Mitad del Mundo, Ecuador – The Middle of the World (Almost)

Location of Mitad del Mundo, near Quito, Ecuador

During a May 2011 business trip to Quito, Ecuador I visited Mitad del Mundo on a Saturday morning. This spot marks the location of the equator—half way between the north and south poles. Mitad del Mundo is about 45 minutes by car north of Quito. I hired the car and driver from the Radisson Hotel (where I was staying) for $70, which also included a visit to the old colonial part of Quito. A local bus would have been much cheaper, but I didn’t have the time. I enjoyed the drive out to the monument—through a valley with farms, small towns and many nice townhouses and homes.

Mitad del Mundo monument

The monument was built during the years 1979 to 1982. I’ve heard (according to those with the latest GPS tools), that the exact location of the equator is a few hundred yards to the north, but given the earth’s equatorial circumference of about 24,901 miles, the variance is less than .0006%—not enough for me to lose any sleep.

The equatorial line - right side is nothern hemisphere, left side is southern hemisphere

The site is basically a park that has a large stone monument noting the latitude and the hemispheres. The site entry cost was $2 (Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar) and there is another charge of $3 to go up to the observation platform on the monument. There are several little shops and restaurants, and a museum (where the equator actually is), so one could make a day of the visit. I got there about 10 am and shops were just opening for the day.

Shops at Mitad del Mundo

Additional shops at Mitad del Mundo

My driver asked if I also wanted to visit a nearby volcano, Puluhahua, to which I agreed. Ecuador has61 volcanoes (with 15 more on the Galapagos Islands), several of which surround Quito. The short drive up to the old crater from Mitad del Mundo was a bit like going into the alpine tundra in my home state of Colorado. If I hadn’t learned that Pululahua was a volcanic crater (3,356 meters elevation), I would have thought it was just a high small valley surrounded by peaks, but as we learned a little more from a local guide, I could more clearly see the crater, which last erupted in 500 BC.

Farming in Pululahua crater

On the way down from the crater, I caught sight of my first roasted cuy (guinea pig) by the side of the road—as tempting as it was, no one was there to sell the treat (darn), and I wasn’t quite ready for lunch.

Roasting cuy...yum!

I enjoyed this little trip, just to get into the countryside of this beautiful country for a few hours.