Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) is one of Colombia’s great archaeological sites. Accessible only by foot on a strenuous three-day hike through the humid foothills and valleys of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the city’s ruins were discovered by tomb robbers in the late 1970s.
Built around 900 AD by the Tayrona people (Colombia’s only pre-Hispanic culture that used stone in its architectural and civil works) the city was never “lost” by their descendants, simply abandoned (and thought cursed) not long after the Spanish decided to annihilate the Tayronas after doing business with them for 70 years. Disease and slaughter drove what was left of the Tayrona deep into the impenetrable forests and highlands of the Sierra where, thankfully, the Spanish never followed.
Over the course of 500 years, four main cultural groups emerged within the Tayrona – the Kogis, Arhuacos, Kankuamos and Wiwas. All occupy their own pockets of the Sierra and speak their own dialects, yet are connected by similar clothing, world views and the belief that this indeed is the heart of the world.
The Lost City is indeed a marvel to behold: a series of stone platforms, terraces, staircases and paths, preserved by the jungle that once hid it from view and revered and protected by the descendants of those who built it.