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Lake Guatavita

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The Legend of El Dorado, the “Golden Man,” once inspired the Spanish conquistadors to historic acts of bravery, blunder, and bloodshed. Those stories of outrageous wealth and waste almost certainly started here, with the glittering pre-Columbian ceremonies that once took place at this small crater lake. (Which is really the lake’s first mystery; though geologists speculate that a meteor made this scenic spot, no one knows for sure).

The rumors that captivated the cold-hearted conquistadors told of Muisca shamans and chiefs completely covered in gold and draped with every sort of gem and precious metal. These gleaming and godlike figures would then be carried out on ceremonial rafts to the center of pretty little Lake Guatavita, where they would pour their riches into the water to appease some monster, perhaps a serpent god, hiding below its deceptively serene surface.

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