The world is a mysterious place. It’s amazing that with all the technology we have today, there are still so many undiscovered corners out there, just waiting to be unveiled. People watch movies like Indiana Jones and think that it should be impossible for any undiscovered civilizations to be left in the world.
For centuries, stories were told about a legendary city, known for a long time as “La Ciudad Blanca,” that no explorer had ever been able to find. It’s a big part of Central American culture. In the 1500s, Spanish Conquistador Hernán Cortés claimed to have heard trustworthy information about a wealthy city in Honduras hidden in the jungle. Since then, countless expeditions have been made in the search for the White City. Explorers ventured into the Honduran rainforest looking for the mythical city but were said to never come back. Fear grew around the legend, and every upcoming year fewer and fewer people went in search for it since all those who did so seemed to disappear during their quest.
Nobody had been able to officially claim the existence of this mysterious city, until very recently. A few years ago, a flight survey around one of the most remote rainforest regions in Honduras was made, and a scanner reported human architecture underneath the extensive vegetation. In 2015, an expedition was organized in search for the ‘Lost City of the Monkey God,’ as it had come to be known. During that expedition, a group of American and Honduran archaeologists were finally able to step foot inside the city, reporting their findings along the way.
15. It’s Located In The Mosquitia Region In Honduras
La Mosquitia is the easternmost region of Honduras and is the largest wilderness area in Central America. The animals and plants that can be found over there sound like a great tourist spot, but the jungle is so dense, that it’s very hard for people to settle there. The area is practically uninhabited, except for the eventual drug smuggler that manages to make his way through. Apart from them, some indigenous groups have adapted their way of life for many years to make that rainforest their home.
For centuries, the Mosquitia region was the center of many tales about the legendary White City, Spanish Conquistadors went in search for the lost city and most of them never returned. It is a remote place where animals have not laid eyes on humans before, and unknown diseases plague those who enter the jungle. Not a welcome sight, but explorers who venture there have only had one thing in mind, to discover the legendary Lost City of the Monkey God.
14. Stories About A Legendary White City Go Back To The 16th Century
Tales about the legendary city first became known in the 1500s. In 1526, five years after facing the Aztecs in battle, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés ended up in the colonial town of Trujillo when he claimed to hear trustworthy information about wealthy towns and villages in eastern Honduras. Although he was never able to find them, he wrote about this city and mentioned it as “Hueitapalán.” Cortés referred to the city as a province of extreme wealth. He was told the city was in a remote jungle region that was almost impossible to get to. This sparks the first mention of the mythical city. Later, in 1544, the Bishop of Honduras wrote a letter to the King of Spain about a trip he made in the Mosquito Coast jungles. From a mountaintop, he spotted an enormous city in the middle of nowhere. The legend grew from there and the White City was soon linked to many myths in Central American Culture.
13. The First Sighting Of “La Ciudad Blanca” Was In The 1920s
It’s amazing that after centuries of legends and myths created around the mysterious city, nobody spotted it again until the 1900s. The first mention was in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh reported seeing ruins of a “White City” while flying over Honduras. He spoke of a great metropolis, and that is why the city was called “La Ciudad Blanca.”
Also in 1927, the first academic mention of the lost city was made by Eduard Conzemius, an ethnographer from Luxemburg. He wrote a report of the Paya Indians of Honduras and mentioned the discovery of some ruins 25 years earlier by someone who was looking for rubber but got lost between the Paulaya and the Plantain River. He said they called it the White City because of its walls and its buildings were all made of white stone. More expeditions were made afterward in search for the mythical city, but there were no more reports of its existence for a while.
12. The First Explorer To Return From The City Was Theodore Morde, In 1940
All those years of people claiming to have seen the city and hearing tales about its whereabouts, yet none of them had actually come face-to-face with it. After all the legends and myths created about “La Ciudad Blanca,” nobody seemed to stumble upon it, until one Theodore Morde, in 1940. Not only did he find the city, he is said to have entered the city and come back with treasures from within its walls. Morde claimed to have discovered an incredible city during his expedition, located in an almost inaccessible area between the Paulaya and Plátano Rivers.
At the center of the city, Morde reported seeing an enormous Monkey King statue. This is the reason the legend was later known as the “Lost City of the Monkey God.” Morde and his group of explorers came back with treasures and described the ruins as the capital of an ancient agricultural civilization. Theodore Morde died in 1954 from an apparent suicide, and he never revealed the specific location where he found the lost city, fearing people would destroy its unaltered state.
11. It’s Said To Contain An Enormous Statue Of A Monkey God
The Lost City of the Monkey God is called so because Morde claimed that within the city there was a temple containing the statue of an enormous Monkey God. He said that many stories surrounded the statue, and was told it represented a supernatural being with enormous strength. According to Morde, the temple had a long staircase filled with monkey effigies and other animal statues that surrounded it, like crocodiles and a colossal image of a frog. He was told the village had been previously inhabited by the Chorotegas, more than a thousand years before. His guides told stories from their culture about a monkey who stole women and bred with them, resulting in half-monkey half-children beings and recalled that their forefathers were the Ulaks, great hairy ape-men who could walk upright. After his expedition, people started to believe in the existence of the ancient city again, especially since Morde came back with thousands of artifacts that were later exhibited in the Heye Foundation Museum of the American Indian in New York City.
10. Nobody Else Came Across The Lost City For More Than 70 Years
As you can probably tell by now, this city is damn well hidden. Morde died leaving some vague hints as to where the mythical city was. He said it lay between the Paulaya and the Plantain Rivers, and after countless expeditions, not one person found the ancient ruins until more than 70 years later. Doing so would not be an easy task since the Mosquitia region in Honduras is one of the few places left in the world that is almost completely unexplored. The jungle there is very dense, and there are strange diseases and animals that threaten the people who venture in it. Many archaeological sites had been found in that area that weren’t part of the White City, but they still fueled the interest of those eager to explore that unknown territory.
In 2001, a documentary aired with Chris Begley and my personal favorite Hollywood actor, Ewan McGregor. It highlighted all the archaeological sites and rugged conditions of the region, as well as the continuing search for “La Ciudad Blanca.”
9. The First Official Discovery Was In 2015
Okay so after all this time, all the expeditions and group of explorers that set out to find the Lost City of the Monkey God had no luck. The ruins still managed to slip past our fingers, until a couple of documentary filmmakers by the names of Steve Elkins and Bill Benenson started their own search. During their venture, they pointed out a deep crater between two steep mountains as a probable location for the city. They did not find the ruins at that time, but thanks to them, in 2012 an air survey was performed in the area consisting of a Cessna carrying a LiDAR scanner. The LiDAR scanner probes the jungle with laser light to determine if any human architecture is in the area. After the flight and the images were processed, they detected unnatural architecture and features beneath the jungle canopy. It also revealed that humans had almost completely restructured the shape of the terrain near the river. Thanks to this revelation, a team was assembled in 2015 to explore the area. On that expedition, the amazing Lost City of the Monkey God was finally discovered.
8. The City Is Also Believed To Have Been Home To A New Pre-Columbian Civilization
After studies were made on the site, the group of professionals noticed that what they discovered there was not only the legendary “Ciudad Blanca,” but a group of cities and villages that were part of something much bigger, a lost civilization. It’s incredible how the Mosquitia region could hide an entire human society in its jungles, and nobody else would know about them for centuries, I guess they didn’t want to be bothered.
This lost culture was different from the nearby Mayan, and archaeologists have virtually no information about them, they don’t even have a name for them yet. Christopher Fisher, an archaeologist from Colorado State University, stated that the conditions of the site were incredibly rare, as they were completely undisturbed. Many artifacts peered through the earth, but most of them were buried below ground. One of the objects that stood out was a statuette that depicted a shaman in a possible spirit state, transformed into a jaguar wearing a helmet.
7. The Region Is Home To A Flesh-Eating Disease That Protects The Area
Before arriving at the site, the 2015 search team were attacked by many animals common to the area, and when they arrived, they soon found out that the lost city was protected by a flesh-eating disease that infected the whole team.
The disease is spread by sand flies and is known to cause horrific disfigurations on your body and face. It’s no wonder that area is also known as the Mosquitia region. On top of that, there is no known cure, so every member of the team was infected by it. Some fear that because of this disease, we may never uncover more details about this lost civilization. Another important question is what happened to those who lived in those cities. Some believe they were struck by a curse, possibly falling victim to a disease brought by the Europeans to America. Others believe illnesses like smallpox and measles hit this area between 1000 and 1400 AD. People who lived in those cities would not have the genetic defense to protect themselves from those diseases.
6. It’s Located In An Undisturbed Rainforest
By now, you’ve probably guessed how remote this region is. I mean, people went looking for this city for centuries and they couldn’t find it, and it’s not like it’s the biggest area in the world. The thing is, the jungle is so dense that it’s too hard for most people to traverse through it. You can walk for hours making your way through the foliage, and only advance a small fraction of what you would normally travel.
La Mosquitia region has very hot and humid temperatures and includes many strong streams and rivers like the Patuca and the Plátano. The climate over there allows the dense jungle vegetation that grows there, and it’s one of the few undisturbed rainforests left in the world. The Plátano River Biosphere Reserve is also considered one of the “great lungs” of Central America, dubbed so for the amount of oxygen the plants release in that jungle.
5. Little Is Known About The Recently Discovered Culture
Some people may have been expecting to find a city with a monkey god statue in those ruins, so the truth behind all those legends would be revealed, but the reality was that a whole civilization was hidden beneath that rainforest. According to Douglas Preston, one of the members of the 2015 archaeology team that ventured in the ruins, they have only discovered about 4 percent of that ancient civilization that lies beneath the rainforest.
Much more is still to be discovered in that vast region in La Mosquitia, but it’s not easy when there are deadly animals involved and a flesh-eating disease that can’t be stopped. Douglas Preston recorded their dangerous path through the rainforest in search of the ruins in his book “The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story,” you might want to check it out and see all the hardships the team went through on their journey. They should go back, though, and give us more info about that lost culture asap.
4. The Animals There Have Never Seen Humans Before
Most animals should know by now that humans are always out to get them. Animals are usually aware of the presence of humans and are very alert around our species, but that was not the case for the expedition. As the team of explorers made their way through the jungle, they noticed that the animals there were not afraid of them. The animals that lived there seemed to have never seen humans before, and some approached the group fearlessly. Tapirs were seen roaming around the camp, and spider monkeys climbed down curiously to inspect their new visitors. Some must have certainly made parts of the ruins their home, using it as a refuge from the rain and humidity.
According to the expedition’s ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin, the whole region is “clearly the most undisturbed rain forest in Central America,” and that the preservation of it is of vital importance. It’s incredible that places still exist where animals don’t know about the existence of humans, and the dangerous print we leave behind on all those ecosystems.
3. Deforestation Now Threatens The White City
Even though the region surrounding “La Ciudad Blanca” is enormously dense and still virtually untouched by humans, it is endangered by recent deforestation performed as near as 12 miles from the ruins. The reason behind the deforestation is that the region surrounding the rainforest has become widely popular for cattle farming. It has become one of the biggest beef producing areas in Central America, selling it to fast-food companies in the United States. After examining the Lost City of the Monkey God, Honduran officials concluded that if nobody does anything about the issue, the forest and valleys will be gone in about eight years.
Illegal activity like this goes on in many countries in Central and South America. These jungles are the perfect hiding spot for drug smugglers and unauthorized deforestation since they’re so remote and not easily accessible. Those involved don’t care about the importance of the jungle or the Lost City, all they want is to make a quick buck or two.
2. The Legendary City Was The Inspiration For Many Films
Hearing stories about the Lost City of the Monkey God for centuries made a big cultural impact on people all around the world. The Pech tribe in Honduras claimed that those who lived in La Ciudad Blanca were allied with the spirits of great storms, like the Thundergods. These stories kept feeding the legend, and some wanted to capitalize on its mystery. One of the films inspired by the story was called El Xendra. It was set in 2012, also referencing the Mayan apocalypse in its plot.
Also, many documentaries and books have been made about the city, including one in 2013 named Jungleland, by Christopher S. Stewart. He recounts the story of an expedition he made with Chris Begley in search for the lost city. Begley and Stewart stumble upon large ruins, but Begley clarifies that it cannot possibly be La Ciudad Blanca, because, by definition, it should always be lost.
1. The Honduran Government Lacks The Means To Protect The City
After all this time it took for us to find the White City, it may now be in trouble. Because of the growing deforestation activity in the region, the need to preserve the rainforest in La Mosquita is of grave importance, in order to keep the ruins safe. This illegal activity is common in many places in Central and South America, since the remote jungles are hard to supervise, making it ideal for illegal enterprises such as this. These countries do not have the means to constantly scour those areas, and reprimanding those responsible for deforestation is even harder.
The Honduras government has taken action against this illegal deforestation, but lack the necessary resources to protect themselves from illegal operations in those remote places. They need the money and urgently ask for international support on the matter. In order for the Lost City of the Monkey God to remain lost, it must be protected from all those who seek to harm it, and its surrounding habitat.