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Ciudad Perdida: The “Lost City” of Colombia

Marija Georgievska

Ciudad Perdida is the archaeological site of an ancient city in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada.

It is also known as Teyna and Buritaca and it is believed to have been found about 800 CE, some 650 years before Machu Picchu. Translated from Spanish it means “Lost City” and it was discovered in 1972 by a group of local treasure looters.

Overlooking the terraces. Photo Credit

Overlooking the terraces. Photo Credit

They found a series of stone steps and followed  them to an abandoned city. The name that they gave to this ancient city was “Green Hell” or “Wide Set”. The director of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropologia was informed that some golden artifacts started to mysteriously appear on the black market.

In 1976, he decided to look for this city, and when he reached the site immediately initiated an excavation.

Wooden structures once stood on the stone platforms. Photo Credit

Wooden structures once stood on the stone platforms. Photo Credit

The excavation was completed in 1982. The members of the local tribes stated that they regularly visited the site and that they think that this city and its associated network of villages were inhabited by their forebears.

They also say that they knew about this place long before it was discovered but that it was kept secret.

Stone steps at Ciudad Perdida. Photo Credit

Stone steps at Ciudad Perdida. Photo Credit

It is presumed that Ciudad Perdida was the political and manufacturing center on the Buritaca River and housed between 2,000 and 8,000 people. It is built across 169 terraces carved into the mountain and features several circular plazas.

The only entrance into this lost city is a long climb up some 1,200 stone steps.  The Tayrona people are the ones that built this city and it was apparently abandoned during the Spanish conquest.

Ciudad Perdida Terrace. Photo Credit

Ciudad Perdida Terrace. Photo Credit

Given the location of this city in the dense jungles of Colombia, this Ciudad Perdida has been associated with some unfortunate events. In 2013 The National Liberation Army kidnaped 8 tourists from the site. However, after negotiation with the Columbian government, they released the hostages three months later.

In 2005 the hikes became safe again and since then there have been no incidents. The Columbian army is actively patrolling the area making it safe for tourist and visitors.

A boulder with carved markings, believed to be a map of the area around Ciudad Perdida. Photo Credit

A boulder with carved markings believed to be a map of the area around Ciudad Perdida. Photo Credit

The non-profit organization Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has been since 2009 to preserve and protect this city against climate changes and looting.

Read another story from us: Gran Pajatén: Fragile archaeological site in Peru is forbidden for tourists

GHF’s goals are to document and conserve all of the archeological finds at Ciudad Perdida.