ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Where was El Dorado?

Updated on June 2, 2013

Where was El Dorado? El Dorado, Spanish for “the golden one”, refers to a mythic city of gold that captured the imaginations of numerous explorers and adventurers to the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. The legend of El Dorado originated from a tribal ceremony in Colombia, and the legend of a lost city of gold was perpetuated by indigenous people to the Spanish conquistadores. While many expeditions sought the legendary city, it was never found.

Tribal Origins

The story of the city of El Dorado has its origins in a tribal ceremony carried out by the Muisca, an indigenous people of South America. The ceremony, as it was related to the Spanish conquistadores, outlined a religious ceremony in which the Muisca chief was covered in gold dust. As part of the ceremony, gifts of gold and jewels were placed on a raft with “the golden one”, the gold dust-covered chief. The chief then dumped the offerings into the middle of a deep lake. This ceremony was said to have taken place in Lake Guatavita, located near Bogotá, Colombia. The conquistadores managed to steal much of the Muisca gold, but were unable to locate a golden city. They heard stories of El Dorado repeated by the captured tribe, which spurred them to continue to search for the lost city.

Francisco Pizarro
Francisco Pizarro

Expeditions to Find El Dorado

As mentioned above, many expeditions to find El Dorado were carried out in the 16th and 17th centuries. First, several attempts were made to drain Lake Guatavita to plunder the golden offerings from its bottom. The attempts were largely unsuccessful, although several artifacts were pulled from the lake, proving that the ceremonies actually did take place at Lake Guatavita. After the failed attempts to drain Lake Guatavita, explorers became convinced it was not the location of El Dorado.

An early expedition to find El Dorado was lead by Gonzalo Pizarro, a half-brother to conquistador Francisco Pizarro, in 1541. Francisco de Orellana accompanied Pizarro on the expedition, serving as second in command. Pizarro and Orellana lead 220 Spaniards and 4,000 natives on their expedition to the east of the continent toward the Andes Mountains. The party explored the Río Coco and the Río Napo before supplies began to dwindle. The group suffered heavy losses – 140 of the Spaniards and 3,000 of the natives had succumbed to disease and malnourishment. Pizarro decided to abandon the expedition and lead several of the crew back to Quito, Ecuador, while Orellana went on to explore the length of the Amazon River – an accomplishment for which he is most famous. While the Pizarro expedition did not find El Dorado, the dream of finding the legendary city had not died.

There were several other failed expeditions by Spanish explorers throughout the end of the 16th century. Famously, Sir Walter Raleigh, an Englishman, undertook a search for El Dorado in 1595 starting from the east of the continent at the mouth of the Orinoco River. Unsurprisingly, Raleigh did not find the fabled city. He did, however, find gold along the river and in the indigenous villages he came across in his travels. He published a book, The Discovery of Guiana, which provided an account of his explorations. The book ultimately served to perpetuate Raleigh’s thoughts that the city did in fact exist and that South America had many gold mines.

While finding El Dorado was never realized, the word has come to take on a new meaning. It can mean any place where one can expect to find easy money. Or, El Dorado is a metaphor for that one thing a person is seeking, whether it’s riches, love, or an impossible dream.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)