Ciudad Perdida is an amazing historical site and an important part of Colombia’s cultural heritage. What’s the story behind this unique construction in the middle of the Colombian jungle?
The erstwhile thriving civilization of Ciudad Perdida left behind a deserted city located in the world’s highest coastal mountain range, in the dense jungle of Sierra Nevada, Colombia. Ciudad Perdida, which means Lost City, is estimated to have been built in the 9th century A.D. and was occupied by the Teyuna (Tayrona) until the end of the 16th century. This abandoned city was discovered in the early 1970s by Florentino Sepúlveda, a local grave robber, and his two sons Julio César and Jacobo, who climbed over 1.000 stone stairs from a riverbank. A few years later, archaeologists were sent in the area by the Colombian government.
After 30 years of research, only 10% of the site has been excavated. The area includes carved houses of various sizes, over 200 terraces, stone-lined paths and staircases that lead to circular plazas intended for social gatherings, ceremonial and feasting areas, canals and storehouses. The objects found by archaeologists include pottery for ritual and everyday use, gold work, and necklaces of semi-precious stones. Treasure robbers, who named it the “Green Hell”, have repetitively looted the site, however, they did not manage to take everything.
Drug warfare and paramilitary activity were common in the surrounding jungle since the 1960s. After the kidnapping of eight foreign tourists in 2003 the site was closed for two years. Increased safety measures resulted in an increase in tourists, whose number reached 8.000 in 2011.
Ciudad Perdida is located 1.200 meters above sea level. Any adventure traveler interested in visiting this site should keep in mind that it comprises 1.400 steps, eight river bed crossings, swimming ponds amid the twists and turns in a trek of 52 kilometers in total. It will take 6 days to trek to Ciudad Perdida and back.
Stars and lines carved in stones suggest the existence of a unique system of communication between its old inhabitants. The indigenous population still lives in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Their homes resemble the huts of their ancestors and are constructed in discreet corners of the forest in order to allow a sense of privacy for the families. For them, Sierra Nevada is the heart of the world.
It’s worth rediscovering the treasures of this architectural masterpiece, which is so remote from the modern world, and revive its ecological and spiritual balance. Ciudad Perdida has been under the Global Heritage Fund’s protection since 2009.