12 Jul Standing at the Middle of the World in Quito, Ecuador
We had two free days in Quito, Ecuador, before our trip to the Galápagos Islands. One day was spent exploring Old Town on a walking tour and sipping on coffee in the Plaza Foch neighborhood. The other day was spent visiting the nearby “Middle of the World” monuments. Yes, I know it’s a bit cheesy. Yes, I know the sites aren’t technically even geographically correct. That said, it’s a site I’ve wanted to visit since I was in elementary school, and because we were so close (less than an hour away!) I just couldn’t resist.
There are two monuments/museums on the equator located around 50 minutes from Quito—one is the official government monument, Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, that was actually built in the incorrect location. The other, Intiñan Museum, was built on what is said to be the correct geographical location, but we heard that this location wasn’t exact either. Either way, it was fun to explore the region and learn a bit more about the equator and Ecuador as a whole.
There are several ways to reach the Middle of the World monuments; the most common are taking a taxi, joining a tour, or driving yourself. Prior to arriving in Quito, we were pretty stressed with several work projects, so by the time we arrived we just needed a break. We didn’t rent a car, so to avoid the hassle of booking a taxi, we decided to take the easy route and booked a group half-day tour through Viator. We had a couple of credits to use, so we figured the simplicity of a guided tour would be worth the extra cash out of our pockets.
On the morning of our tour, our guide met us at our hotel at 9:00 a.m. sharp. We had to wait a few minutes for our car to arrive, and when it did, we realized we were the only participants on tour that morning. So, rather than a group tour, we would be heading out on a private tour! Our itinerary for the morning included stops at the Intiñan Museum, the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve and an ice cream shop.
Our first stop of the day was the Intiñan Museum, which is said to be the “correct” geographical location of the equator. We heard that this location is still not exactly 0° and that the line is just a bit farther down the road. Whatever the truth is, the museum located here is a fun stop. We joined a tour and were led through several exhibits depicting life in Ecuador over the years. We even saw some examples of what a shrunken head would look like! It reminded me of one of my favorite Goosebumps books that I read as a child.
Then it was time for demonstrations on the equator. We saw water spin in opposite directions on each side of the line and straight down with no spin on the line. We saw eggs balance on nails, and Micah even balanced an egg himself! And, we saw demonstrations where your resistance and balance are different off and on the line. While I’m not completely convinced the skinny red line is the true equator line, it was still fun to see.
We enjoyed the historicy lessons, the demonstrations and taking photos on the line. All in all, I’d say it’s worth the stop if you are in the area and don’t take it too seriously.
Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve:
I had no idea what to expect for our second stop. We knew nothing about the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, and when we arrived we were awed by the beautiful views in front of us. The reserve is located in the caldera of a collapsed volcanic crater. The crater of the volcano is used as farmland and agricultural terraces have been producing crops for over 500 years. I would have loved to visit the farms in the valley, apparently there’s even a hostel there, but we only had time to check out the views from the overlook. There are also some shops at the site if you are looking for souvenirs.
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo:
Initially, I thought we were going to skip this monument because of how our guide talked about it. I was bummed because this was the one I wanted to see most as a kid. Thankfully, I misunderstood, and after the geobotanical reserve, we made our way to the monument.
Admission to the complex wasn’t included in the tour, and we each had to pay a few dollars for entrance upon arrival. From the description on the tour website, it was hard to tell if this entrance fee should have been included or not, and looking at it now, it looks like it was additional if you wanted to go inside. I’m still not 100% clear on it, but just know that there may be an additional fee for entrance to the complex.
After getting our tickets, we went inside the complex for a look around while our guide waited outside for us. We didn’t go into any of the shops, the museum or the monument itself because all I really cared about after the first tour was to see the monument and get a few photos. So, that’s what we did! We posed like goofs standing on the line and with our feet in both hemispheres, but we didn’t get as creative as some of the people there. It was certainly a fun spot to people watch, ha!
Ice Cream Treats:
Last but not least, we made a stop at an ice cream shop on our way back to the hotel. I’m also not sure if the ice cream shop is typically part of the tour, as there was no mention of this stop online. We pulled into a small roadside parking lot, and our guide took us to the back of the shop to see how the ice cream was made. As we watched the man in the kitchen stir the cream, we were told how the process worked and the ice cream was created.
Then we were brought back to the storefront where we had multiple samples and our choice of ice cream in a cone or cup. We were expecting to pay for the ice cream since the tour description stated that food and drinks were at your own expense, but we were pleasantly surprised when our guide picked up the tab. I ordered half guanabana and mora, and Micah picked the mango and naranjilla. As we ate our delicious ice cream treat, we heard more stories about Ecuador’s history, and it was a wonderful way to close out our day.
While I can’t say the tour blew our expectations out of the water, it still was a fun way to fulfill a childhood dream. We had a great time with our guide, enjoyed learning about the history of Ecuador, and had fun standing in “both hemisphere’s” at once. Even though the list of places I want to visit has changed and grown significantly over the years, it’s nice to look back and know that dreams don’t have to die even if they are constantly changing.
Have you been to the any of the Middle of the World monuments? Would you like to visit, too?