In 2011 we explored the old Inca – and probably even pre-Inca – route from Amaluza to Palanda, crossing the Cordillera de Sabanilla. After the tour we talked to some of the locals in Palanda about our adventure and, as we were obviously crazy enough to do it, people told us about an expedition to the lost city of Loyola, which lies seemingly hidden in the rainforest on the lower end of the eastern Andean ridges, roughly south east of Podocarpus National Park. Although we were too tired to start another adventure right away, our interest was stirred. Soon after our return to Quito we started gathering information on the Lost City, trying to figure out if it really exists and if so, where to look for it.
It was one and a half years later, in November 2014, when we finally managed to coordinate our second attempt at reaching the lost city. Again we flew in from Quito and drove down to La Canela, which we reached again in the afternoon. This time we didn´t want to run the risk of not having enough time to reach our goal, so we continued right away. We were dropped off at the end of the road and started our hike with our local guide who had been informed of our arrival, reaching the farm area just around sunset. We stayed at one of the local farms for the night - people here are amazingly friendly, welcoming visitors with a big smile and an even bigger meal. The next morning we continued, reaching the last finca in the early afternoon. To our great relief the waters of the river were low enough to be crossed. Still, it was too late to continue to the lost city the same day and we didn´t want to risk having to find our way through the jungle in the middle of the night. This time we were lucky, and even though it rained a bit during the night, we crossed the river the next morning without any problems. Our local guide did not only know the route through the dense jungle (it would have taken much longer to figure out the route without him) but, as he knew the local Shuar community well, he had their permission to enter their territory – he strongly emphasized the importance of not entering their territory without their permission or at least someone who does have it. It took us nearly 4 hours of cutting our way through the thicket to finally reach the Shuar Center Nayump. From here it was a short 15 minute walk until we found the walls of the Lost City of Loyola - we had finally made it! Excited, we started to explore the city and its walls in the pouring rain (this is what they call dry season in the rainforest!). There seemed to be different types of walls; some ramparts forming mainly the outer walls while others looked more like wall barriers used either for buildings or for forming terraces. The vegetation was extremely dense, making it very hard to get a clear picture of the structures, their form and use. Nevertheless, we formed a rough drawing of the city, as far as we could identify it (with great help from our guide!):
Here is some information for anyone interested in visiting Loyola:
For the trip down the Andes we can warmly recommend Don Maximo Luzuriaga and Pedro Ordoñez as local guides to the finca area; both can be contacted in La Canela. As a guide for the last part to Loyola, we went with Rolando Castillo, who owns one of the last fincas before the Shuar territory and who is an excellent guide and the best guarantee that you will not get lost during your adventure! Besides knowing the whole area like the back of his hand, he is a great cook and a very welcoming host too. Good luck!