• Emily Hayes

Diary of a hiker in training; travel to a Colombian Lost City

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

Adventure, ruins of ancient civilisations, indigenous communities, long days of walking through exotic landscapes with restless nights slept in hammocks. These scenes were a dream of mine to experience and how I imagined it would be to complete a walking trail to Machu Picchu. But the tours and crowds along a well trodden trail have deterred me from pursuing this. I try to pursue ecological and sustainable holiday options when I travel, part of that is to ensure people and environment are being treated right. Big tours and day tripping does not always give that sense of independence or support the conscientious approach I try to achieve when I’m planning overseas adventures.

The Lost City or Ciudad Perdida in Colombia

Then I heard about Ciudad Perdida which is the archaeological site of an ancient city in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. It is believed to have been founded about 800 AD some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu. The only way to get there is with a guide or in small groups through the jungle for several days and nights before reaching the ancient site. With no motor vehicles, no roads and certainly no gift shops along the way, I felt that Colombia was calling for me to visit.


In 2018 I made the journey from Medellin to the mountains of Minca to start the hike to the Lost City. The trail is through Tayrona National park with lush rain forests, valleys, mountains and rivers. There are many indigenous communities living throughout the national park much the same as they would have lived hundreds of years ago.

An indigenous community living in Tayrona.

After some researching online and talking to other travellers, I made a booking with a local sustainable tour company. I was then on my way along the dusty bumpy roads in the back of a jeep to start the trail. I chose to use a tour guide as without a guide, individuals or small groups may not fully experience the trails' culture, or get access to the overnight huts and cooked meals every evening. Besides, I do have a tendancy to go off trail and didn’t fancy my chances without a guide. The late night stories of snakes and scorpions was enough to confirm I made the right choice.

Uphill trails to The Lost City

We spent 3 days and 3 nights walking before we made it to the Lost City. The count of insect bites was high, sunburn was getting irritating and every night the food seemed allot more exciting than it probably was but I love these experiences. It's all worth it, particularly when you have an end goal. The uphill jungle trail finally revealed a glimpse of the ruins that once housed an ancient community. We continued to walk through the ruins to find the terraces at the jungle summit in the early hours of the day. The feeling of achy muscles is soon replaced with the sense of awe you get when you are surrounded by incredible scenery that is so far away from the office-job-normal.


Every time I've been on a multi day hiking adventure my mind wonders to the other dream I have of walking the Pacific Crest Trail. The passion for outdoor adventures has been strong throughout my life. So next year I will be thru-hiking 2,600 miles on the PCT. I've quit my job and have decided to push myself that little bit further. I have dedicated this to raise funds for a charity that i care greatly about. To find out more click here.




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I am self funding my thru-hike of the PCT, 100% of donations will go straight to my chosen charity KOTO. 

1 pence per mile goes a long way for KOTO with my commitment to walk 2,600 miles.