Find Colombian Ruins

Think of ruins in South America and you think Machu Picchu. Think again. La Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City), in northern Colombia, is one of the most prominent archaeological sites on the continent. And while it's true that Colombia has had its safety problems—in 2003, eight trekkers were kidnapped at La Ciudad Perdida by the National Liberation Army and held for 101 days—the U.S. State Department reports that security has markedly improved in the past decade. (Just be aware that certain parts of the country remain unsafe, like the border areas and eastern Colombia.) Book a guided tour of the Lost City with Turcol outfitters and you'll rest easier. I met my guides in the faded coastal colonial town of Santa Marta and began the trek to La Ciudad Perdida, a not-for-the-faint-of-heart five-day, 30-mile journey into the jungled and steep Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Our group was small—just six of us, a guide, and a few porters. We slept in hammocks at night and trekked through farmland, swam under waterfalls, and crossed the Rio Buritaca nine times (no bridges) before we reached the gateway to the ruins: 1,200 jagged and moss-covered stone steps. We spent two nights at La Ciudad Perdida and were the only ones there. As I stood mud-soaked on the grassy terraces built in the late eighth century that once teemed with the city's residents, I realized that if La Ciudad Perdida were anywhere but Colombia, it would have thousands of visitors per year. From $270 per person; turcol.i8.com

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