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Adventures / Wild Hikes

Trek Colombia’s Mountains and Lost City

Journey through moonscape mountains, up ancient volcanoes, through the coffee zone and dense jungle and waist deep through rivers, before discovering the secrets of a lost city and the indigenous people that still live there.

Location

Colombia

Fly To

Jose Maria Córdova International Airport

Perfect for

This trip is an unforgettable adventure for keen hikers and trekkers in good condition and with some previous experience. While the trekking is not technically difficult, you are trekking for 7 days in total, covering good distances each day with varying terrain and conditions. You will also be trekking at altitude in Los Nevados (up to 4750m).

Difficulty

Challenging

Discover two very different pockets of Colombia as you trek through the remote wilderness of Los Nevados National Park in the South and uncover the ancient Ciudad Perdida in the heart of the jungle in the North.

You’ll trek high altitude paramos, pass towering glacial peaks, climb an extinct volcano, negotiate thick cloud forests, and stay with local mountain dwellers, who may well challenge you to a spot of football.

Then head into the jungle to take on one of the most culturally mysterious hikes on the continent. You'll wade through rivers, wash under waterfalls, learn the traditions of the indigenous communities that still live there before discovering the pre-Hispanic Lost City and the myths and legends behind it.

Spend your last night watching the sun go down on a secluded beach on the Caribbean coast.

Want more time in Colombia? Combine this with our 100km Jungle Expedition to the Heart of Colombia for the ultimate adventure.

What's Included

  • Airport transfers
  • 7 days of trekking
  • 1 internal flight
  • All meals while trekking
  • 3 nights jungle camping
  • 3 nights eco-hotel accommodation
  • 2 nights remote mountain lodge accommodation
  • 2 nights ranch accommodation
  • Qualified English speaking and government-registered guides
  • National Park entrance fees/permits and National Park guides
  • All camping equipment and bedding

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Colombia

Your private transfer will whisk you off to your hotel in Medellin, located in an area of the city surrounded by parkland. If you’ve got time and energy, there’s the option to join your guide on a walk up to a lookout point to take in the mountainous valley and shake some jet lag.

Join the group and your guide later for dinner at a local restaurant where you can sample local Colombian cuisine and get to know your fellow adventurers.

Day 2: Journey to the Coffee Zone

Get ready for a drastic change in landscape. You’ll travel by comfortable public bus (approx. 7 hours) to the colonial Andean town of Salento situated in the UNESCO-listed coffee zone, west of Bogotá.

Passing through rolling hills and agricultural settlements, you’ll get a real insight into rural Colombia, before arriving at your beautiful country ranch for the night, just outside of town.

Day 3: Trek to Valle de Cocora

Trekking boots at the ready as you start your ascent into one of Colombia’s crown jewels, Los Nevados National Natural Park.

Setting off at 2400m, you’ll discover snow-dipped peaks, elevated lagoons and towering volcanoes, as you emerge from the wispy cloud forests beneath. Keep your eyes out for the alien-like frailejones that sprout from the paramo, parrots and marmots. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a spectacled bear!

Whilst the way is testing, the paths are well marked, and dotted with iconic wax palms, the tallest palm trees in the world.

You’ll arrive at your overnight mountain lodge late afternoon, time to grab a quick ‘tinto’ or ‘aromatica’ before settling in for the evening and taking in the stunning views of La Tolima volcano.

Approx. 6 hours hiking / 1090m elevation gain

Day 4: Paramillo del Quindio (4750m) Ascent

Today is a tough long day as you’ll set out to bag the glacier-looking peak, Paramillo del Quindio (4750m), one of the highest mountains in the national park.

You’ll start hiking as a group until you reach a high-altitude lagoon (3980m). For those feeling the altitude, there is the option to turn around and do a much shorter loop. Peak-baggers will carry on through the different ecosystems, past endemic plants, whilst condors circle above the trail.

Once at the top of this stunning multi-coloured sand mountain, you’ll have time to enjoy the views from the top before heading down to a different mountain lodge for the evening. Be sure to look up at night to marvel at the blanket of stars above.

Approx. 10 hours hiking / 1250m elevation gain

Day 5: Cloud Forest Descent

Setting off early today, you’ll take an alternative route through the humid Cocora Valley to the one you started the trek on.

You’ll walk through misty cloud forest, listening out for woodpeckers, before you finally catch sight of the vibrant green valley ahead of you.

After making a quick stop at a hummingbird sanctuary to learn a little more about these teeny birds you’ll hop into a Willys Jeep to make your way back to the ranch via a bumpy dirt track.

Approx. 6 hours hiking

Day 6: Introduction to the Heart of the World

After a traditional Colombian hearty breakfast, of arepas (cornbread) with cheese and fruit, you’ll head to Periera for a short flight to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast.

Your home for the night is a super eco-friendly lodge is set in the jungle of a nature reserve. Once there you’ll receive a warm welcome from the local Arhuaco indigenous community, where you’ll learn about, and perhaps even get involved in their traditional ceremonies and customs.

Day 7: Jungle Time!

After an early start, you’ll be picked up by 4x4 and taken to the start of the trail.

You’ll begin the trek with an ascent to Camp 1, following the small winding paths that connect the farming regions to the jungle. If the weather is calm you can enjoy a refreshing dip in the river to charge your batteries.

You’ll arrive at camp mid-afternoon with time to relax before dinner, served to the jungle chorus - your soundtrack for the next few nights to come.

Approx. 6 hours hiking

Day 8: Discover Ancient Civilisations

You’ll begin today’s challenging trek through close and sweaty jungle, alive with native bird species and wildlife, wading through waist-high rivers and washing under waterfalls before reaching stunning peaks with panoramic views over the coastal mountain range.

You’ll continue your journey towards the Lost City. Learn about the sacred traditions of the local indigenous people, listen to the myths and legends, and hear the stories of the graverobbers who once combed the land for gold and ancient artefacts, before settling in for the night at Camp 3.

Approx. 10 hours hiking

Day 9: Enter the Lost City

Today, you’ll discover a sacred land shrouded in mystique and ancient traditions. Led by your guides, you’ll ascend the gruelling 1200 steps to Ciudad Perdida, better known as the Lost City.

As well as having time to explore, the group will take part in a ceremony to pay tribute to the surrounding natural environment. Keep your eyes peeled for snakes hanging from the vines that have taken over.

You’ll return to Camp 3 to have lunch before packing for your next leg of the journey and arriving at Camp 2 before sunset for a traditional meal as the sun goes down.

Approx. 6 hours hiking

Day 10: Jungle depart and Caribbean Coast

After another wholesome breakfast, you’ll begin the hike back to Machete. The descent includes various spots for bathing under waterfalls and in rivers, a welcome relief after days of humidity.

Heading back to the eco-hotel, located near the Don Diego River, you’ll have the choice of a final dinner here or you can head to the small beachside village of Palomino.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains are located right behind Palomino, and on a clear day you can swim in the Caribbean sea and see snow-capped mountains at the same time.

There’s nowhere on earth with higher mountains closer to the sea, and it’s a unique experience and fitting end to your adventure! There are plenty of places to stay for those who would like an extra couple of days at the end to relax, just talk to your host who can advise you.

Approx. 6 hours hiking

Day 11: Goodbye Colombia!

You’ll be picked up today and taken by private transfer to the airport for your return flight.

Please Note

All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.

Accommodation

In Medellin, you’ll be staying in the Terra Biohotel in a safe and vibrant part of town. This eco-friendly hotel is one of a kind in the city and you’ll be sharing twin rooms.

In Salento, you’ll be staying at the Finca El Rancho Salento, located in a beautiful valley outside of town. You’ll be sharing either twin or triple rooms here, dependent on availability.

While trekking in Los Nevados, you'll experience the life of a traditional Colombian farmer, living in their house, sharing home-cooked meals in their kitchens and getting to know their family while hearing stories about these magical Andean mountains. The whole group will be sleeping in one or two rooms in the mountain lodges.

Pre and post the Lost City trek you’ll be staying in Taironaka eco-hotel, a beautiful collection of traditional bungalows and rooms set amidst a nature reserve. You’ll be sharing either twin or triple rooms here, dependent on availability.

While trekking to the Lost City, you’ll spend 3 nights in basic campsites. There will usually be a choice of hammocks or beds and all come with mosquito nets provided. There are basic toilet-facilities but all washing will be done in waterfalls and streams en-route.

For those who would like a Single Room Upgrade, this is available for 1 x night in Medellin, 2 x nights in Salento and 2 x nights in Santa Marta (so excluding nights while trekking). This is available at a cost of £295 and is subject to availability, please enquire with your host.

Location

Los Nevados National Park is situated in the Cordillera Central region of the Colombian Andes and is a real hidden treasure, rarely visited beyond the town of Salento that sits at its entrance. The park lies in Colombia’s famous coffee region, with a high-altitude tropical ecosystem that only exists in this remote pocket of Colombia. You’re unlikely to see anyone else apart from the indigenous communities that still live there.

The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida, is an ancient archaeological site thought to have been built around 700 AD, around 650 years before Machu Picchu. It lies deep in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta jungle and can only be reached on foot by native guides who know where to find it.

To get there you’ll have tackle 1,200 moss-laden steps, riddled with protruding branches and vines that guard the way. The site itself is made up of thirty or so visible grass-covered circular platforms ranging from about 5ft to 10ft high. Between them are flagstone steps, slabs and walkways that interlock perfectly to connect the terraces together. Keep an eye out for submerged jails that once housed ancient lawbreakers, and the troughs and chutes that weave their way through the city - original drainage systems that are now home to crops of sage-green lichen.

Meeting Point

Start Point

Medellin City Hotel

Your adventure begins at the hotel at Medellin. You are free to check in after 2pm. There will be a briefing at 6pm before heading out for an optional group dinner.

Airport transfers are included if you arrive on the start day so please let your host know your flight times.

Finish Point

Santa Marta Hotel

At the end of your adventure, you will be dropped at Santa Marta (SMR) to meet your return flight.

Airport transfers are included so please let your host know your flight times.

Please note, transfers are included if you arrive or depart on the start and end days of the trip only. If you would like to arrive early or extend your stay, your host can arrange airport transfers for an extra cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Tips for your guides (optional)
  • Meals when not on trek

This trip will run with a minimum of 4 people, and a maximum of 16. Please note, if there are not 4 people booked the trip may be rearranged or cancelled.

Sure can! A lot of people do, and it's a great way to meet like-minded people.

Your host recommends to pack:

  • Small backpack (20-30 litres)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun-protection hat
  • A light poncho-type of waterproof
  • Walking boots
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Headtorch
  • Suncream
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Quick-drying towel
  • Personal wash kit including toothpaste, toothbrush and toilet paper
  • Personal medical kit including painkillers, blister treatment etc
  • Biodegradable bags for toilet paper waste
  • Biodegradable soap for washing in the jungle
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Camera (optional)
  • Walking sticks (optional)

For Los Nevados

  • Thermal under clothing
  • Long-sleeved t-shirts or shirts
  • Warm fleece or similar
  • Waterproof jacket with Gore Tex or similar
  • Quick-dry trekking trousers
  • T-shirts
  • Thick walking socks
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Buff

For The Lost City

  • Comfortable quick-dry shorts
  • Thin walking socks
  • Swimwear
  • T-shirts or vests
  • Shorts
  • Sturdy waterproof sandals for river swimming

The trekking, while not technically difficult, requires that you be in good physical shape as the days are long with a lot of up and down on uneven ground and in challenging conditions.

Medellín is known as “La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera”, the city of eternal spring. The city has a comfortable climate that is consistent year-round due to being located at a high elevation and also being near the equator.

Los Nevados (Dry season - December to March and July and August)

Daytime: The Andes enjoys sunny days during the dry season with temperatures reaching up to 20°C. Nighttime: Temperatures drop drastically ( as low as 0°C) during the night and early morning. Rain: While there is a lower chance of rain during dry season, there will be days (evenings especially) with often heavy rain.

Santa Marta

It is warm during the day; the temperature can be around 40°C as it is a deserted zone. It is cool at night; the temperature at night is around 20°C with fresh breeze. Wet season - June to November - short sharp rains not uncommon.

We've teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.

Yes! Your passport must be valid for 6 months from the date of travel. British citizens don't require a visa but you should click here for more information and to check up to date requirements.

Drinking water: Water in most major cities is safe to drink however in towns and villages in the Andes water shouldn’t be drunk from the tap. We advise bringing purification tablets.

Toilets: Never flush toilet paper. The pipes are narrow and the water pressure is weak, so toilets can't cope with paper. A wastebasket is normally provided.

Money: The best place to change money will be at the airport in Medellin.

You will get a true taste of Colombian cuisine through home-cooked meals, traditional mountain lunches and hearty breakfasts.

Some Examples: Breakfast - soups, arepa (cornbread), rice and beans, fresh coffee and fruits Lunch - mountain lunch of potatoes, rice, plantain, chicken and vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf. Dinner - wholesome vegetable soups, rice, salad, grilled meat

Vegan and vegetarians can be catered for, just let your host know upon bookings.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is a level of expectation to tip for good service.

We advise approx $3-$5USD per person per day as a guideline however if you would like to bring a gift from the UK as a thank you, this will also go a long way!

Of course, you are free to tip more or less and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Modern-day Colombia is not 1980's Narcos. For decades Colombia was in the international press for all the wrong reasons – drugs, kidnappings and civil war. Now with a peace agreement in place between the FARC and the Colombian government, Colombia is much safer and tourism has skyrocketed in the last ten years.

You can find all the up to date travel advice about Colombia here.

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Dates & Prices

Bespoke trips only

There are currently no planned group departures. Please contact this host to request a quote for a custom trip.

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