El Dorado (pronounced [el doˈɾaðo], English: /ˌɛl dəˈrɑːdoʊ/; Spanish for “the golden one”), originally El Hombre Dorado (“The Golden Man”) or El Rey Dorado (“The Golden King”), was the term used by the Spanish in the 16th century to describe a mythical tribal chief (zipa) or king of the Muisca people, an indigenous people of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense of Colombia, who as an initiation rite, covered himself with gold dust and submerged in Lake Guatavita. The legends surrounding El Dorado changed over time, as it went from being a man, to a city, to a kingdom, and then finally to an empire.
A second location for El Dorado was inferred from rumors, which inspired several unsuccessful expeditions in the late 1500s in search of a city called Manoa on the shores of Lake Parime or Parima. Two of the most famous of these expeditions were led by Sir Walter Raleigh. In pursuit of the legend, Spanish conquistadors and numerous others searched what is today Colombia, Venezuela, and parts of Guyana and northern Brazil, for the city and its fabulous king. In the course of these explorations, much of northern South America, including the Amazon River, was mapped. By the beginning of the 19th century, most people dismissed the existence of the city as a myth.
The legend of the Seven Cities of Gold (Seven Cities of Cibola) led to Francisco Vázquez de Coronado‘s expedition of 1540 across the New Mexico territory. This became mixed with the stories of El Dorado, which was sometimes said to be one of the seven cities.
Several literary works have used the name in their titles, sometimes as “El Dorado”, and other times as “Eldorado”.