Skip to main content
Stone Spheres of the Diquís

5 strangest things found in rainforests and jungles

Stone Spheres of the Diquís | Image:

Due to devastating deforestation schemes, the amount of rainforests and jungles on this planet is decreasing all the time. However, a large portion of what remains is still unexplored and, as history teaches us, some incredible and bizarre mysteries lie amongst the trees.

1. Mega City Angkor

In 1858, Henri Mouhot stumbled across Angkor in the dense forest located to the northwest of Cambodia. This sprawling city, recently discovered to be similar in size to Los Angles, was the capital of modern-day Cambodia between the 9th and 15th centuries.

In addition to the awe-inspiring Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom temples, the inhabitants also built a complex network of waterways, but by the 16th century, the city was all but abandoned due to a shift of religious beliefs from Hinduism to Buddhism.

2. Shanay-Timpishka

Located in the Mayantuyacu sanctuary in the Huánuco high forest in the Amazon, this four-mile-long stretch of water is virtually at boiling point (temperatures range from 45 °C (113 °F) almost to 100 °C (212 °F)) and was re-discovered in 2011 by a curious young geophysicist, Andrés Ruzo.

It’s commonly agreed the heat comes from geothermal energy deep beneath the surface and has been a source of fascination for the local shaman for hundreds of years. Just make sure you don’t fall in.

3. El Mirador

Hidden in a dense forest to the north of El Petén, Guatemala, El Mirador was home to the Maya Civilisation from around the 10th century BC until 200AD. This ten-mile site, formerly home to about 80,000 people, is renowned for the El Tigre complex and its triadic pyramids, notably La Danta which, at 2,800,000 cubic meters in volume, is even larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

For thousands of years, the jungle concealed this sprawling city, until it was discovered at the end of the 19th century. Under the stewardship of Bruce Dahlin and Ray Matheny, it took until 1978 before El Mirador began to give up its secrets. However, its sheer inaccessibility still hampers research to this day.

4. Stone Spheres

You have a US company searching for bananas in the 1930s in the jungles that lie in the Diquis Valley, located to the south of Costa Rica, to thank for the discovery of Bolas de Piedra. Sculpted from granodiorite, these stone balls are almost perfectly spherical, though their actual purpose isn’t known speculation ranges from gravestones, status symbols, compass points and astrological markers to alien-derived phenomena.

What we sort of know is that they were made anywhere between 200 B.C. and 1500 AD, probably by an extinct indigenous culture, carved with smaller pieces of granodiorite and possibly finished with sand or leather. There are about 300 in total, dotted all over the region and, thankfully, research is still ongoing.

5. Vilcabamba

Hiding in Espíritu Pampa, an area of dense forest about 130 miles to the west of Cuzco in Peru, the remains of Vilcabamba were discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1909. And if that name rings a bell, he was the American explorer who, with the help of locals, also located the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in 1911.

Somewhat ironically, it was the re-discovery of Machu Picchu that undermined the significance of the Espíritu Pampa site, detected two years earlier, as Bingham believed that the better-preserved Manchu Picchu was Vilcabamba. But, in 1964, Eugene Savoy, famed explorer and author correctly identified the Espíritu site Pampa as Vilcabamba, the last city of the Inca Empire, founded in 1539 and razed (almost) to the ground by the Spanish in 1572.