Journey to the "Lost City" of La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

Hidden for over 400 years.

Global Heritage Fund

Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta by Alessandra Fuccillo, courtesy of Environomica OnlusGlobal Heritage Fund

Where is La Ciudad Perdida?

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is an UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve. This mountainous region is one of the most ecologically diverse coastal mountain ranges in the world, with an enormous array of flora and fauna — including nearly 630 bird species.


Ciudad Perdida by Plinio BarrazaGlobal Heritage Fund

Historic City Origins

Within this dense jungle maze lie the remains of the Tayrona civilization's crown jewel: La Ciudad Perdida. This once-vibrant settlement lost its inhabitants after the 16th century, and was slowly overtaken by the jungle before disappearing entirely.

Ciudad Perdida by Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Modern Rediscovery

400 years later, a group of looters stumbled upon the city’s remains in 1975. The Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH) quickly assumed control of the site, collaborating with Indigenous groups and global organizations to care for it ever since.

Explore in 360°

Ciudad Perdida by Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Protecting Irreplaceable History

After the site's discovery, its protection required community engagement to enact emergency stabilization, repair and restoration, and documentation of architectural elements and conservation interventions.


Ciudad Perdida by Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Supporting Archaeological Research

Nonprofit Global Heritage Fund supported LiDAR mapping with georeferenced points for the archaeological sites, providing an invaluable reference for management of the basin and future research.

Ciudad Perdida Community by Santiago GiraldoGlobal Heritage Fund

Boosting Community Health

In consultation with Indigenous groups, Global Heritage Fund also supporting the construction of a health center in the  nearby village of Mutianzhi, along with first aid training to benefit local community members and visitors.

Ciudad Perdida by Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Protecting the Past, Benefiting the Present

La Ciudad Perdida continues to draw travelers to its stunning archaeological remains. Prior to COVID-19, the site received around 25,000 visitors annually, and tourist spending benefited the local communities by supporting local guides, lodges, drivers and workers.


Ciudad Perdida Community by Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Developing Local Community Opportunities

Over the past decade, Indigenous men and women have teamed up with organizations like Global Heritage Fund to develop visitor facilities. All the guides, cooks, and porters are local or based in nearby Santa Marta, and campsites are locally owned.

River Near Ciudad Perdida by Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Promoting Visitor Safety

Rainfall, rivers, and thick jungle brush on the 17-mile trek to La Ciudad Perdida challenge even experienced hikers. To improve visitor safety, the community opted to build a suspension bridge over one of the most dangerous river crossings along the trail. 
 

Escuela Ableizhi by Santiago Giraldo/Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Local Heritage Education

Lasting protection for La Ciudad Perdida also requires youth engagement and education. At school such as Escuela Ableizhi, students benefit from a cultural heritage curriculum, teacher training, and establishment of an environmental club. 

Conservation and Rural Development by Alessandra Fuccillo, courtesy of Environomica OnlusGlobal Heritage Fund

Conservation of Forest Ecosystems

To build capacity on integrated agroforestry, 27 local farms have been engaged and a new working tree nursery established. The nursery now provides up to 20,000 saplings per year.
   

Conservation and Rural Development by Alessandra Fuccillo, courtesy of Environomica OnlusGlobal Heritage Fund

Sustainable Rural Development

The agricultural output of 40 households has been diversified and increased. Deforestation around La Ciudad Perdida has decreased thanks to significant reductions in pasture used for grazing.

Ciudad Perdida by Plinio BarrazaGlobal Heritage Fund

A Dangerous New Fight

With the outbreak of COVID-19 around the world in 2020, the Indigenous groups living near La Ciudad Perdida knew they had to act fast to protect themselves. They quickly asked park managers to close the park to visitors. 

Ciudad Perdida by Santiago Giraldo/Global Heritage FundGlobal Heritage Fund

Endangered Survival

Over 330 families living around La Ciudad Perdida cannot access essential resources such as food and medical supplies.

Make a Difference

Donations help provide food and medical equipment to vulnerable Indigenous families, local guides, and personnel throughout La Ciudad Perdida. Learn more at give.globalheritagefund.org/ciudadperdida.

Discover More

COVID-19 UPDATE: Make a difference for Indigenous and rural families around La Ciudad Perdida who cannot access critically-needed food and medical supplies: https://give.globalheritagefund.org/ciudadperdida

Explore how Global Heritage Fund builds local capacities through community training, visitor development, and education to sustainably protect the irreplaceable historic remains of La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia:
La Ciudad Perdida, Colombia

Reflecting on Ten Years at La Ciudad Perdida

A Visual Trek Through the Sweltering Jungle: In Search of Colombia's 'Lost City' (New York Times Travel)

About Global Heritage Fund

Transforming local communities by investing in global heritage. Since 2002, we have partnered with over 100 organizations to protect 28 sites across 19 countries. And we are just getting started. Learn more at globalheritagefund.org.


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Partners

Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH)
USAID-Fondo Patrimonio Natural Conservation Landscapes Program
Tayrona Foundation for Archaeological and Environmental Research-FIAAT
CitiFoundation
Tamarin Fund
Fundación Bolivar-Davivienda

Credits: Story

Global Heritage Fund

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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