El Dorado: 10 Important Things To Know Before Visiting The City Of Gold

By Antonia Čirjak on March 19 2020 in Travel

El Dorado, the mythical city of gold, has been the subject of many rumors for centuries.
El Dorado, the mythical city of gold, has been the subject of many rumors for centuries.
  • El Dorado is the mythical city of gold said to be hidden somewhere in South America, whose existence was first mentioned in the 16th century.
  • Many search parties throughout the last 500 years were made, hoping to find the city, however, none of them succeeded.
  • The myth was responsible for the discovery of many other things, mostly the Amazon river, and it helped us map out the continent of South America.

El Dorado, the mythical city of gold, has been the subject of many rumors for centuries. We have all heard the term used in one way or another, but the truth of its existence has never been discovered. Francisco Pizarro, a famous Spanish conquistador, conquered the Inca Empire in the early 16th century, and many explorers and adventurers were inspired to go on expeditions in South America.

The continent was known as the New World back then, and legends of its numerous treasures spread quickly all over the world. Of course, the majority of them mentioned large amounts of gold hidden throughout the interior of the continent, and many explorers lost their lives throughout the years while trying to find fortune. 

The most famous legend mentioned a city entirely made of gold, called the El Dorado, and the attempts to find it have been innumerable. But, is the city real? Well, the answer to the question is sort of disappointing. As it stands, all signs point to the myth of El Dorado being just that, a myth, and most experts agree that the city is not real. However, that also has not been 100% proven, so if you ever decide to form or join a search party looking for El Dorado, we have collected some important facts you should know.

10. The Phrase Described Different Things

The highlands of Colombia used to be inhabited by the Muisca people, and they had a tradition where they would cover their king in gold dust.
The highlands of Colombia used to be inhabited by the Muisca people, and they had a tradition where they would cover their king in gold dust.

Originally, the phrase El Dorado was not used to describe a city; it referred to a person. After all, the literal translation of “El Dorado” is “the gilded man.” The highlands of Colombia used to be inhabited by the Muisca people, and they had a tradition where they would cover their king in gold dust.

Afterward, the king would dive into Lake Guatavitá and emerge clean. The Spanish explorers learned about this custom from other tribes, and that possibly created the myth of the city of gold.

9. The Muisca El Dorado Was Found Early

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, a Spanish explorer, discovered the Muisca people in 1537 and looted their cities.
Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, a Spanish explorer, discovered the Muisca people in 1537 and looted their cities.

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, a Spanish explorer, discovered the Muisca people in 1537 and looted their cities. He heard of El Dorado and was certain he would find the city of gold where the Muisca were situated.

However, the amount of gold found was not considered plentiful, so the conquistadors decided they need to search further. Driven by their greed, they continued the search for El Dorado for decades to come.

8. The Madman Of El Dorado

He declared himself independent of Spain and became known as “The Madman of El Dorado.”
He declared himself independent of Spain and became known as “The Madman of El Dorado.”

An interesting story concerning the search for El Dorado happened in the second half of the 15th century. An explorer named Lope de Aguirre, known amongst his peers to be unstable took over an expedition he was part of.

He murdered several of his companions and began attacking Spanish explorers and settlements all over South America. He declared himself independent of Spain and became known as “The Madman of El Dorado,” but was ultimately killed by other Spanish explorers.

7. The Native Population Was Abused

They often attacked indigenous peoples of South America, tortured them, and stole their food, all in order to get them to reveal the location of El Dorado.
They often attacked indigenous peoples of South America, tortured them, and stole their food, all in order to get them to reveal the location of El Dorado.

Explorers searching for El Dorado were not known as particularly kind people. Driven by their greed, they would often crush anyone standing in their way. Even if they only perceived them as such. They often attacked indigenous peoples of South America, tortured them, and stole their food, all in order to get them to reveal the location of El Dorado.

After a while, the natives began spreading false information about El Dorado to avoid torture. The natives grew to hate the Spanish quickly, and would often ally with explorers from other countries just because of it.

6. Not Everything About It Was Bad

 The Amazon River was discovered by a search party looking for El Dorado.
 The Amazon River was discovered by a search party looking for El Dorado.

The search for El Dorado was the source of many negative things, mostly tied to the mistreatment of the native population. However, at least one good thing came out of the myth, and that is the fact that it caused a large part of the interior of South America to finally be explored and mapped.

Even the most notorious of explorers helped future generations have a better understanding and knowledge of the continent, for example, the Amazon River was discovered by a search party looking for El Dorado.

5. Its Location Constantly Changed

Considering the sheer number of explorers, the location of El Dorado constantly kept changing in rumors.
Considering the sheer number of explorers, the location of El Dorado constantly kept changing in rumors.

After the fall of the Muisca settlements, thousands of explorers rushed to South America in search of the city of gold. Some believed it to be an individual, others thought of it as a city, while some expected to find an entire empire, but they all had their thirst for riches in common.

Some managed to find gold, but nowhere near the amounts they were expecting. Considering the sheer number of explorers, the location of El Dorado constantly kept changing in rumors. As soon as someone failed to find it, another possible location would pop up. This went on for centuries.

4. Spanish Explorers Were Not The Only Ones Searching For It

Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous courtier, and explorer, led two expeditions in search of El Dorado.
Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous courtier, and explorer, led two expeditions in search of El Dorado.

Since Spain colonized a large part of South America, the majority of the people seeking El Dorado were Spanish. However, there were a few exceptions. Several German explorers spent a while searching for the city of gold, most notably Phillipp von Hutten, Georg Hohemut, Ambrosius Ehinger, and Nicolaus Federmann.

Another person worth mentioning is Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous courtier, and explorer, who led two expeditions in search of El Dorado. After failing to find it two times, he was executed in England.

3. We Can be Almost Certain It Does Not Exist

We know all of the great civilizations that lived there, and we can be certain that the Inca was the biggest one.
We know all of the great civilizations that lived there, and we can be certain that the Inca was the biggest one.

Things are a bit different today, and we have a better understanding of the history of the South American continent. We know all of the great civilizations that lived there, and we can be certain that the Inca was the biggest one.

They were also the most advanced and wealthy culture that inhabited South America. While most of the explorers searching for El Dorado managed to find some gold, the original goal of their search was never meant to be found, because it most likely never existed.

2. Lake Parime

One of the stories regarding El Dorado placed it in a lake called Parime.
One of the stories regarding El Dorado placed it in a lake called Parime.

In the second half of the 20th century, a discovery was made that could revive the myth, even by little. One of the stories regarding El Dorado placed it in a lake called Parime. However, this lake was never found, and its existence was dismissed as just a myth. Recent findings have pointed out that this is not true, and that the lake did exist in northern Brazil, meaning there may still be hope that we find out more about the lost city of gold in the future.

1. The Myth Still Lives On

There is even a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe called “Eldorado.”
There is even a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe called “Eldorado.”

Well, this is only partly true. While you will not find a search party looking for El Dorado anytime soon, the story about the city of gold is often mentioned in popular culture. A large number of books, movies, and songs were made about it, and there is even a poem written by Edgar Allan Poe called “Eldorado.” The name El Dorado is used everywhere, in names of hotels, resorts, airports, even cars - the Cadillac Eldorado was popular for a long period of time. 

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