Mitad del Mundo
The Equator Monument
at the Mitad del Mundo is the most popular place to
visit the equatorial line in Ecuador.
Mitad del Mundo -
Equator actually runs all the
way around the earth, but you could be forgiven for thinking it was
just one point in Ecuador. The Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of
World") complex just outside Quito
is heavily promoted as being "the
equator". In fact, it is a tourist trap built around a
to an expedition which located the equatorial line with impressive
accuracy for the time (the 18th Century) but which later technology has
revealed to be about 240m off the mark.
$2 entry fee gets you into the Mitad del Mundo complex - this
is rather like
being charged to enter a shopping centre, since there are far more
handicraft and souvenir shops than anything else. The
Ethnographic Museum, inside the equator monument itself, costs a
further $3 but is well worth a visit. Go straight to the top
(lift or stairs) and after enjoying the view, spiral down through the
floors of the monument which focus on different regions of Ecuador and
their tribes or ethnic groups. As well as colourful
costumes, there are examples of houses, boats and musical
Even if you think you will have the time to travel to all the
regions and cultures of Ecuador, this is still an excellent overview.
to the left as you enter the Mitad del Mundo complex are the
'pavilions', included in the entry ticket. The French one
displays the history of the
Geodesic Mission of 1736-44, during which Charles-Marie la Condamine
and his team determined the position of the equator, the line at
latitude 0° 0' 0" dividing the north and south hemispheres.
other pavilions, Ecuador and Spain, seem to have random displays such
modern art. The Planetarium (extra $1.50 charge) offers an
educational showing in Spanish only. The models of Quito and
Cuenca in miniature are worth
a look but
will not keep you busy
rest of the complex mostly consists of souvenir shops full of
equator-related trinkets but also handicrafts from all over Ecuador.
Inevitably there is a certain amount of overpriced tat, but
the wide range of different handicrafts offer serious souvenir shoppers
an overview of prices and an idea of what you might find in the rest of
the country. There are a few interesting modern silversmiths.
Various places will stamp your passport with the Equator
Monument logo. There are scales to weigh yourself - you
should be a little lighter than usual due to being further from the
planet's centre of gravity as the earth's crust bulges outwards here.
The one travel agent at the Mitad del Mundo offers tours to
Volcano - a quick, easy and
economic way to visit.
Office has a branch here.
quirky little Inti-Ñan Solar Museum just up the road (turn
left out of the
Mitad del Mundo) claims to lie exactly on the equator itself, though
is not actually true either according to people who have checked with
GPS. It is more fun than the Mitad del
Mundo, with "demonstrations" of various equator- and solar-related
phenomena, at least some of which are faked, and a certificate if you
manage to balance an egg on a nail. There is also a
collection of totem poles, pickled snakes, models of traditional
houses, blow-pipes and a supposedly genuine shrunken human
Their guided tour is an entertaining way to fill a half hour,
especially for older children, but their approach to the truth seems to
be extremely elastic so it's up to you to decide if you mind being
scammed and whether to believe in their "genuine" artefacts and
tucked inside a restaurant site in between the Mitad del Mundo and the
Museum, takes a very different approach, with a presentation focusing
on cultural identity,
and astronomy. Much less touristy and far more interesting.
They look at the importance of
the equator in astronomy and the astronomic symbolism of local
archaeological sites. Early civilisations in this area seem
known the precise location of the equator - a recently discovered
Catequilla, lies on the equator itself. Many of Quito's
churches were built on top of much earlier monuments, lined up along
route of the sun on the summer solstice. The sun god Inti was
worshipped here in Inca times and there are still Inti-Raymi, solar
festivals, in Ecuador. The Quitsato
Project will take
you to visit astronomically important sites, especially on the
solstices and other special dates, and they have built their own
clock on the equator near Cayambe
which is worth a visit.
weather at the Mitad del Mundo and Pululahua
is usually hot and dry,
even when it is raining in nearby Quito, so wear a hat and take
sunscreen. There are various places selling drinks, snacks
and meals at the Mitad del Mundo. Pululahua Crater has
virtually no facilities, so don't rely on being able to buy even a
bottle of water there - take it with you.
Equator: various buses run along Avenida América in
Quito, clearly marked Mitad del Mundo and costing around
If you're having trouble finding one from central Quito, you
head north along the "Linea Azul" trolleybus line to the Terminal
Microregional La Ofelia and take a feeder bus from there. The
journey takes around 45 minutes, depending on traffic. Taxi
drivers will charge around $15-20. Tours arranged by travel
agents in Quito may include other sites in the area.
del Mundo: open 9a.m. -
6.p.m. every day, sometimes later
weekends, at which time it gets very crowded.
Entry $2 for adults, $1 for children/OAPs. $1.50 for parking.
Ethnographic Museum $3. Planetarium $1.50.
Museum: 9.30a.m. -
5.30p.m. every day. Entry $3 (children $1.50). They strongly
entry free, donations invited to support the project.
Spanish & other Vocabulary for an excursion to the Equator at
Línea Equinoccial: the Equator
Inti-Ñan: path of the sun. Inti was the Inca sun
Mitad del Mundo: a tourist complex and Equator Monument close to Quito
Quitsato: Middle of the world, in the Tsafiqui language of the
Tsáchila ethnic group
Destinations: the Equator, most commonly visited at Mitad del Mundo
The Mitad del Mundo complex and monument is the easiest site to visit
the Equator in
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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