Active + Adventure

How to Vacation Like Indiana Jones

by Douglas Wright

Lost Incan Treasure of Llanganates, Ecuador

Llanganates National Park, a 720,000-acre reserve of sweeping mountains and crystal-clear lakes in central Ecuador, is rumored to be the hiding place of the lost Incan treasure of Llanganates. As the story goes, conquistador Francisco Pizarro demanded that the Incas pay a hefty ransom in exchange for the release of their captive emperor: enough gold to fill up the emperor's prison cell. The Incas were on their way across Llanganates when they heard the news that their king had already been killed, so they hid the massive gold haul in a cave near a lake somewhere in the mountains. Since then, countless treasure hunters have been drawn to the region. Of course, the real treasure here is the uncharted land of misty cloud forest and high-altitude grassland, where you can hike the Andean foothills or the challenging 10,700-foot Llanganates mountain range and explore jungle-fringed tributaries of the Amazon. If you are lucky enough to discover the legendary loot, be warned: Nearly every treasure hunter who's claimed to have found the Incan gold has died under mysterious circumstances.

Follow the right path: The best departure point for excursions into Llanganates National Park is the city of Píllaro, 45 miles southwest of the park boundary. Surtrek offers an eight-day Llanganates hiking tour that follows a route loosely based on clues left behind by Juan de Valverde (a Spanish soldier under Pizarro, he married a local Incan woman who supposedly knew the secret location of the treasure).

Next: Immerse yourself in the Atlantis myth >

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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