Lyn Mettler- From pirates who left behind buried booty to gold miners whose legendary stash was never discovered, there are plenty of mysteries out there about cash, gold and assorted treasure yet to be found.
These legends have inspired a variety of new TV shows including “The Curse of Oak Island” and “Legend of the Superstitions” on the History Channel. Now tourists can flock to these locales in search of real lost treasure.
Book a trip to any one of these locations steeped in gilded history. Who knows? You just might leave your vacation with a little something extra in your pockets.
1. Oak Island, Nova Scotia
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Oak Island in Nova Scotia, located on the Eastern edge of Canada, is an easily accessible and strategic location for explorers from Europe and beyond. Legend holds of all sorts of discoveries here from ancient religious artifacts of the Knights Templar to pirate booty and even Aztec gold.
In 1795, a teenager found a circular depression in the ground and began digging up layers of logs that indicated a deeper pit, now called the “money pit,” and possibly the site of buried pirate loot. Treasure hunters later say they discovered a stone indicating that 2 million pounds lay buried 40 feet below.
Flooding in the area made the search impossible until modern day treasure hunters began the pursuit in earnest once again as documented on an episode of History's “The Curse of Oak Island.”
This hunt doesn’t come without risk, though, as six men have died in search of the island’s secrets. Oak Island is now privately owned but does offer guided tours.
2. Axum, Ethiopia
Cox & Kings
The Ark of the Covenant has disappeared over time, but one church in Ethiopia claims to have the real thing.
See it for yourself and decide if you believe whether it's really the true artifact on Cox & Kings’ Northern Ethiopia: The Historic Route.
Rumored to have once held the Ten Commandments (which Ethiopian Christians maintain is still inside today), Aaron’s rod and a piece of the manna from the desert delivered by God to the people of Moses in the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant is said to be stored in the 4th Century Cathedral of Tsion Maryam in the small town of Axum.
The Cathedral also claims to be the palace of Biblical figure the Queen of Sheba and houses a field of carved monoliths rumored to have been built before the birth of Christianity.
3. Kanab, Utah
Utah Office of Tourism
Does Utah hold the famed Montezuma’s gold, a long lost treasure of the Aztecs?
Many believe the state does and those that do have spent years searching for this elusive hoard reputedly worth $3 billion.
In 1914, Freddie Crystal arrived in Kanab, Utah with maps that purpotedtly displayed the location of the riches. In the 1920s, he discovered tunnels in Johnson Canyon, which he believed was a temporary holding place for the treasure. But Crystal -- and his maps -- mysteriously disappeared after the finding was reported.
In 1998, an Aztec symbol was found near Three Lakes pond, re-igniting the search, but diving, radar detection and drilling has yet to produce any evidence.
Take caution on your search, as the myth is associated with plenty of bad luck, including illness, ghosts, disappearances and even death.
4. Peter Island, British Virgin Islands
Peter Island Resort & Spa
Throughout the years, pirates around the world have stolen their share of loot-- and left plenty of it behind. But how does a modern day treasure hunter find it? You might have luck in the Caribbean, especially on Peter Island, a luxury resort that is part of the British Virgin Islands.
The 1800-acre island, acknowledged by longtime residents to be the most likely spot to find buried pirate treasure, was a favorite pirate hideaway. Its Deadman’s Beach is named for dead pirates who washed ashore after being abandoned by Blackbeard on nearby Dead Chest Island.
Another added mystery: two feuding tobacco plantation owners are also rumored to have hidden their fortunes from each other on the island back in the 1800s. Who knows? While building sandcastles, you just might come across a treasure chest or piles of old time cash.
5. Crystal Coast, North Carolina
Crystal Coast Tourism Authority
Speaking of Blackbeard (whose real name was Edward Teach), one of history's most famous pirates spent plenty of time off the coast of North Carolina with his ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground near Beaufort, North Carolina.
While its contents are now safely stored at the North Carolina Maritime Museum, his legendary long lost treasure has yet to be found.
According to Teach’s Hole, an exhibit and shop dedicated to the pirate on Ocracoke Island, the sites of “Teach's Oak” near Oriental, “Holiday’s Island” in the Chowan River, “The Old Brick House” near Elizabeth City, and the southern end of Ocracoke Island are the rumored locations where he may have buried his riches.
Bring your metal detector and have a go.
6. Coastal Louisiana
People from Louisiana believe another famous pirate, Jean Lafitte, buried his treasures somewhere in the bayou. The pirate and his band of buccaneers, who used to hide out along the waterways near Lake Charles and all along the coast, are rumored to have buried a stash of silver and gold somewhere along the Contraband Bayou, which connects to the lake.
Another legend holds the treasure sits under giant live oaks on Jefferson Island, an area that now houses a home and garden. There are stories of gold coins, doubloons and even a chest uncovered throughout the area.
Even if you don’t stumble on the treasure trove, you can still visit the area’s Contraband Days Festival held in spring with a re-enactment of Lafitte taking over the city and forcing the mayor to “walk the plank.”
7. Superstition Mountains, Mesa, Arizona
“Legend of the Superstition Mountains” of the History Channel follows the adventure and lore behind one group’s search for the lost treasure of Jacob Waltz, also known as the “lost Dutchman.”
Waltz discovered a rich gold ore mine in the 1800s but the knowledge of its exact location died with him in 1891.
Many others, including the Peralta family, have searched for this elusive trove ever since, stumbling upon clues but never the mine itself. Visitors can camp, hike or horseback ride into the Superstition Wilderness Area and stop at the Superstition Mountain Museum, which holds many of the clues to the mine, including the Peralta stone and various maps.
But legends never die and modern prospectors are still hunting this lost treasure.
8. Santa Fe, Mexico
Tourism Santa Fe
For a modern twist on treasure hunting, adventure seekers may want to hunt for a bronze chest filled with $1 to $3 million worth of gold nuggets, rare coins, jewelry and gemstones.
Hidden in 2010 by Santa Fe art dealer Forrest Fenn, the location of the chest has been revealed in clues from a poem, on “The Today Show,” in various interviews and in a book. Apparently, it’s hidden in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, more than 5000 feet above sea level; the treasure is wet and not in a mine, a structure or graveyard. Can you piece together the clues and solve the mystery?
Lyn Mettler is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based travel writer. You can find her at www.GotoTravelGal.com or on Twitter at @GotoTravelGal.