From Colombia to Panama: Hiking the Ciudad Perdida and Sailing the San Blas Islands

woman with lobster sailboat panama sailing

What a fun two weeks!  And yet exhausting!  We flew down to Colombia, landed in Barranquilla, and stayed at the Puerta del Sol hotel for one night- very nice! Then a bus ride to Santa Marta, where we prepared for our hike to the Ciudad Perdida.  Previously in territory that was dangerously close to the FARC rebel group, this hike takes hikers to the remnants of a hidden city deep in the jungle. The hike itself was 46 kilometers over four days, and involved hiking up – and then back down- three large mountains and crossing six rivers- or the same river six different times, I’m not sure.  Between the rain each day, the intestinal discomfort that eventually reached every single one of our group, and the heatstroke that took out one of our group, it was very challenging and at times absolutely exhausting, but I made it and getting to see the ruins of a 7th century city was amazing.  And I learned that sleeping in hammocks isn’t so bad.

After the hike and a day of recovery in the quaint town of Santa Marta, we went to Cartagena de Indies to enjoy the beach and the old walled city.  I liked the cobbled streets from the old section and seeing how it’s been revitalized and still retained its quaintness.  Home to writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a visitor so taken by the charm of the city once remarked to the famous author “You’re just a notary without imagination”.

Ready for some ocean action, we signed on to take a sailboat to Panama.  We loaded up with supplies, met our captain and the other couple sailing with us, and set sail. The first two days were ocean crossing, and a bit rough, but we made it through and the last two days were blissful sailing and swimming around the beautiful San Blas islands.  Snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, sailing, and lobster to eat- what more can be asked of a vacation?  Plus a bottle of Medellin rum, shared four ways.

Finally we left our sailboat and made our way in to Panama City, where we went to see the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal.  We enjoyed staying at the Central Park Hotel and Casino and especially their shower and their bed that did not go up and down with the swells.  We toured the museum at the Canal, and watched several really large cargo container ships pass through.  They are building a second set of locks that will accommodate boats up to three times bigger!  That is incredible.  All too soon it was time to head home, although to be honest, this time I think was ready to get back to normal life for a while.

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