- Sierra Nevada: COLOMBIA
- February through July
- 8 days, 7 nights
Hidden high in the Sierra Nevada near northern Colombia's Caribbean coast are many hidden treasures. Not many people make the 4-day trek to Ciudad Perdida (the lost city) but as you’ll read below, it's an awe inspiring place full of mesmerizing sights and shrouded in mystery.
This adventure holiday is split up with some chill out beach time in the fishing village of Taganga, the coconut palm fringed, Palomino beach, and finishes with an adrenalin pumping downhill mountain bike ride of epic proportions. Expect extreme natural beauty, rich bio-diverse eco systems and a history lesson that will bring this special place to life. If going deep into the junglistic heart of the Sierra Nevada sounds like your idea of fun then this experience is for you.
Day 1: Taganga beach chill out, sunset cocktails and moonlight walks
I flew into nearby Santa Marta and took a 30min cab ride to Taganga, the cutest little fishing village on the Caribbean coast. Once I checked into my hotel I made the 5 min walk down to the beach and enjoyed cocktails and sunset over the ocean, followed by a fresh fish dinner. (The chef literally gutted the fish on a wood block in front of me – now that’s fresh!) My friends and I took a moonlit walk down the beach where a group of people were playing music and having a sing-a-long. Stargazing and sipping on a Colombia Gold cerveza (local beer), I felt a world away from the madness of the big city and excited about the trek tomorrow.
Day 2: Ciudad Perdida Hike: Mamey, mountains and hammocks
A 4WD Landrover picked us up at 8.30am from our Hotel and we bounced along for 2 hours of off-road driving to the small town of Mamey. The driver had his favorite music cranking, leaving us all to our own thoughts, contemplating the four day trek ahead. We had a nice lunch at Mamey before setting off with our group of 12. We walked 30 minutes to an amazing natural pool where we all lined up for bungee-bombs. It was quite a jump and a girly scream escaped my lips just before I hit the water. It was just a 3-hour walk to our first camp where we had a big dish of chicken, veg and rice. We had an info briefing session before retiring to our pre-hung hammocks under a tin roof. (Kitted out with mosquito nets.)
Day 3: Ciudad Perdida Hike: Sweaty betty and stunning sights
Today we woke early to Colombian coffee and hot chocolate. We ate a big breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast and fruit and hiked until we stopped for lunch. Wide-open fields were quickly enveloped by a jungle of palm trees and vines. If you've ever seen the movie Honey I shrunk the kids, you'll understand the feeling of being dwarfed by a giant jungle. We walked on white sand, red clay and gooey mud while colored butterflies flitted around us. We crossed rivers, chewed raw sugar cane, spotted local tribes wandering throughout the jungle and arrived at the cottage of Romualdo mamo, the highest religious authority of the natives in this region. If you’re lucky you can talk to him and learn more about his culture and customs. We got to Camp 3 at about 5.30pm, had a cold mountain water shower and chowed down a hot dinner. The info session was special that night since we were only an hour from the Lost City. There were tents and bunks and again we were in bed by 8pm, this trekking sure is hard work!
Day 4: Ciudad Perdida Hike: Stairway to a well-hidden heaven
Our 6am wake up call got us to the Ciudad Perdida site, (1200m above sea level) before anyone else. Before we climbed the 1200 steps up to the terraces we had to crawl along ledges and narrow cliff paths above jungle cliffs. Native American's inhabited the area from 200 AD until 1600AD and Teyuna (Lost City) was built by the Tayrona people. It was only discovered in 1975 by Treasure Hunters and before that had been hidden to all but the local people. I'd been told this trip was more about the journey than the destination so I didn't have high expectations but boy was I in for a surprise.As we stood around the ceremonial stone circle and the early morning light spotlighted the ancient stone terraces, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand to attention. It’s an incredible feeling, learning about a culture that hid to survive Spanish invasion, a special place in the heart of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. We made it back to camp with a round of applause and had a large dinner of steak and rice before heading to bed for our last night in the Sierra Nevada.
Day 5: Ciudad Perdida Hike: Back to sea level
On the fourth and final day of the hike we walked about 6 hours and got some great photos of the jungle mountains behind us. What goes up must come down so our walk down to the waterhole at the bottom, the last mountain-fresh swim of the trek was just what we needed. In Mamey there was a special lunch prepared and we talked with our new friends about the amazing experience we’d all shared. We achieved a lot in 4 days, enduring hours of steamy jungle hiking, cool mountain water streams, hungry mosquitoes, hot sun on our faces, rocking to sleep in hammocks as well as the thigh-burn of climbing 1200 steps. By pushing ourselves physically and mentally it felt like we really earned our view of The Lost City. Our jeep took us back to Palomino beach (many people’s favorite in Colombia) where we were free to chill out and enjoy the peaceful fishing village and beachfront open-air restaurants.
Day 6: Beach day chill out
After all the energy expended in the past 4 days, today’s order of business is to CHILL OUT. Palomino is a coconut palm fringed, surf pounded, icing sugar white beach, again with the snow peaks of the Sierra Nevada ever-present towering behind the verdant shoreline. A day here to relax, surf, practice yoga or wander along the enormous expanse of beach (which stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions) with zero visible development. If you’re feeling particularly energetic you could organize to go diving or snorkeling or even do a day trip to Tayrona National Park, an unspoilt natural paradise of jungle, birds, ocean, and absolutely gorgeous beaches.
Day 7: Minca above and beyond, heart of the Sierra Nevada
We were picked up at 8.45am and driven to the small town of Minca, (600m above sea level) in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. From here we hiked up through tiny coffee farms and learned about the unique history and stunning rainforest until we reached the Los Pinos Ridge. With a GPS unit as backup, we got right off the beaten track, sometimes ducking and diving through thick undergrowth. Up until 2006 this important ridgeline was under para-military control and has a 360-degree view over the Sierra Nevada, with Snow peak mountains one way and the Caribbean coast the other. Few have ever been here and fewer still have stayed the night. After watching the mindblowing sunset over the Caribbean we lit a fire and enjoyed a few rums watching the glittering carpet of Santa Marta city lights in the distance. We slept in renovated old para-military quarters, but not before local resident Álejandro told us a few tales of recent struggles.
Day 8: Adrenalin-pumping downhill & Colombian coffee heaven
I recommend the once in a lifetime opportunity to watch the sunrise from Los Pinos, over the highest coastal peaks in the world. You can sleep when you’re dead! We had a chilled breakfast but the adrenalin was soon pumping as the descent back to Minca on mountain bikes began! We had a choice of two routes depending on experience level. For more advanced riders the ´Los Pinos Rapid Descent´ but I of course suggest the thrills and spills of the ´Minca Downhill Adventure´. This is mountain biking at its purest and has a variety of terrain, with jumps and wall rides to suit all levels. If left still wanting however, instead of taking the jeep track from Minca, there is an alternative more extreme and highly recommended option to ride 12km kilometers of gnarly flowing single track called the ‘Kraken’. Expect white knuckles at the end! We got back to town, grins bursting through our dusty faces and had one last night in Tagana paradise before getting the shuttle to Cartagena the following morning.
Length: 8 days
Sweat factor: Intermediate
MTB experience: Beginner (Minca Downhill Adventure) Intermediate (Los Pinos Rapid Descent)
Comfort level: Basic
Group size: Bike (2-6 people) Hike (12 max)
Single Supplement: TBC
What to bring:
What is provided:
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