Ciudad Perdida Local Customs

  • Kogi kids not quite begging but soon enough
    Kogi kids not quite begging but soon...
    by richiecdisc
  • say cheese for our jungle soldiers
    say cheese for our jungle soldiers
    by richiecdisc
  • Kogi in transit, fleet of foot
    Kogi in transit, fleet of foot
    by richiecdisc

Best Rated Local Customs in Ciudad Perdida

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    Kogi

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 23, 2010

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    Kogi hut with mountain peak roof
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    While doing the trek to Ciudad Perdida you will encounter not only beautiful lush mountain scenery but also members of the indigenous Kogi people. These descendants of the Tairona tribe dominated the remote Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta area until Spanish invasion. After a valiant attempt at fight back, they moved deeper into the area and thus survived being wiped out and still number over 10,000 members. They are a shy people that choose to remain isolated and they do not welcome much contact from the outside aside from what they now do to support the tourism in the area since they get paid money for groups coming through.

    After seeing some statues of the Tairona natives in the town of Santa Marta, I was expecting the Kogi to be much bigger. In fact, they are a delicate people with fine features, small in stature but certainly not in demeanor. They carry themselves quite elegantly and move very swift of foot, their petite size coming in handy for maneuvering on the mountain trails. Both men and woman have gorgeous long thick dark hair and it is often hard to distinguish between them especially at younger ages. Both wear a traditional skirt outfit in white and oddly black rubber boots which I guess come in quite handy during the wet muddy season and are certainly good for crossing the rivers too. Their huts were quite fascinating with the thatched roofs featuring twin poles representing the two largest peaks in the area.

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    some Kogi customs

    by richiecdisc Written Nov 23, 2010

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    Kogi huts, a sex-divided area
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    Boys and girls are separated at age five and at this point, their lives diverge quite a bit. The little girls live with the rest of the women of the tribe in communal houses where they eat on their own as well. Oddly enough, unlike most cultures where men tend to get the best food, the Kogi women eat far better which contributes to them being much more plump overall than the very thin men. On the other hand, cocoa consumption is forbidden for women. The men all sleep and eat in their own communal houses as well and it is only for mating that the two come together, quite dramatically in a house strictly used for such purposes! Evidently, the Kogi men feel sex is a necessary evil to keep their tribe going and that it interferes with their attainment of knowledge which coca chewing is part of. The latter also leads to a decreased sexual appetite overall.

    You will get a fair overview of Kogi life from your tour guide though it will be in Spanish. It was certainly informative enough and interesting but I found a lot more information on the Internet on returning and it would have probably made the trip more powerful if I had read it before going the trek! The Kogi are a pretty wild lot.

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    the soldiers protecting the ruins & you

    by richiecdisc Written Nov 23, 2010

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    say cheese for our jungle soldiers

    Another group of people you will encounter on the trek are the soldiers that are policing the area. This region was completely unsafe not all that long ago due to drug cartels safeguarding this obviously great cocoa cultivation area. It was not uncommon for people to be kidnapped and held hostage and surely worse things happened to those outside the tourist realm. In a bid for mass tourism and to fight such cartels, the Colombian government saw fit to send in many troops to “clean up” the area and make it safe for people to explore. Even though cocoa is still cultivated in the area, it appears fairly safe to do this trek as long as you go with a group (which is required anyway) and you remain with them. There is a side trip you can do to a cocoa processing plant but that is not with your guide and though many people do it (at an extra cost of about $20), we opted to not help fund such things. Since you are not with your guide I guess it might be one of the times you could run into trouble though they have not had any problems for quite some time and the people from our group came back with nothing but raves about it. At any rate, you will see many soldiers patrolling the trails and it is actually quite comforting. You will especially see many at the ruins and they are a friendly lot. They seem to love to get their photos taken and are quite agreeable to taking group shots of you too. These are young guys away from home and they particularly seem to like to meet the girls in the groups. Hey, boys will be boys, right?

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    keeping things dry

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 29, 2010

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    the battle for dry clothes wages on

    One of the biggest problems of the trek to La Ciudad Perdida is keeping your gear dry. Though it must be even worse in the wet season, it was even so during our trek in a very dry “dry” season. We only had one late afternoon/evening rain and it was after we were in camp. My wife and I were never actually in the rain. The problem is your clothes get wet from sweat and the humidity levels are so high that unless the stuff hangs in the sun it just doesn't dry. Every day it was a constant battle to take off your sweaty clothes and hang them up while you went swimming or took a shower. Your “evening” clothes should only come out when you are done for the night and are just going to relax, eat dinner and go to sleep.

    The trekking companies tells you to bring lots of big garbage bags to keep your clothes dry and you definitely want to keep these particular clothes separate from all others as the one time you do not want to feel all clammy is when you are in your hammock at night. Of course, there's never enough places for everyone to get everything hung out so it behooves you to get on this right after getting to camp before the primo spots are gone.

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    jungle photography

    by richiecdisc Written Nov 23, 2010

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    lush green scenery like this awaits you
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    Jungle photography is quite tricky and make no mistake here, you will be taking pictures in the jungle, especially in the camps and near the swimming holes. Actually, these areas will be some of the most scenic on the whole trek so don't get carried away when at them and just swim. Take the time to get some photos of it all. To do this properly, you'll want a tripod. The low light conditions mean you'll need bigger apertures which can lead to some shaky photos if you are not mounted. Though carrying a tripod is a hassle on a trek, you'll be glad you have it for these type photos. Play with shutter speed and you can get some nice shots of waterfalls or even babbling brooks too.

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    park fees "included"

    by richiecdisc Written Nov 23, 2010

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    hey, little lady, it's all included
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    El Parque Arqueológico de Ciudad Perdida, also known as Teyuna for its native name, is an archeological national park set aside to protect the ruins of “the lost city” which remained undiscovered until the early 1970s by grave-robbers bent on ravaging the remains of indigenous people who were forced deep into the mountainous jungle by invading Spaniards. Even without the famed discovered ruins, the area would likely warrant protection for its sheer lush mountain beauty. These are the highest mountains this close to the coast anywhere in the world and beauties they are, green and surprisingly jagged. With a turquoise sea so close, it's no wonder indigenous people were drawn here in the first place. Of course, the ruins do add an air of mystery to the park and a great destination at the end of a very scenic trek. They are only accessible by foot and the five-day hike passes through not only stunning scenery but also settlements of Kogi, descendants of the Teironas that first called the area home.

    As with all Colombian National Parks, the price of admission is not cheap. In fact, it is perhaps extortionate by local standards and more than US National Parks with far more amenities. An adult must pay the equivalent of $35 to enter the ruins. This is conveniently rolled into the price of a trek (around $250), also a necessity when visiting La Ciudad Perdida.

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    Kogi kids

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 23, 2010

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    cute but not the sweetest kids we ever met
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    Though we saw quite a few Kogi, most were fleeting images. They are elusive and surely do not like having their photo taken. The kids though are growing less wary of outsiders and this is sure to spell a loss of tradition in the long run. Though they are not as aggressive as say kids along the Inca Trail with constant begging for “bon bons,” it is easy to see a day when it might be the case. Unfortunately, our guide offered them some candy if we could take a photo even though we would never personally think to do such a thing. But the damage was done and I'm sure it was not the first time from their reaction. There were three boys, all handsome and healthy but there was a hard edge to them compared to other native children we've encountered. Perhaps it is a function of a tribe trying to remain aloof but one in particular had a bit of a mean streak to him, luring a horse over to pet it and then slapping it on the nose very hard, obviously enjoying it as well. They soon realized we would not give them anything else and took refuge in a tree when they seemed more natural and at ease. Though we didn't give them anything I guess we contributed to their behavior by taking the photos too.

    An interesting thing about the Kogi is they are quite unisex looking. The young boys in particular are quite “pretty” with very thick long hair. One of the ways to differentiate between boys and girls is the boys oddly enough carry a handbag while the girls wear special necklaces.

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    jungle whites

    by richiecdisc Updated Nov 29, 2010

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    in our

    One of the main reasons my wife did not want to do the trek to La Ciudad Perdida (aside from the hammocks and having done a very arduous seven day trek around El Cocuy just a month earlier) was the area's infamous mosquito population that just might be carrying malaria or dengue fever, take you pick. Neither of us is big proponents of oral chemical anti-malarial prophylactics. The chance of having an adverse reaction to the drugs seems to outweigh that of getting the actual disease. I've only used them once and have traveled in potential malarial areas many times since with no problem. Of course, you need to take precautions such as trying to avoid high mosquito activity times but dusk and dawn is also my favorite time for taking photos so it doesn't work out very well for me. Using creams with the best chemical repellent DEET is not the most pleasant but if it is a very bad area we'll do it. Another option is wearing long sleeve shirts and long pants, preferably of light colors as mosquitos are attracted to dark ones. These can be spayed with repellents like permethrin for added protection but good luck finding that anywhere there actually is malaria! I've pre-sprayed clothes before going to supposed high risk areas only to find there be very few mosquitos. This was due to traveling in the dryer months. Mosquitos need water to survive so “rainy” seasons mean more of them. We brought our long gear as we'd gotten quite used to it traveling around the deserts of the US just the previous summer and it also served us well to protect us from the sun on the very high altitude tree-less El Cocuy trek. They sounded like the perfect thing to wear but we arrived to find we were the only ones not wearing shorts and a tank top. It was very dry this particular “dry” season and there were hardly any mosquitos. They came in a little handy at dusk and dawn but overall we found them too hot to hike in. It was quite warm and muggy and neither of us had brought shorts aside from our swimming gear.

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    Coca Plantation

    by darthmilmo Written Oct 12, 2002

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    On the way to and on the way back from la Ciudad Perdida there are several coca plantations where the imfamous coca plant is grown. Don't be afraid of approaching the locals and asking permission to take a picture in there. This are harmless people who are just trying to earn a hard earned leaving. They have nothign to do with the actual processing and trafficing of cocain so please don't harass them.

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