahead with those who walk faster and do not need as much help.

All camps and companies were connected via walkie-talkie, but since some months ago all camps got internet connection to which staff have access and thus can communicate more quickly and directly with each office in Santa Marta (Tourists have access in two of the three camps).

The staff working on the trail includes people we have not mentioned yet.

At the campsites there are “cabañeros” (managers or owners of the cabin), who manage the accommodations and together with their staff are in charge of organizing and cleaning.

ICANH officials who look after the Lost City ruins, manage the carrying capacity and issue the tickets. In addition, there is a base of the Colombian army in the area.

The last day of the tour

The last day, we end in El Mamey, any extra luggage is picked up at the restaurant where we say goodbye to our adventure with a delicious lunch. A car that is dropping off a group of new trekkers, took us to Santa Marta.

All the people along the Teyuna – Ciudad Perdida trail act as one to make this tour an unforgettable experience. Do not hesitate to book it!

Note: Some details may vary from one tour to another.

natural soap Mega Sierra Tour
The package of the natural soaps are made of renewable materials.

Mega Sierra Tour takes pride in providing tours with the goal of improving the lives of the communities of the region. But we have a commitment with our customers and the environment too. Talking about this should not be limited to simple words written somewhere, but actions, whether they are small or big ones.

We make some improvements that continually show to our customers, our commitment with them and the land we are preserving. In this article, we will mention our recent changes that will enhance your appreciation for what happens behind the Lost City trek by Mega Sierra Tour.

Our contribution to the health of our rivers and streams

Any human activity impacts in any way the environment, and tourism is not the exception. For example, all the personal care stuff we use have chemicals that unavoidably end in our streams. We are so conscious of this, for that reason, Mega Sierra Tour is including natural soaps in the tour as a gift for our customers. They are made of coca leaves or organic coffee, in a way they will not pollute our streams. These soaps not only are made of natural products connected with the Sierra Nevada and our native communities they are our contribution to the health of our rivers and a ecological present to whom is choosing us.

Our contribution to the farmers of the region and the improvements of the food you eat

The area where the tour happens is a fertile area where most farmers cultivate mainly for their own. Nonetheless, many of them produce enough to sell to others. As they are not producing food on a large scale, many of these products are organic.

We saw many of these products could be used as ingredients in the kitchens of the Lost City trail. That way we would provide more organic food to the tourists while we do our contribution to the communities as well. In january 2020, we started changing some ingredients and providing new recipes to the tourists. So, now we have a healthier and more varied offer. This change has been progressive and slow, but we are happy with the results obtained: the food continues to be as delicious as always, but less repetitive. Variety is the spice of life!

Our contribution to a well informed tourist

The latest efforts of Mega Sierra Tour include to provide better information to the tourists and our commercial allies. In our blog you will not only find updated information but also the most accurate it could be. For example, our announcement about the cancellation of the 3-day Lost City Trek was one of the most read articles, and believe it or not, up to this date, there are Lost City tour operators still offering a tour they cannot sell anymore! On the other hand, outdated blog articles claim things like: You will be totally offline while doing the trek, give you a wrong price, the transportation used is a “chiva” bus (a typical colorful bus in Colombia), or the tour is not provided in English. The truth is: Most campsites have internet connection (you need to pay a small fee to have access), the price in 2020 is $ 1,150,000 COP, the car used is an air-conditioned 4×4 one, and all the companies provide Spanish/English translators.

Stream Lost City trail
“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”

In our article about why you should do the Lost City trek with Mega Sierra we provide you reasons about why we are a different company and the experience we provide is quite better than others. We hope you can see what makes our company reliable, quality of service focused, and of course, our commitment to the environment and you.

 

Mega Sierra Tour is proud to tell the world it belongs to 6 rural communities (veredas) of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta: Honduras, El Mamey, La Aguacatera, Casa ‘e tabla, San Martín and Quebrada del Sol. As any community tourism based company, Mega Sierra Tour is committed to the economic development  and preservation of the region.

Despite these six communities cover a much wider area than the Ciudad Perdida – Teyuna Trail, this was practically the only tourist route being exploited for tourism. Based on that, Mega Sierra Tour and Asojuntar G.B.D. created an initiative to involve all the communities more actively. That is where the project “Colibrí Trochilinas de mi Sierra” came from. Originally, the initiative intended to create birdwatching routes, hence the name of it, Colibrí (Hummingbird) and Trochilinas, from Trochilinae, a subfamily of humingbirds.

Liliana Torres one of the pioneers of the project, on the left of the picture, receiving the certificate of the “Misión Pymes” at FITUR.

The project is supported by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and Procolombia trough a strategy that help similar projects nationwide. It goes without saying, there was a national call to review the initiatives and ours was one of 52 community tourism projects selected that together form the Red Nacional de Turismo Comunitario (National Network of Community Tourism). Now, Mega Sierra Tour envisions the expansion of the project to cover not only birdwatching routes but ethnotourism, adventure and others, due to the almost infinite potential of this area.

Recently, Mega Sierra Tour and Asojuntar G.B.D. were at FITUR. With the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism and Procolombia support there was a great opportunity to show the initiative to more people and learn so much more about the development of such projects. It was an honor for us to represent the community tourism in Santa Marta at this event and we hope to continue to cultivate the seed of community tourism that is truly responsible for the environment and the people to whom we serve: our communities and you.