Up until 1972, The Lost City was masked by the forest of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This ancient city—which dates back to around 800 CE—was found by treasure hunters.
Of course, the four indigenous groups in the area knew about and visited the terraced city for centuries before the rest of the world found out about it. Perhaps wisely, they had decided to keep it secret, as it was a sacred site for their common ancestors, the Tayronas.
Simply stated, there is only one way to reach the Lost City: walking. The 169 terraces that make up this astonishing archeological site are deep within the jungle and it is only possible to do the 3-6 day trek with a licensed tour company.
Most tours, however, use Santa Marta as their starting point. The city is around 2.5 hours from the entrance of the park. Flying into Santa Marta is the most convenient option if you are coming from Bogotá, Medellín or Cali. If you are in Cartagena or Barranquilla, however, going by land is better.
Join our 5-day trek to the Lost City, which also includes immersive experiences with some of the local indigenous cultures that guard the land. If you want even more treks and sacred landscapes, double your time in Colombia and add a visit to the Tayrona National Park on this 10-day trip.
Duration: 1.5 - 6 hours
One of the easiest ways to get to Santa Marta is by air. The airport services both national and international flights, so it is possible to arrive straight there or to first see other Colombian cities.
If you are in Bogotá or Medellín, you can take a direct flight that will get you to the city in merely 1:15-1:30 hours.
For those traveling from Cartagena or Cali there are no direct flights, so connecting through either of the two largest cities will be necessary. The flights themselves don't go over an hour and 40 minutes, but the layover time varies, so the trip could take as long as 6 hours. Such long layovers, however, are not common.
Duration: 2.5 - 20 hours
Contrary to air travel, Barranquilla and Cartagena are the most convenient cities to start from if you are planning on traveling by land. The trip would take 2.5 hours from the first, and around 4 hours from the latter. Private transfers are available on this route, and you can enjoy coastal scenery without having to worry about directions, finding the best pit stop spots, or reckless drivers.
You can also rent a car in Cartagena and drop it off in Santa Marta. This option gives you more freedom to take detours into smaller towns along the coast. However, keep in mind that you will have to navigate the road on your own, as the GPS might not always have connection.
Traveling by land is not advised from Bogotá, Medellín or Cali, as the trip along mountainous roads would take from 15-20 hours without including stops. If you are departing from these cities—or other cities not along the Caribbean coast—it is best to take an airplane.