Legendary Lost City of Ciudad Blanca

Did you ever think in this day and age there was still a lost city to be found? Honestly, I had never heard of Ciudad Blanca (White City), but lo and behold, a field team from the University of Houston (TX) and the National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) (part of the University of California/ Berkeley) thinks they found it.

The team searched the dense Honduran rainforest of the Mosquito region with a light detection and ranging (LiDAR) device. The initial analysis revealed ruins that could belong to the legendary Ciudad Blanca or other hidden and unidentified sites. This survey gives the archaeologists precise locations so they can find and study the area(s).

If you’re wondering why it didn’t show up on satellite surveys, it’s because the extremely thick canopy of the rainforest actually blocked the satellite.  I find that amazing!

The Legend

In 1526 Hernan Cortes(z) arrived at the colonial town of Trujillo on the north coast of Honduras. He was intent on finding the lost city of Hueitapalan (Old Land of Red Earth), or Ciudad Blanca, which was likened to the legend of El Dorado – think “lots of gold”. Cortes thought great riches awaited him there. Unfortunately for him, after many searches through the dense rainforest, he failed to find the city.

LostCityThen in 1544 the Bishop of Honduras, Bishop Cristobol de Pedraza, wrote to the King of Spain relaying his very difficult trip through the rainforest to the Mosquito Coast. The Bishop reported looking east from a mountaintop into unexplored territory. From there he could see a large city in a river valley that cut through the Mosquito Coast. The guides assisting him on his journey assured the Bishop that the nobles of that great city ate from plates of solid gold. (Artwork above right by unknown artist.)

From there the legend grew. Hunters on the ground and pilots that flew overhead and saw it reported seeing golden idols and elaborately carved white stones, which gave the city its name.

Since the 1940s there have been periodic expeditions launched to find the fabled city, most without success. Some claim they did find it, but then it seems that “events conspired”  to conceal its location before anyone could find the city again.

The local Indians believe their own legends about the city, namely that no one may enter the lost city, and if one does, they risk alienation from the indigenous gods who live there. They consider it not so much a lost city, as a hidden one.

The Good and the Bad

The good news is that now real scientists seem to have located this city and can subsequently make a thorough and scientific exploration of it. The bad news is that this report also alerts treasure hunters who often do great damage to these sites before scientists and officials can get there.  Let’s hope the scientists win this race.

But I would be amused to hear that even though the city was spotted and “found” from above that they can never find it on foot. It may be that the local Indians know more than they’re telling.

Til the next time!


  1. I’m really not surprised about being unable to see structures with satellite surveys. My own home is surrounded by dense oak, maple and other trees and is invisible on all the surveys I’ve checked. Of course, I live where trees drop there leaves in the winter so if they take a survey at that time of year, my house might show up.
    After so many of the natives died from European diseases, murder, and ignorance, cities and villages were abandoned. It wouldn’t have taken long for tropical rainforests to cover them, maybe even before Europeans had a chance to explore them. I’d venture to say we’ve only begun discovering the real richness that the Aztecs, Mayans, Incans and other tribes left behind in the terrible years following the arrival of the Europeans.

  2. I hope the local histories and myths can keep this site from being looted. So much history is lost before we can begin to understand these people. When the archaeologists do get there I hope someone is filming. It would be great to “be there” as it’s uncovered.

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