Deep within the dense jungles of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta mountain range lies an ancient marvel, shrouded in history and mystery – the Lost City, also known as Ciudad Perdida, Teyuna, or Buritaca-200. This archaeological site is one of Colombia’s most significant treasures, offering a window into the advanced civilization of the Tayrona indigenous people who built it around the 8th century AD.
A Predecessor to Machu Picchu
Notably, Ciudad Perdida predates the famous Machu Picchu in Peru by approximately 650 years. The city’s construction is attributed to the Tayrona people, known as Teyuna by the indigenous communities in the region. However, despite its historical significance, the city was mysteriously abandoned around 1650 AD.
In 1976, a groundbreaking expedition led by Gilberto Cadavid, Luisa Fernanda Herrera, and a team of archaeologists, along with the guidance of guaquero Franky Rey, brought the Lost City back into the modern world’s consciousness. Franky Rey, credited with the discovery, alerted local and national authorities, sparking an expedition into the heart of the archaeological site.
The team faced significant challenges, including the site’s destruction caused by guaqueros (treasure hunters) and the harsh climatic conditions of the area. Surprisingly, the very guaqueros who had previously damaged the site became instrumental in its reconstruction. Their knowledge of the original layout of the terraces, stone structures, paths, and stairs proved invaluable.
The Lost City’s Magnificent Features
Today, Ciudad Perdida boasts over 500 terraces, each measuring 45 meters long by 18 meters wide, along with towering retaining walls that reach up to 7 meters in height. It is estimated that the city once consisted of around 1,000 houses. This remarkable site offers a glimpse into the advanced engineering and architectural skills of the Tayrona people.
The Lost City, known as Teyuna to the indigenous peoples of the area, was likely the political, economic, religious, and spiritual center of a vast network of Tayrona villages. It is believed to have housed between 2,000 and 8,000 inhabitants. Following the Spanish conquest, the city was abandoned and declared a cemetery by the surviving indigenous communities.
Today, the Ciudad Perdida-Teyuna Archaeological Park stands as an archaeological reserve, protected by national authorities and the indigenous residents of the region. To visit this ancient wonder, travelers embark on a guided tour that spans 4 to 6 days, navigating challenging terrain and contributing to the local communities that preserve the site’s peace and harmony.
The Lost City of Colombia, with its rich history, intricate terraces, and cultural significance, offers an incredible journey through time. It stands as a testament to the advanced civilization of the Tayrona people and the enduring allure of archaeological wonders hidden within the heart of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.