I went with a company called Turcol. They offer 4, 5 and 6 day options. The whole thing cost about $200. I chose the slowest option (6 days) because 1) I’ve been sort of lazy so far on this trip and I was afraid of how hard it would be and 2) I’d rather pay $200 for 6 days/5 nights of accommodation instead of 4 days/3 nights. I’m a girl on a budget.
On the 6-day option, the route took me about 4 hours a day. The enormously tall, super fit guy in our group probably did each day’s hike in 2-3 hours, and it took the two people who came prepared for a walk (rather than an intense hike) more like 5 hours a day.
Our guides, Omar and Luis, were awesome. Omar even lent me a backpack to use (I’m not really equipped for trekking on this trip so don’t have any real gear).
The accommodations were primitive, but of course they are – you’re out in the jungle. The upside is that you don’t have to carry a tent or a sleeping bag or anything. You also don’t have to worry about packing food either, because the guides (and mules) carry everything and cook for you.
Painfully obvious tip: BRING SO MUCH BUG SPRAY. Also bring Ziplocs or dry bags. Dry bags notwithstanding, though, you’ll probably have dry clothes for about ten minutes each day – it rained on us twice a day at least and was misting the rest of the time. Plus, it’s super duper hot so you’ll probably be a sweaty mess (if you find a way to hike in the jungle without being a sweaty mess, let me know!). Another painfully obvious tip (that I’m only including because I forgot to follow it myself – oops): Bring something to read, a flashlight and some playing cards, because you’ll have downtime at the camp. Also a swimsuit for swimming in the Fountain of Youth.
The group also tends to spread out, also, so you might be hiking alone part of the time – I definitely was. I enjoyed being out in nature without a phone or any of the other distractions I’m usually addicted to for once, so I was glad I left my iPod back in Santa Marta, but I can also see how someone might want to bring it.
This was definitely a huge highlight of my trip – DO IT. IT’S SO WORTH IT. The whole thing is incredible, but exploring the ruins practically alone is an amazing feeling. There will be one or two other groups up there, tops. You feel like you’ve earned it, unlike other historical sites/attractions/what-have-you where you share the glory with people who have gotten there on an air-conditioned bus.
Did I forget anything? Does anybody have anything else to add? Drop me a line in the comments if so.