www.
Ecuador
Travel
Site.org
The Equator at
Mitad del Mundo
The tourist complex at the Equator Monument, Ecuador
Ecuador's Equator Monument
Mitad del Mundo passport stamp
Souvenir shop full of handicrafts at the equator in Ecuador
Sign for the Inti-Nan Solar Museum
Crafts of Ecuador - colourful textiles and wall-hangings

The Equator Monument
at the Mitad del Mundo is the most popular place to visit the equatorial line in Ecuador.





The Equator & Mitad del Mundo -  Ecuador Destinations

The 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 the World") complex just outside Quito is heavily promoted as being "the equator".  In fact, it is a tourist trap built around a monument 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.
The $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 traditional costumes, there are examples of houses, boats and musical instruments.  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.
Over 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.  The other pavilions, Ecuador and Spain, seem to have random displays such as 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 for long.
The 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 nearby Pululahua Volcano - a quick, easy and economic way to visit.  The Post Office has a branch here.
The 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 this 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 bizarre collection of totem poles, pickled snakes, models of traditional houses, blow-pipes and a supposedly genuine shrunken human head.  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 "scientific" experiments.
The Quitsato Project, tucked inside a restaurant site in between the Mitad del Mundo and the Inti-Ñan Solar Museum, takes a very different approach, with a presentation focusing on cultural identity, archaeology 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 to have known the precise location of the equator - a recently discovered hilltop site, Catequilla, lies on the equator itself.  Many of Quito's churches were built on top of much earlier monuments, lined up along the 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 huge solar clock on the equator near Cayambe which is worth a visit.
The 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.
Getting to the Equator: various buses run along Avenida América in Quito, clearly marked Mitad del Mundo and costing around $0.40.  If you're having trouble finding one from central Quito, you can 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.
Mitad del Mundo: open 9a.m. - 6.p.m. every day, sometimes later on bank holidays & 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.
Inti-Ñan Solar Museum: 9.30a.m. - 5.30p.m. every day.  Entry $3 (children $1.50). They strongly encourage tipping.
Quitsato: entry free, donations invited to support the project.
Useful Spanish & other Vocabulary for an excursion to the Equator at Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador:
Línea Equinoccial: the Equator
Inti-Ñan: path of the sun.  Inti was the Inca sun god.
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
Ecuador 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 Ecuador.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
All content of this website is copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission. 






.


 .