Once you’ve been there, it’s easy to see how you can ‘lose’ a city.
It is difficult to imagine how a ‘city’ that was once the centre of a thriving civilisation can be ‘lost’ without a trace, but there are many archaeological sites around the world that have been reclaimed by the jungle and been forgotten in time.
Such is the voracity of the jungle in the remote parts of the world these ruins are located in, as the excavations continue, the already excavated areas are again being swallowed up by the jungle unless constantly maintained – try walking around the outer ruins at Tikal in Guatemala and Palenque in Mexico.
Once a focal centre for the Tairona (sometimes spelt Tayrona) people, La Ciudad Perdida is buried deep in the jungle in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range in the far north of Colombia.
It pays to be fit to walk the 2-3 day trek through the thick vegetation and river crossings to arrive at the bottom of some 1200 single pile stone steps that lead up to La Ciudad Perdida. This last hurdle is a true engineering marvel of precision and dedication. They have remained intact, despite centuries of heavy rain and all-engulfing jungle, as have the neatly piled flat-stone terraces and roads at the ancient city itself.
It was a real shocker to emerge into the open clear-cut farmlands at the end of 6 days of wrestling with the dense jungle, its remoteness, muddy hillsides and vicious mosquitoes. All of a sudden, the greenery that had cast cool shadows gave way to wide open sky, I could hear chainsaws and dogs barking and see rising smoke at different points in the distance.
There is a degree of danger when visiting La Ciudad Perdida due to the fact the region is controlled by battle hardened paramilitary groups. There have been some tourist kidnappings. They control the coca plantations you will see on the trek and you might even be offered a visit to a working cocaine laboratory.
The potential danger is not deterring many tourists doing the trek every year. Along with Parque Nacional Tairona (Tairona National Park), it is a highly recommended place to visit in the region (and in the country).