Part II is dedicated to the practical side of trekking to the Lost City. But before we get to what you should wear and what to pack, let’s take a moment to discuss whether or not you should plan a visit at all.
Because, when we returned to Bogotá and were excitedly chatting about our trip and showing pictures, we were met with a few mumbles of huh, that’s it? These conversations led me to feel that a little setting of expectations is in order for anyone considering this particular trek.
If your intention is to be amazed at the size and scale of an ancient city, something akin to Chichen Itza or Machu Picchu, then you’ll be disappointed by Teyuna. The 169 terraces that make up the complex do not have the remarkable proportions of other, more well-known ‘lost cities.’
However, that doesn’t make it any less worthy of a visit. In my opinion, the Lost City trek should be taken as a whole, an experience from beginning to end.
If you’re looking for an adventure and something that will test your limits physically, then a trip to the Lost City is for you (especially those first two days!). I also loved the cleansing feeling of being away from society for four days with barely any electricity, let alone the internet. And, there’s something to be said for the difficulty you’ll expend in getting there because it’s only accessible by foot.
Even better is that it’s an opportunity to see a place that has only been receiving tourists for the past 25 years—as I mentioned in Part I, Teyuna was abandoned in the 1400s and covered by foliage until the 1970s. Even now, less than 100 people per day visit Teyuna. Sure you can hike the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, but you’ll arrive alongside buses and 1,000 other tourists.
In addition to this aspect, of course, is the breathtaking site itself—from the way the terraces are perched above the jungle and the far-reaching views, to hearing the story of this sacred place and going through a purification ritual with an indigenous tribe member. It’s all of these things together which, from my perspective, make this four-day trip an incredible experience.
Now that that’s settled, on to the practical. You’ll be carrying your own things for the entire trek, so it goes without saying that packing light is a must. Below is a snapshot of what our guidebook said to bring, with some additions and subtractions based on my personal experience.
- Flashlight (there’s very little light at the camps and the sun sets promptly at 6:00 pm)
- Water container
- Insect Repellent
Long Pants(I can’t imagine anything more miserable than hiking in pants)
- Two pairs of shoes (one for hiking, one pair of sandals to wear at camp)
Water Purifying Pills(all the water is purified with pills already) Antibioticsand anti-diarrhea medicine (anti-diarrhea medicine is a must, just in case)
Nice to Haves:
Playing cards(sit around and chat with your fellow hikers) Medicine and bandages for blistered feet(not really necessary if you’ve properly broken in your hiking boots) Hiking poles/Sweatband/Peaked cap(I didn’t feel the need for any of these, but bring them if you like!) Waterproof bag cover(just pack your things in ziplock bags)
- Leggings or a pair of comfortable long pants for the evenings
- Zip lock bags (to protect your things from rain, rivers, and sweat)
- Small bag with a waist strap (I’m torn on this one; the only time you’ll really use this is the day you visit the Lost City. That morning you’ll leave your things at camp, bringing with you only cameras, water and bug repellent. The plus is that having a small bag will leave your hands free as you scramble up the steps.)
- Antihistamine pills (for mosquito bites)
- Lots of socks (Haven’t you seen Forrest Gump? Dry feet in the jungle are crucial! I recommend longer socks to cover your ankles and help keep dirt out of your shoes.)
A book for the evenings(you’ll be too tired to concentrate)
- Earplugs to drown out talking and snoring (you’ll be sleeping shoulder to shoulder with your fellow hikers, I used mine every night)
Other things to bring:
- Tissues or TP (not all camps had much toilet paper)
- Electrolyte concentrate drops (You’ll sweat a ton! Plus, it is nice to drink something flavored.)
- A hostel-style sleep sack or travel/super light sleeping bag (The tour groups will provide blankets. But, said blankets aren’t washed on a regular basis. Even if you aren’t cold, it’s nice to have something between your skin and a stinky hammock.)
What to wear: You won’t need many clothes, and you’ll quickly realize that you’ll be damp and smelly no matter what pretty much the whole time. On the plus side, everyone else will be too. All that said, two shirts and two bottoms (one long one for evenings) will serve you fine. And don’t forget a swimsuit.
I just want to share a personal recommendation from my experience on the trip—this is one case where moisture wicking/quick dry fabrics will serve you well and are worth the expense should you not have them already. You can rinse them out each night and not worry about them drying. Not only that but they’ll hide your ridiculous sweat marks (see photo above). I don’t want to talk about underwear, but here goes. I hiked in a pair of athletic shorts with those baggy, built in undies and was SO HAPPY. They’ll keep you, um, modest, but at the same time, you won’t have damp fabric clinging to your lady parts all day. Buy some.
Regarding water: That first day, you will need two bottles. It’s a long stretch in the midday sun before you reach the first break. Fill up your own reusable container and buy a liter of bottled water before you set off. If you’re worried about the drinking water that is provided by the tours, there is bottled water for sale at all the camps and stopping points. Just FYI, there’s also beer. Bring cash.
Bugs: They’re only to be expected, you are in the jungle after all. Besides mosquitoes, we didn’t see anything more exciting than a couple of big spiders and moths. If possible, buy insect repellent before arriving in Colombia. People were amazed at our 98% DEET (brought from the U.S.) since the highest concentration I could find in Colombia was somewhere around 30%. I only received two bites on the whole trip, one of which is STILL itching almost two weeks later. It’s totally worth whatever chronic disease I may have in ten years after slathering myself in a carcinogen for four days straight.
Those were my biggest takeaways. Please share in the comments below if I’ve missed anything, or just about your experience on the trek itself!