As of 2008, the area has been safe from paramilitaries, but you can only do the hike as part of an organized group. There are four tour companies authorized to lead tours, all with offices in Santa Marta, the most reputable being Magic Tour (5 421 9429,  www.trail.com/magictour), though you may find that guides from different companies swap clients to accommodate those who wish to do the tour in more or fewer days, and during low season the four companies pool clients. The official price of the tour is set at COP$650,000 and includes all meals, accommodation along the trail, the entrance fee to the ruins and transport to and from the trailhead. Guides generally don’t speak English. Groups consist of four to twelve hikers.

The hike can be done all year; the driest period is between late December and March, while during the wet months from May to November the trail can get exceedingly muddy. It’s a reasonably challenging trek lasting four to six days, and a reasonable level of physical fitness is required.

Expect to get wet at any time of the year and pack everything you’ll need, especially: sturdy footwear suitable for river crossings (either waterproof trekking sandals or hiking boots and flip-flops); 50 percent DEET insect repellent (not available in Colombia); water-purifying tablets; anti-malarial prophylactics (there’s low risk of malaria but if you want to err on the side of caution); waterproof bag and poncho, and sunscreen.

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