Atahualpa's Gold - Maps & Clues

Updated: Oct 31, 2018

Yes. Here are the clues and maps needed to possibly find $5,000,000,000 worth of lost Incan gold. But... "And here let me warn all prospective treasure hunters to beware of charts, maps, written directions or similar documents purporting to reveal the precise spot where some horrid has been cached. Nine times out of ten these are faked, or if genuine they were purposely made misleading, the owners of the treasures being the only persons who could understand them. In other words, they are sort of code. - Alpheus Hyatt Verrill, Hints for Treasure Hunters.

In the mid 16th Century the Incan empire was at the end of a civil war that had raged between two brothers, Atahualpa and Huascar. Atahualpa, who controlled the northern half of the empire, had come out on top. The Incan army, now weakened, posed no threat to the invading Spanish Conquistador, Francisco Pizarro, and his army. So it was not long until Atahualpa was a hostage in his own capital city of Cajamarca.


Knowing how Spaniards lusted after gold the imprisoned Atahualpa soon saw an opportunity to negotiate his release and made Pizarro an offer that he couldn't refuse. In exchange for his freedom Atahualpa promised to give Pizarro enough gold to fill his prison cell and enough silver to fill the two adjoining cells. After the deal had been agreed the treasure began to arrive from every corner of the Incan empire. As soon as these gilded artifacts arrived Pizarro had them melted down into ingots ready to be transported back to Spain. The gold began to mount, but so did the tension within the Incan populace. Atahualpa still had an immense amount of power and the possibility of an uprising against the foreign invaders began to close in on Pizarro and the Spanish. On August the 29th 1533 Pizarro felt like he had no other option than to garrote and burn Atahualpa at the stake hopefully squashing all threats of a rebellion. Unbeknown to Pizarro at that same moment General Rumiñahui and 60,000 men were on their way to the capital with a staggering 750 tons of golden treasure. This was to be used to pay off the remaining balance therefore releasing Atahualpa from imprisonment. The general was furious when he learnt of Atahualpa’s untimely demise. So much so he drove the treasure deep into the Llanganates Mountains and hid the vast horde away from the greedy fingers of the Spanish. The general and his men were eventually found, caught, imprisoned and tortured. But the location of the hidden gold remained a secret. Over the next 40 years the Spanish ransacked the rest of the Incan Empire and the location of the golden horde died along with so many Incans.


As the legend goes the 750 tons of golden Incan treasure still remains hidden within the flanks of the 220,000 hectares of the Ecuadorian Llanganates National Park. This national park although no doubt beautiful is also formidable. It ranges in elevation from 1200m to 4500m. The park, is strewn with lakes, rivers, swamp, mud and tangled rhododendron forests. The weather in general is soaking wet all year round. The only variation is that the rain in winter turns to snow and sleet. It sounds like the mountains must be beautiful, but that is if the shrouding mist and fog allows you to see it. In short General Rumiñahui had found a very secure location to hide his gold.


I first started to dream about finding this gold in 2010, but work, life and not really knowing how to go about going on a treasure hunt got in the way and these dreams slowly faded. My lust for finding this gold was reignited in 2013 when I heard of a multi national team of explorers who possibly found the site of the treasure.


“It sounds like a plot from an Indiana Jones film, but explorers claim to have found ruins hidden deep in a dense and dangerous Amazonian jungle that could solve many of South America's mysteries – and lead to one of the world's most sought-after treasures… They have already unearthed a 260ft tall by 260ft wide structure, made up of hundreds of two-ton stone blocks, and believe there could be more, similar constructions over an area of about a square mile… Local legend has it that the area was once populated by a civilisation of exceptionally tall people and the apparently outsized nature of some of the approximately 30 artefacts found have led some to describe the area as the Lost City of The Giants.”

Obviously they have not been the first gold hunters to go in search of this treasure. Those who have been in search of the treasure have used few well-known clues that were said to point to the location of the gold. Perhaps the 2013 team have found a different treasure and Atahualpa’s gold is still out there. So if you fancy doing a bit of digging here are the clues that others have used.

CLUE 1: Several decades after Atahualpa’s death a poor Spanish adventurer called Valverde married an Incan princess who is said to have led him to the treasure. People assumed this as his rags unaccountably turned to riches. Many years later Valverde was lying on his deathbed and began to write an account of the landmarks within the mountains of the Llanganates that led him to the treasure. These notes, now known as Valverde’s Derrotero (Valverde’s Path), were bequeathed to King Charles V of Spain. The King sent a team off to find the treasure, and although promising discoveries were found the mysterious vanishing of the leader forced the team to abandon their search. The treasure was seemingly forgotten for the next 100 years. The translation of Valverde Derrotero’s notes can be seen here.

Clue 2: In the late 18th century a miner called Don Atanasio Guzmán who worked the old Incan mines of the Llanganates manages to draft a detailed treasure map. But just before he was able to claim the gold he too vanished under unexplained circumstances. Shrouded in the possibility of a curse the treasure was then left untouched until 1860. A copy of the map that Guzmán drew can be seen saved by clicking on the image at the top of this post. In fact a scan of the original, which is kept at the RGS library, is hanging on my office wall and constantly gives me inspiration to pack up bags and go on an adventure in search of myth, legend and treasure.

Clue 3: In 1860 a British Botanist called Richard Spruce stumbled upon the Valverde Derrotero and Guzmán’s map within the archives at Latacunga. Spruce published his findings within the Journal of the Royal Geographic Society in London. In fact I own one of the original Guzmán maps that were published for this journal. A scan of Richard Spuce’s “Note’s of a Botanist” article within the RGS journal can be seen here.

Clue 4: Spruce also published his notes in a later article within the RGS journal called “On the mountains of Llanganati, in the Eastern Corillera of the Quitonian Andes, illustrated by a map constructed by the late Don Atanasio Guzmán.” Spruce’s notes on the mountains of the Llanganati can be seen here.

So you must be thinking that many people have already been searching for this gold, and you would be right. Incredibly in 1886 while working with Spruce a pair of treasure hunters solved the clues and found the treasure. Captain Barth Blake and Lieutenant George Edwin Chapman were looking like all their money issues had been solved. Blake made maps and sent letters back to friends. One of his letters claimed that:

“It is impossible for me to describe the wealth that now lays in that cave marked on my map, but I could not remove it alone, nor could thousands of men….There are thousands of gold and silver pieces of Inca and pre-Inca handicraft, the most beautiful goldsmith works you are not able to imagine, life-size human figures made out of beaten gold and silver, birds, animals, cornstalks, gold and silver flowers. Pots full of the most incredible jewelry. Golden vases full of emeralds.”

But like all treasure hunts death and curses are not far behind. As we know two people had already mysteriously disappeared. Frustratingly Chapman didn't survive the journey out of the mountains and Blake fell over board on their trip to the USA with the small amount of gold they had taken from their cave. The list of ill-fated explorers struck with gold fever continued…

·1920s – Colonel Brook took his wife on a holiday in search of the treasure. Sadly his wife died of pneumonia and the Colonel went mad and was locked up in an asylum in New York.

·1930s – The Scot Erskine Loch mounted 2 expeditions in search of the gold. Torrential rains and desertion of his porters marred his first expedition. The second trip fell into disarray when the team ran out of food and suffered from hallucinations. Loch wrote a book called Fever, Famine and Gold and in it he said “The country ahead, had spur after spur of precipitous rock faces descending into raging torrents below. Everything we stood upon, everything we clutched gave way under us.” Soon after Loch published his book he shot himself in the head.

· 1960s – Bob Holt, an American geologist went in search of the gold but tragically he tripped, slipped and fell spearing his heart on a broken branch.

So treasure hunters need to weigh up the risks of curses before gallivanting off in search of gold. But no doubt the lure of a horde that has been said to be worth a staggering 5,000,000,000 USD will keep a steady flow of explorers trying to track down its location. But of course five billion US dollars is just speculation right? To know the real worth someone would actually have to find it. So after reading that if you are still inspired and do not believe the curses feel free to pick up the shovel where other teams have left off and take these clues and go in search of this vast known but possibly undiscovered horde of Incan treasure. Enjoy…