Famous Spanish Explorers

Explorers and discoverers held a quintessential position in the old world civilization due to the nature of their work. Brave and courageous, explorers journeyed through oceans and deserts to find new lands and water. While some were motivated by the basic instinct of knowing the unknown, most others explored new lands for wealth, power, prestige and trade. Spreading of religion and expanding the empire were other important motives that prompted explorers and discoverers. Just like explorers from round the globe, Spanish explorers undertook voyages of discovery to spread the Spanish Empire and spread Catholic faith. Some of the most famous amongst them include Juan Ponce de Leon - the first European to set foot in Florida and establish the oldest European settlement in Puerto Rico, Juan de Onate y Salazar - the first to establish the colony of New Mexico for Spain, Fray Marcos de Niza - a priest who travelled the fabled seven golden cities and even reached the shores of America and Captai Alonso Alvarez de Pineda - a map maker who became the first European to set foot in Texas. Others include Hernando de Soto, Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizarro, Diego Velazquez de Cuellar and so on. Check this section to get details about the life and profile of Spanish explorers.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Juan Ponce de León

Juan Ponce de León
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: 1474 AD
Birthplace: Santervás de Campos
Died: June 30, 1521

Spanish explorer and conquistador Juan Ponce de León was the first governor of Puerto Rico but had to give away the governorship to Christopher Columbus's son, Diego. Juan led the first European expedition to Florida. He was knighted by King Ferdinand but died in an attempt to colonize coastal U.S.

 2 Francisco Pizarro

Francisco Pizarro
Famous As: Spanish conquistador
Birthdate: June 26, 1478
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Trujillo, Cáceres
Died: June 26, 1541

Francisco Pizarro was a Spanish conquistador best remembered for his expeditions that eventually paved the way for the Spanish conquest of Peru. Along with Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Pizarro became the first European to reach the Pacific Ocean after crossing the Isthmus of Panama. After two failed expeditions to Peru, Pizarro led a third and successful campaign to conquer Peru.

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 3 Hernando de Soto

Hernando de Soto
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: 1500 AD
Birthplace: Province of Badajoz, Spain
Died: May 21, 1542

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish conquistador and explorer best remembered for his expeditions in the Yucatan Peninsula and Nicaragua. The first documented European to have crossed the Mississippi River, Hernando de Soto is also remembered for guiding the first European expedition into the territory of the present-day USA. He also played a key role in the Conquest of Peru.

 4 Hernán Cortés

Hernán Cortés
Famous As: Spanish conquistador
Birthdate: 1485 AD
Birthplace: Medellín, Spain
Died: December 2, 1547
Spanish "Conquistador" Hernán Cortés was one of the pioneers of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. He conquered the Aztec Empire and helped bring a massive portion of Mexico under the King of Castile’s rule in 16th century. As a reward, he was named the Marqués del Valle de Oaxaca.

 5 Vasco Núñez de Balboa

Famous As: Spanish Explorer
Birthdate: 1475 AD
Birthplace: Jerez de los Caballeros, Spain
Died: January 15, 1519

Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa became the first European to reach the Pacific from the New World, when he crossed the Isthmus of Panama. He is remembered for his long-term conflict with Spanish administrator Pedrarias, who eventually charged Balboa with treason and ill-treatment of Indians. Balboa was eventually beheaded.

 6 Alvar N. C. de Vaca

Alvar N. C. de Vaca
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: 1490 AD
Birthplace: Jerez de la Frontera, Spain
Died: May 27, 1559

Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca led an expedition to Galveston, Texas, although most of his men died during the voyage. De Vaca then wandered around with the Native Americans, pretending to be a healer, and eventually reached Mexico. He later became the governor of Rio de la Plata.

 7 Francisco Vásquez de Coronado

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado
Famous As: Explorers
Birthdate: 1510 AD
Birthplace: Salamanca
Died: September 22, 1554

While Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado set out to find the mythical Seven Golden Cities of Cíbola, he discovered natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon and the Colorado river instead. His later exploration of Kansas, too, yielded nothing but sightings of the Natives who lived there.

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 8 Francisco Vázquez de Coronado

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado
Famous As: Conquistador
Birthdate: 1510 AD
Birthplace: Salamanca, Spain
Died: September 22, 1554

 9 Juan Sebastián Elcano

Juan Sebastián Elcano
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: November 30, 1476
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Getaria, Spain
Died: August 4, 1526
Though Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan had started the first circumnavigation of the world, it was Basque explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano who completed it after Magellan’s death, manning the two ships left, despite issues such as scurvy and starvation. Elcano eventually died on a failed expedition to the Molucca Islands.

 10 Pedro de Alvarado

Pedro de Alvarado
Famous As: Explorers
Birthdate: 1485 AD
Birthplace: Badajoz
Died: July 4, 1541

Pedro de Alvarado was a Spanish conquistador who later became the governor of Guatemala. He took part in the conquest of Cuba and the conquest of Mexico led by Hernán Cortés. He is credited to have conquered much of Central America. Extremely cold-hearted, he was notorious for his cruelty towards the natives. He died in the Mixtón War in 1541.  

 11 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés

Pedro Menéndez de Avilés
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: February 15, 1519
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Avilés, Asturias, Spain
Died: September 17, 1574

Remembered as the founder of St. Augustine in Florida, USA, Spanish admiral and explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés has also been credited with planning the first regular trans-Atlantic convoys. Ruthlessly loyal to the Spanish king, he massacred the entire population of a nearby French post and established a string of forts along the Atlantic coast to protect Spanish interests.

 12 Panfilo de Narváez

Panfilo de Narváez
Famous As: Conquistador
Birthdate: 1478 AD
Birthplace: Castile, Spain
Died: October 31, 1528

 13 Bartholomew Columbus

Bartholomew Columbus
Famous As: explorer
Birthdate: 1460 AD
Birthplace: Genoa
Died: 1515 AD

 14 Alonso Álvarez de Pineda

Alonso Álvarez de Pineda
Famous As: explorer
Birthdate: 1494 AD
Birthplace: Aldeacentenera
Died: 1520 AD

 15 Beatriz Enríquez de Arana

Beatriz Enríquez de Arana
Famous As: explorer
Birthdate: 1467 AD
Birthplace: Córdoba Province
Died: May 20, 1521

 16 Lope de Aguirre

Lope de Aguirre
Famous As: Conquistador
Birthdate: November 8, 1510
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Oñate, Spain
Died: October 27, 1561

 17 Ruy López de Villalobos

Ruy López de Villalobos
Famous As: explorer
Birthdate: 1500 AD
Birthplace: Málaga
Died: 1544 AD

 18 Pedro de Valdivia

Pedro de Valdivia
Famous As: Explorer, Military personnel
Birthdate: April 17, 1497
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Castuera
Died: December 25, 1553

 19 Diego de Almagro

Diego de Almagro
Famous As: explorer
Birthdate: 1475 AD
Birthplace: Almagro, Ciudad Real
Died: July 8, 1538

 20 Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar

Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar
Famous As: Conquistador
Birthdate: 1465 AD
Birthplace: Cuellar, Spain
Died: June 12, 1524

 21 Alonso de Ojeda

Alonso de Ojeda
Famous As: explorer, conquistador
Birthdate: 1466 AD
Birthplace: Cuenca
Died: 1515 AD

 22 Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada

Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada
Famous As: Conqueror
Birthdate: 1509 AD
Birthplace: Córdoba, Spain
Died: February 16, 1579

Legend has it that Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada had inspired the character Don Quixote penned by Cervantes. Initially a lawyer, Quesada later gained fame as a Spanish conquistador and explored parts Colombia, then known as New Granada. He also made unsuccessful voyages in search of El Dorado.

 23 Gonzalo Pizarro

Gonzalo Pizarro
Famous As: Conquistador
Birthdate: 1510 AD
Birthplace: Trujillo, Spain
Died: April 10, 1548

 24 Andrés de Urdaneta

Andrés de Urdaneta
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: November 30, 1508
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ordizia, Spain
Died: June 3, 1568

 25 Antonio de Ulloa

Antonio de Ulloa
Famous As: Astronomer, Explorer, Meteorologist
Birthdate: January 12, 1716
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Seville
Died: July 3, 1795

 26 Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón

Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón
Famous As: Magistrate
Birthdate: 1480 AD
Birthplace: Toledo, Spain
Died: October 18, 1526

 27 Sebastián de Belalcázar

Sebastián de Belalcázar
Famous As: Conquistador
Birthdate: 1479 AD
Birthplace: Benalcazar, Spain
Died: April 21, 1551

 28 Pedro de Mendoza

Pedro de Mendoza
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: June 22, 1487
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Guadix, Granada, Spain
Died: June 23, 1537

 29 Martín Alonso Pinzón

Martín Alonso Pinzón
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: 1441 AD
Birthplace: Palos de la Frontera, Spain
Died: 1493 AD

 30 Juan de Zumárraga

Juan de Zumárraga
Famous As: Bishop
Birthdate: 1468 AD
Birthplace: Durango, Spain
Died: June 3, 1548

 31 Juan de Grijalva

Juan de Grijalva
Famous As: Conquistador
Birthdate: 1489 AD
Birthplace: Cuéllar, Spain
Died: January 21, 1527

 32 Juan Díaz de Solís

Juan Díaz de Solís
Famous As: Navigator
Birthdate: 1470 AD
Birthplace: Lebrija, Spain
Died: January 20, 1516

 33 Manuel Lisa

Manuel Lisa
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: September 8, 1772
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Died: August 12, 1820

 34 Juan Fernández

Juan Fernández
Famous As: Explorer
Birthdate: 1536 AD
Birthplace: Cartagena, Spain
Died: 1604 AD

 35 Ruy González de Clavijo

Ruy González de Clavijo
Famous As: Spanish diplomat
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Madrid
Died: April 2, 1412

 36 Pedro Páez

Pedro Páez
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: 1564 AD
Birthplace: Olmeda de las Fuentes, Spain
Died: May 22, 1622

 37 Silvestre Vélez de Escalante

Silvestre Vélez de Escalante
Famous As: Spanish explorer
Birthdate: 1750 AD
Birthplace: Spain
Died: 1780 AD

 38 Gaspar de Carvajal

Gaspar de Carvajal
Famous As: Missionary, Explorers
Birthdate: 1500 AD
Birthplace: Trujillo, Spain
Died: 1584 AD