Ciudad Perdida Trek: A Comprehensive List of Tips for 2020

We read a ton of blog posts prior to our Ciudad Perdida, Colombia trek in December 2019. Knowing what to expect and what to bring on the Ciudad Perdida trek (also known as the Lost City trek) was important to us. We were grateful for a lot of the insights, but we found that a lot of the top-ranking posts on the subject are a little outdated, causing us to bring some items we hadn’t needed to.

No one likes extra weight on a trek of this magnitude, so we prepared this updated guide for you to help you better prepare for your journey to Ciudad Perdida.

Carring a large backpack on the Lost City Colombia hike

This is NOT a family-focused blog post, but for background we did the Ciudad Perdida trek with our kids on a 6-day private tour with Magic Tour Colombia (vs the typical 4 day group trek). Over 6 days we had plenty of time to record our observations. We share them here with you in hopes of making your Ciudad Perdida hike the best it can be.

This post contains compensated links.

Ciudad Perdida Trek Difficulty

The Ciudad Perdida trek is challenging, but doable for anyone in decent shape and/or a good level of determination. I’d estimate less than 5% of the hikers on the Lost City trail looked regretful for being there.

The Ciudad Perdida trail winds through the jungle in the Sierra Nevada mountains

Each Lost City tour will have its own itinerary, mainly depending on how many days you have. Here are the stats for the trek between camps. You’ll need to adjust for your trips itinerary.

  • El Mamey to Camp 1: 5 miles (8km) long with 1,560 feet (475m) total elevation gain
  • Camp 1 to Camp 2: 4.2 miles (6.7km) long with 900 feet (275m) total elevation gain
  • Camp 2 to Paradise Camp 3: 4.7 miles (7.6km) long with 1,490 feet (455m) total elevation gain
  • Paradise Camp 3 to Lost City to Camp 3: 2.7 miles (4.3km) long with 835 feet (235m) total elevation gain
  • Paradise Camp 3 to Camp 2: 4.7 miles (7.6km) long with 475 feet (145m) total elevation gain
  • Camp 2 to Camp 1: 4.2 miles (6.7km) long with 965 feet (295m) total elevation gain
  • Camp 1 to El Mamey: 5 miles (8km) long with 805 feet (245m) total elevation gain
The Lost City Colombia trek can be steep and rocky

How Hard are the Stairs to the Lost City?

The final leg of the Ciudad Perdida hike is what intimidates a lot of people, and rightfully so… I mean, there’s 1,200 steps to the top! But what’s it really like hiking to the Lost City?

The 1200 steps from Camp 3 to the Lost City Colombia are steep

After leaving Camp 3, the Lost City trail follows the river and is really beautiful. Before long, you will arrive at the one spot along the entire trek where you will have to get your feet wet.

Hiking through the jungle along the river on the final leg to the Lost City Colombia

The 1,200 steps to the Lost City begin after the river. I’ll give it to you straight… the steps are small, steep and constant. There are very few breaks; they just go straight up and up and up. Your total elevation gain while climbing the Ciudad Perdida steps is approximately 650 feet (200m).

The stairs to the Lost City are steep, but it only takes about 40 minutes to get to the top

That may sound bad to some, but with a little focus and effort, it’s over before you know it. It took us just over 40 minutes to climb the 1,200 steps from the bottom to the top – and keep in mind, our four year old did it all by himself, so you can too!

Facilities on the Lost City Trek

The less stuff you can bring with you to Ciudad Perdida, the better. If you feel like supporting the local Colombians, you can leave some stuff at home and buy what you need along the way. Sure, the prices will be a bit higher here than elsewhere, but let’s face it, we can all afford to spend $2 on a roll of toilet paper…

To help you plan what to pack to Ciudad Perdida, here is a listing of all the stores and facilities along the trail to the Lost City:

Facilities at El Mamey

Your Lost City adventure will begin with a very, very bumpy 4×4 ride up a mountain to the village of El Mamey, where you will begin your Ciudad Perdida trek. There are tons of stores here selling virtually everything you’ll need for the Lost City trek. Don’t expect to find unusual or hard to obtain hiking gear here though.

The Lost City trek begins in the Sierra Nevada village of El Mamey, Colombia

Facilities Between El Mamey and Camp 1

This is the most well-supplied leg of the Ciudad Perdida trek, with three stores along the way. They can be found approximately at 2 miles, 3.5 miles and 3.6 miles (3.2km, 5.6km and 5.8km).

There is a very popular fresh squeezed orange juice stand in-between the first and second stores. The orange juice is only 5,000 Colombian Pesos (COP) (~$1.50USD) per cup, so be sure to stop and rehydrate.

The fresh squeezed orange juice on the Ciudad Perdida trek is delicious

The final store is at the 3.6 mile (5.8km) mark and is just below the first summit of the Ciudad Perdida hike. Here some groups will enjoy some free watermelon (depending on whether your guide arranges this or not).

the watermelon snacks on the Ciudad Perdida trek were so refreshing

At the summit, there is a little store where you can try and buy roasted cocoa beans or pods of prepared cocoa paste.

Facilities Between Camp 1 and Camp 2

There is a village near the high point on this leg at approximately 1.8 miles (2.9km), where you may get to enjoy free watermelon again. You can also buy orange juice, drinks, snacks and some handicraft souvenirs. Bathrooms are available for 2,000 COP (~$0.60USD).

There is another little store at the indigenous village at the 3.4 mile (5.5km) mark. Some groups will stop here to listen to an indigenous person give a short talk about their culture.

Learning about the culture on the Ciudad Perdida trek

The Wiwa indigenous people operate their own Camp 2. You can go river swimming here, get a massage and shop at their store.

We had a chance to leave any unneeded hiking gear behind at Camp 2 and then pick it up on the way back. Although this was very tempting to drop some weight, we figured it was not worth the effort to repack. Perhaps if you gave it some thought ahead of time, you could plan your Camp 2 packing strategy ahead of time.

Facilities Between Camp 2 and Camp 3

This is the least supplied leg of the Lost City hike with only one store between camps 2 & 3, found at the highest point on this leg. Those looking for some contact with the outside world, can also pay for Wi-Fi here – a great chance to update your Instagram feed!

Paradise Camp (Camp 3) offers massages, a well-stocked store and an opportunity to go swimming in the river.

A waterfall in the jungle on the Lost City trek

Food on the Ciudad Perdida Trek

We always worry a little bit when the food supply situation is out of our control, but we’re happy to report the food along the Lost City trek was plentiful and delicious. To give you a feel for what meals you will be served on the Lost City hike, here is what we ate along the way…

Lost City Breakfasts

  • Camp 1: eggs, toasted cheese sandwich, toast with strawberry jam, pineapple and papaya
  • Camp 2: a plate of pineapple, papaya and cantaloupe followed by eggs and toast
  • Paradise Camp 3: cheese arepas with sour cream, sausage, pineapple, papaya, cantaloupe
  • Camp 2: arepas with cheese, toast, pineapple, cantaloupe, papaya
  • Camp 1: cheese empanadas and eggs, pineapple, papaya and cantaloupe

Coffee is available at every camp. The only dairy option is powdered creamer.

Empanadas and scrambled eggs for breakfast on the Lost City trek

Lost City Lunches

  • El Mamey: pre-trek lunch at an outdoor restaurant. We ate salsa chicken, beans, rice, plantain, onion and tomato salad (Caution: we got more mosquito bites here than on the rest of the trek! Dig out your insect repellent before going in!)
  • Camp 2: beef vegetable soup with rice and Milo chocolate cookies
  • Paradise Camp 3:  spaghetti with meat sauce
  • Camp 2: salsa chicken, rice, root vegetable soup
  • Camp 1: sausage, rice, salad, beans
the spagehtti with meat sauce was one of our favorite lunches on the Lost City Colombia hike

Lost City Dinners

  • Camp 1: a huge plate of avocado slices, a whole (head-on) fried fish, rice, plantain and salad. GOL chocolate bars for dessert
  • Camp 2: chicken fillet and french fries. GOL chocolate bars
  • Paradise Camp 3: salsa chicken, rice, potato & Guava candy
  • Camp 2: steak, yucca, carrots and green beans. GOL chocolate bars for dessert
  • Camp 1: steak, mashed potatoes, salad, large brownie
Salsa chicken was one of our favorite foods on the Lost City Trek

Lost City Drinking Water

Purified drinking water is provided free of charge at each camp. We had read many reports of the provided drinking water tasting bad due to the purification tablets, but we thought the water tasted perfectly fine. We saw evidence of modern water filtration systems at most of the camps, so this could be one reason why.

The Real Number of Ciudad Perdida River Crossings

Our pre-trip research highlighted the need to bring sports sandals due to the large number of rivers you need to cross on foot. This is completely outdated information as many new bridges have been built along the trail.

Dogs cross one of the new bridges on the trail to Ciudad Perdida Colombia

Our Lost City guide assured us that unless you get unusually unlucky, if you are hiking during the dry season (October onwards), you will be able to keep your feet dry crossing most streams by jumping across large rocks. Recent upgrades to the Ciudad Perdida trail means there are now bridges across all the rivers, except one.

Using a bridge to cross a river on the Lost City trail

There is only one river crossing left which still requires you to get your feet wet, found between Camp 3 and the climb to Ciudad Perdida. There are two ropes spanning the river which you use for balance.

A mom and her son cross a river on the final leg of the Ciudad Perdida hike

Water levels will vary for each trip, but for us it was up to the middle of our thighs. We used our sports sandals, but we could have crossed barefoot (as our English translator did).

We love our Keen sports sandals, but had we known this, we would have left four pairs at home and simply walked across the river in our bare feet.

Ciudad Perdida Dry Season Trail Conditions

A lot of blog posts talk about how muddy it is along the Ciudad Perdida trail, but again, this can be a bit misleading. When did they do their hike – was it during rainy season? 

Here’s what you need to know about the Lost City trail conditions in dry season:

Rain and Mud

This is tropical jungle, so it can and will rain at any time. It rained on us on two afternoons, after we got into camp. One rainfall was short and very hard, while the other lasted a few hours. All the camps are well protected against the rain, but your stuff may still get wet if you are hanging it to dry on a clothesline and forget to bring it in.

We were also well prepared with covers for our backpacks plus large garbage bags to further protect our contents, if it rained while we were hiking. We added a few extra large ziploc bags to keep wet clothes separate too. While the ziploc bags were useful for keeping our clothes organized, we didn’t need any of them to keep our clothes dry.

You’ll encounter virtually every type of trail condition along the way, so it’s essential you have a good pair of hiking shoes. Be sure to break them in well ahead of time – this is not a great time to get blisters from your new boots.

Our well used hiking shoes on the hike to the Lost City Colombia

Despite the rain we encountered, the Ciudad Perdida trail was largely dry, although we did encounter a few muddy sections. Most of the time there will be a dry trail around the muddy sections, but there may be a few spots where mud can’t be avoided. Be careful in these spots, as the trail is mostly clay and it’s very slippery when wet – most of us fell at least once in the mud.

The section of the Lost City trail between camps 2 & 3 is the most challenging. You’ll find yourself stepping over many large rocks and constantly watching your step due to large tree roots jutting out of the ground.

The Lost City trail get get rocky and muddy

Speaking of trail conditions, I was happy to see how clean the trail was. There was virtually no garbage or water bottles along the trail sides. Having hiked many popular treks before, this is not often the case, so please do your part to help keep the Ciudad Perdida trek clean. 

the Ciudad Perdida trail was virtually free of garbage

What’s it Really Like in the Lost City Camps

What are the beds like at Lost City Camps?

The beds in the Ciudad Perdida camps are typically long rows of bunk beds.

Rows of beds lined with mosquito netting at a Ciudad Perdida camp

The quality of the bedding ranged from well-worn to quite new. The pillows were well used and quite flat. Reports of the blankets and pillows being smelly were untrue.

Each bed has mosquito netting all around, which you tuck under your mattress to keep it tight. This does a good job of keeping the the bugs out of your bed.

mosquito netting on the beds on the Ciudad Perdida trek Colombia

What are the showers like at the Lost City Camps?

There are multiple single-stall showers at each camp. The line-ups for the showers are often short and manageable. The water is so cold, it will literally make you scream, but the shock wears off quickly. Soon you’ll be enjoying a chance to cool off after a long day of hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains under the scorching Colombian sun.

the shower stalls at Ciudad Perdida camp 1

What are the toilets like on the Ciudad Perdida Trek?

The quality of the toilets in the Lost City camps are hit-or-miss. Many toilets (in the mens toilets) were missing seats and people often didn’t respect the mens vs womens toilets, likely due to the missing seats. Be prepared to wipe down the seat before you go…

Toilets at Camp 1 on the Lost City hike

We heard toilet paper wasn’t provided at the Lost City camps, so we packed our own. Sure enough, there was often no toilet paper provided at the camp, so we used the two full rollls that we brought from home.

Will I Sleep well at the Ciudad Perdida Camps?

Don’t expect to get a lot of sleep while trekking to Ciudad Perdida. It’s not due to partying or people making noise though…

On a typical night, the lights get turned out in camp between 8:30 – 9:00pm. Almost everyone goes into their bed at this time and it gets very quiet.

Dogs will bark throughout the night and roosters will start crowing anytime after 3am. And just when you fall back asleep from the roosters, the camp lights get turned on every morning between 4:45 – 5:30am.

Sunrise over the Sierra Nevada mountains, while hiking the Lost City trail Colombia

How cold does it get overnight on the Lost City Trek?

We had read many reports about how cold it can get at night along this trek. We’re from Canada, where we know a little something about being cold. We were curious whether we’d think it was actually cold or not.

The temperature was always quite warm as we went to sleep, but it did get chilly in the wee hours of the morning. We could have survived with the thin sheets provided, but on most nights we also pulled up the additional fleece blankets provided by the camps. We had packed fleece hoodies to wear overnight (not knowing about the provided fleece blankets), so we didn’t end up using them.

A young hiker in his pajamas and a headlamp getting ready for bed at camp on the Lost City trek

What can I buy at the Ciudad Perdida Camps?

The stores found in each camp are small, but well stocked. A sample of items you can expect to find are snacks, bug spray, feminine hygiene products, sunscreen, towels, toothpaste, deodorant, smokes, toilet paper, booze, cookies, crackers, flip flops, etc.

Are there bugs at the Ciudad Perdida overnight camps?

The Lost City hike is in the Colombian jungle, so there will be critters in camp. We read many articles advising you to turn over your shoes in the morning as scorpions like to find a warm bed inside.

Everyone’s experience will be different, but there were no reported scorpions on our trip. It’s probably still a good idea to empty your shoes in the morning just in case.

We only have two stories about jungle bugs from our Lost City hike:

On our first night in a Lost City camp, there was a black tarantula hanging out on the bathroom wall our first night in Camp 1. He never bothered anyone, but it was creepy and unsettling none-the-less.

A tarantula on the wall of Camp 1 toilet on the Ciudad Perdida trek, Colombia

One night we were woken by a guy walking back-and-forth over-and-over with his headlamp on. Not able to sleep, Celine went to the bathroom and the guy approached her looking for tweezers as he had found a tick in his leg. We loaned him our tweezers and we all went back to sleep.

Do you have any tips for the Ciudad Perdida Camps?

  • Hang your clothes on a clothesline covered by a roof when you arrive for camp. It can often rain in the late afternoon / early evening and anyone drying their clothes outdoors will have to run and grab them before they get even more wet.
clothes hanging to dry at the Lost City camps
  • Try to sleep away from washrooms. Sleep too close and you’ll be woken by the headlamps of people walking to the bathroom and then again by the noise of doors opening/closing, toilets flushing, etc.

What to Pack When Hiking Ciudad Perdida

To help you decide what to pack (and what not to pack) on our trek to Ciudad Perdida, we’ve written a separate blog post on What to Pack when Hiking to Ciudad Perdida (coming soon).

An alternate view of Ciudad Perdida Colombia

Ciudad Perdida Tour Companies

All hikers must have a guide to visit the Lost City as solo hiking is not permitted. For most, joining a group tour with an authorized tour group makes the most sense.

We hired Magic Tour Colombia for our 6 day private tour. We were very impressed with Magic Tour Colombia and would recommend them to you. The service was great, we loved our guide and translator, the food was excellent and plentiful. (We paid for the tour and won’t earn a commission for this referral).

A family hikes to Ciudad Perdida with kids

If your Colombia plans involve more than the Lost City trek, check out these great Colombia itineraries from G Adventures and Intrepid.

More Colombia Resources

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Trek to Ciudad Perdida Colombia