MIDDLE OF THE WORLD
from Monday to Sunday, from 09:00 to 18:00
+593 2 2394803
Av. Manuel Cordova Galarza Km 13 1/2
$ 3.50 admission to the complex; $ 7.50 full pass. Children and seniors cancel half the cost of entry
Celebrating Ecuador’s location on the world map, Mitad del Mundo is one of the country’s most visited monuments, only 30 minutes from dowtown Quito.
Just north of Quito, in a parish called San Antonio de Pichincha, lies the most visited attraction in the country, the Mitad del Mundo monument and complex dedicated to the equator and the fact that Quito lies only a handful of kilometers from it. A tourist’s favorite will forever be the iconic picture of them standing on the thin yellow line painted on the cement that (fictitiously) divides the planet in two. The almost desert-like outskirts of this part of the city’s outskirts is actually quite the outing, with many interesting visitor sites to behold. One of the most obvious is the central monument, which holds a museum of ancestral culture and a lookout point to admire the view of the surrounding arid landscape. Notice that the central monument features a globe encircled by a silver band representing the equator: the globe is curiously orientated corresponding to the true position of the Earth.
EXPERIENCING THE EQUATOR
Mitad del Mundo’s power lies in a universal constant: the position of the Earth and how it relates to its driving force, the sun. It’s what makes this 0-degree-latitude a point that suggests more than just geography. It encompasses fascinations with science, spirituality, knowledge and legend. It is the place that defines the planet and its movement in space.
A LITTLE HISTORY
Hundreds of years after the indigenous peoples of Ecuador had established this area as the center of the world, and a French expedition arrived to this “center” to ascertain the exact shape of the Earth. The 18th century, the beginning of the modern age, the Age of Enlightenment, the century of the geographic study of the Earth… witnessed the arrival, in Quito, of a group of outstanding French scientists dedicated to the study and measurement of our planet. In 1736 their mission to determine the meridian arc of the Southern hemisphere began. The team spent almost eight years placing their markers of small pyramids across the Andean countryside, suffering all sorts of privations, while their markers were destroyed by superstitious Indians or expropriated for building materials. In 1936, the centre of the world ascertained by the measurements made by the French Geodesic expedition was finally marked by a monument.
Other nearby attractions
An interactive museum that showcases the history of ancient peoples and answers all your pressing equator-related science queries: can you balance an egg on a nail? Does water really change direction in different hemispheres?
Before reaching Mitad del Mundo, comes the interesting town of Pomasqui, which used to be the old main road heading north from Quito, a resting stop for travelers. It used to be an old hacienda and you’ll find a main square and two churches (an unlikely happening in Andean towns). You can visit the unusual Señor del Árbol, a Jesus effigy sculpted into a tree, and while walking around it’s pretty square, stop for some helado de paila ice cream. With the kids: Visit the Granja de Tío Mario to meet the farm animals (including African guinea fowl and adorable rabbits!)
CALACALÍ AND THE OLD EQUATORIAL MONUMENT
The first Mitad del Mundo monument was built in 1936 in commemoration of the first French Geodesic mission in Ecuador in the 1700s but in 1979 the monument was moved to the town of Calacalí and the official (and three times bigger) monument was placed. In town, you can also discover the tasty tortillas de zapallo (pumpkin patties) on weekends at the main square, or learn a bit about Ecuadorian “pasillo” music at the Carlota Jaramillo Museum.
Pululahua is one of the only inhabited volcanic craters in the world. Don’t miss out on exploring its wonders. You can descend from its “Mirador” (lookout) located 10 minutes from the Mitad del Mundo monument into the actual crater (about 3.5-km down narrow dirt roads). Hike or bike: From Moraspungo, 5 minutes from Calacalí, take the winding El Viento path or take the dramatic 13-km downhill to the crater’s base!
On a horse: You can rent horses in the town, within the volcano.
The Mitad del Mundo monument to many is where the equator crosses. GPS technology, however, says the top of Mount Catequilla is actually closer to the true 0-degree mark. You’ll find a sculpture of Andean crosses, a recent addition, but this place is believed to have been a Pre-Incan ceremonial point. It is located 240 meters south of the official monument.
During the equinox, dozens of new-age acolytes head out to the major astronomical lookouts, such as Catequilla, to meet the sunrise.
Pucará de Rumicucho is just a few kilometers south of the Mitad del Mundo monument, offering evidence of the Inca expansion in the region. It is believed to have been used as a fort, temple, observatory, among other things!