Colombia Explorer – Medellín, Lost City Trek, Tayrona Beaches | Under 35

Trip Length 9 Days
Group Size 4–14
Activity level
Starting from
$2,599 for REI Members
$2,999 for non-members
Departures Feb 2021-Dec 2021

Channel your inner explorer trekking through the Colombian jungle to one of South America’s most mysterious lost cities.

From the graffiti-covered alleyways of Medellín to the sun-soaked beaches of Tayrona National Park, we’ll spend nine immersive days hiking, biking and basking in Colombian culture to make you a true paisa. The highlight of this trip is the four full days we’ll spend hiking to The Lost City, complete with jungle jaunts, moss-covered staircases, sacred platforms and layers of lore. Colombia is a grand stage for adventurers of all ages, but these trips were designed for those who are 18–35 (anyone over 18 is welcome).

In Medellín, we’ll join a community activist who will show us Medellín’s historic sites with a focus on modern innovation. The 1,200 stairs to the top of El Penol will prepare us for the Lost City Trek, a multi-day march to an ancient city that only the daring embark on. After hiking through lush jungles, refreshing in glacier-fed streams, learning about ancient traditions from members of the tribe themselves, and seeing the Lost City at first light, we’ll end our trip at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world—in Tayrona National Park.

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Trip Highlights

  • Hike and bike Medellín visiting La Catedral, El Penol and Guatape along the way
  • Trek to the Lost City deep in the Colombian jungle with an English-speaking local guide
  • Sunbathe on the beaches of Tayrona National Park
  • Meet local activists, tribal leaders and like-minded travelers

Activities

This trip is rated Moderate Plus [3–4]. The trip is mainly a hiking trip with one short section of mountain biking. The mountain biking is on unpaved gravel roads with some small rolling hills (3 miles). The hiking on the Lost City Trek is difficult due to the hilly terrain as well as the climate. It is very hot and humid on the trekking route. There may be some exposed areas of the trail and mandatory river crossings. Trip members should be strong, experienced hikers in excellent physical condition and capable of hiking 5–7 hours a day (8–10 miles) on trails with long steep ascents and descents. Daily elevation gains and losses can exceed 3,000 ft.

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountain Biking

What's Included

Double-occupancy accommodations at hotels; domestic flights within Colombia; private transport throughout as noted in the daily itinerary; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; private bilingual guides; 24-speed mountain bikes with front suspension and bike helmets; entrance fees to various parks; one group transfer on Day 9 to the Santa Marta or Cartagena airport.

Accommodations

Hotels, 5 nights: Jungle Refugios: 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Arrival in Medellín, the Land of Eternal Spring

This trip begins in Medellín, Colombia. We meet at our host hotel at 12pm. After a short briefing, we start our exploration of the city by public transit. Riding the metro, the cable cars and the escalators, we’ll venture all around the city learning about the past, the present and the future. Our day ends in Communa 13 where a local activist will tell us about how innovation, street art, and music changed this neighborhood from one of Medellín’s most dangerous to a shining example of how change can happen. Welcome dinner is at a restaurant in Medellín renowned for their modern take on Colombian classics. Dinner included.

Walking: 4 hours

Note: a portion of the proceeds from this trip are donated to the Communa 13 Project. Ask us for more info if you’d like to learn more.

Day 2

Hike and Bike Medellín’s Highlands

Today we head out of the city and into the surrounding areas. Our day begins with a mountain bike ride on quiet backroads with incredible views of what's to come. Upon finishing our ride, we'll board a boat and cruise out to La Manuela. This house is now in ruins but was once the grand lakeside estate of one of Colombia's most infamous characters. Our boat ride continues to a private beach for a traditional Colombian lunch. After relaxing and swimming in the lake, we'll board the boat again, this time headed for the colorful town of Guatape. Famous for its vibrant wood siding on the homes, this town is a photographer's dream. A short transfer takes us to the city to El Penol where you'll have a chance to climb the 740 stairs to the top of the rock. The 360-degree views of the island-dotted landscape below are well worth the effort. We head back to Medellín in the late afternoon, with free time to explore on your own from our centrally located hotel. Dinner on your own.

Transfer: 2 hours; Biking: 1.5 hours; Walking: 1 hour

Day 3

Welcome to the Caribbean Coast

Enjoy one final morning in Medellín before we transfer mid-morning to the airport for our flight to Santa Marta. Santa Marta is located on the Caribbean coast with a notable temperature change from eternal spring into warm summer. After a couple hours of free time in Santa Marta to find lunch, we'll transfer straight to our beachside hotel where we'll have time to relax and enjoy the sun, sand, and sunset before dinner. Breakfast and dinner included.

Transfer: 1 hour; Flight: 1.5 hours

Day 4

Jungle Climbs and Cool Waterfalls

Today’s the day! We start off from Santa Marta bright and early to beat the heat. Hopping into 4x4 trucks, we make our way into the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains. After donning our day packs, we set off into the jungle. The trail is steep to start, but there are stops whenever you need them, complete with freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh fruit for the taking. Arrive at our refuge for the night where lunch is served at an incredible mirador overlooking the lush valleys below. After lunch, spend your free time relaxing or heading off to a local waterfall for a dip. Before dinner at the refuge, we’ll have the chance to talk about life in the mountains with a farmer whose family has lived there for years. All meals included.

Transfer: 1 hour; Hiking 7 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +1,982'/-961'

Day 5

Trek Deeper into the Lost City

Wake up bright and early for a hearty Colombian breakfast then set off on the trail again. Nothing in Colombia is flat, so be prepared for steep uphills followed by even steeper descents. The trail today passes from land owned by local farmers to protected indigenous land. The indigenous tribes have lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years and view the earth as the ultimate living being and humans as her children. Lunch is at a local swimming hole, perfect for cooling off in the midday heat. In the afternoon, we’ll arrive at our next refuge for the night. Take a shower, go for a swim or just relax before dinner. All meals included.

Hiking: 10.4 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +3,366'/-2,218'

Day 6

Aerial Views from Stone-Lined Staircases

Rise and shine as we prepare to climb the steep steps up to the Lost City! Nothing can prepare you for the feeling of stepping out of the dense jungle onto perfectly flat terraces rising high above you. After a short briefing with your guide about the city, enjoy free time exploring and perfecting your photography skills. Descend back to the camp for lunch then trek towards Santa Marta, arriving at our final refuge in the late afternoon. The day’s hike calls for yet another local swimming hole invitation before sitting down with a local tribal elder to learn more about the life of the indigenous in this area. Dinner is at the refuge. All meals included.

Hiking: 10.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,329'/-3,691'

Day 7

Finish Trekking then Hit the Beach

This may be the last day of the trek but the hard work is certainly not over! We pass through jungle and farmlands as we descend through the rolling jungle back towards Santa Marta. We will descent down the same trail we came up, pausing to drink refreshing juices and possibly spot toucans in the trees around us. After a short stop for a quick snack at the first refuge we pass, we'll continue down. We will have a celebratory lunch in the town where we started 3 days ago, before hopping into our 4WD vehicles leaving the jungle and The Lost City behind us as we head out to the coast. Once we check in at our beachfront hotel, the afternoon is yours to relax and enjoy beach life. Dinner on your own.​​

Transfer: 1 hr; Hiking: 10.5 miles, Elevation gain/loss: +2,589'/-3,445'

Day 8

Tayrona National Park

No visit to Colombia would be complete without a stop by Tayrona National Park. It’s a magical land where the mountains meet the jungle and the jungle meets the sea, resulting in a wild, untamed beach destination. There’s a four-mile trail that weaves through the park, but we’ll hike two miles in together to one of our favorite beaches, then it’s free time for the rest of the day. Choose to relax and enjoy REI base camp or continue on to the end of the trail to the iconic Cabo San Juan beach. In the afternoon, we’ll all head back to the hotel where we’ll have a final celebratory dinner.

Hiking: 4–8 miles

Day 9

Farewell Colombia

We say a heartfelt goodbye to Colombia today. A transfer will leave the hotel bound first for Santa Marta and then on to Cartagena. Choose to remain in the Tayrona area on your own or transfer to Santa Marta or Cartagena for continued exploration or your international flight home.

Gear List

This gear list has been created to help you choose the best equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary, as this will help you and the field staff. The weather and other conditions at the time of your arrival will dictate what clothing and equipment you will be required to use each day and what (if anything) can be left behind. It may be a necessary precaution that you bring certain items on the list, even if it is uncertain whether or not they will be needed.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Airline Tickets (Confirmation and Itinerary)
  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)
  • Valid Passport

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.