Standing at the Middle of the World in Ecuador

Does the Middle of the World Monument really mark the middle of the world?

Can you imagine standing in the middle of the world with one foot either side of the Equator? If you make the journey to Ecuador’s capital city of Quito, then the equator is only one hour away! But is the Middle of the World Monument really the middle of the world, or did someone get the calculations wrong? Read on and I’ll tell you all about it.

Middle of the World Monument Mitad del Mundo
Mitad del Mundo in all its glory

Ecuador was previously called ‘Quito’, taking its name from the people who inherited the lands and also the nation’s capital city. When those pesky Spanish came to loot and pillage, Quito’s name changed to Ecuador. If you’re wondering why, it will come as no surprise to learn that Spanish word for equator is Ecuador. To celebrate Ecuador’s lucky position as the middle of the world, a monument was built in 1935.

There was a problem though.

The exact point was measured by French scientists in 1736 on their Geodesic Mission. And the measurement was out. Seven kilometres out. Oh dear!

 

A country can’t settle for anything less than the best. Thus a new monument was constructed between 1979 and 1982. Proudly displaying ‘Mitad del Mundo’ (Middle of the World World) to the world, Ecuador now had another bonafide bucket list destination (let’s not forget Ecuador is also home to the Galapagos Islands).

All was well, until someone pointed out that that the coordinates were still off. This glorious five tonne monument had missed the mark by 240 metres. Conversations were had and phone calls were made. But moving the monument to the actual middle of the world was too expensive and too much hassle. Not wanting to let the truth get in the way of a good story, this problem was swiftly brushed under the carpet and never mentioned again.

Locals weren’t going to let it rest though. 240 metres north of the official Mitad del Mundo, a second Mitad del Mundo was built. Albeit for legal reasons they couldn’t give it the same name and instead settled on the ‘Intiñan Solar Museum’. GPS purists rejoiced at the seeing the real ‘middle of the world’.

GPS Middle of the World co-ordinates
The co-ordinates don’t lie…or do they?

But is the Intiñan Solar Museum really the middle of the world?

The debate now rages that the middle of the world isn’t at the Intiñan Solar Museum either. Although no-one seems bothered anymore. There’s no plans to build more museums, so you’ll just have to pretend you’ve stood in the middle of the world. Vising both sites makes for a great day trip from Quito. Here’s what you’re in for.

Check out this fantastic map created with Wanderlog. It’s a really useful travel app and will help you travel to the Middle of the World!

Trip map created using Wanderlog, for making itineraries on iOS and Android

Mitad del Mundo and the Middle of the World Monument

Travelling along the rustic highway, you don’t feel like you’re approaching the middle of the world. There’s no fanfare amongst the locals who push and shove each other on the bus, hopping on and off sporadically to reach the dusty towns that lie nearby.

Then suddenly it comes in to view. The 30 metre high monolith of Mitad del Mundo is enough to cause excitement for even the most jaded GPS junkie. Entering the gates, a 500 metre walkway leads you to the monument, where a lift (or few flights of stairs) takes you to the top.

In the lift a pre-recorded voice with an undecipherable accent keeps asking “Have you ever stood in the middle of the world?” We hadn’t and with prior research knew we still wouldn’t. It’s all a bit of fun though, right?

Exiting the lift, I was overwhelmed with a great sense of wonder. Although the stats don’t lie, it’s an incredible feeling to know you’re pretty much on the spot which marks the centre of the earth. It’s pure psychological excitement.

Middle of the World Monument East Side
I suppose moving it would be quite difficult…

 

The views from the top are beautiful, revealing untouched mountains and snowy peaks as far as the eye can see. A 360 degree walkway reveals the N, S, E, W markers and a painted yellow line on the floor below. This allegedly marks the middle of the world and visitors run around in a child like manner, straddling the yellow line and shouting “look I’m in the North, now I’m in the South”People straddle and try to balance themselves on the line and do headstands and star jumps across both hemispheres. It’s pure tourist Instagram joy.

View from Middle of the World Monument Mitad del Mundo
View from Middle of the World Monument

When you’ve finished straddling like you’ve never straddled before, Mitad del Mundo does give you a little more to appreciate. There’s a small museum, chocolate museum, planetarium (which is actually a room with a video and some garish starts painted on the ceiling), plus a 4D experience. Sadly the 4D experience is more likely to make you throw up, with it’s nauseous giant screen positioned just two feet from your face.

Leaving Mitad del Mundo we asked a member of staff where we could find the Intiñan Solar Museum. They weren’t too happy we asked. “Have you seen the monument? Have you been to the chocolate museum? Well there’s nothing to see at the other place!” When we gave an affirmative “yes”, he sighed and waved a finger at the highway. Off we went.

Intiñan Solar Museum

If Mitad del Mundo has the pomp and prestige then Intiñan Solar Museum is it’s slapstick little brother. More comedy exhibition than celebration of the middle of the world, it really is an essential trip after Mitad del Mundo.

Intiñan Solar Museum Statue
Intiñan Solar Museum in all its glory

The Intiñan Solar Museum offers visitors the chance to see some great experiments (magic tricks). For example, you can see water flush in opposite directions on either side of the equator and witness an egg balance on a nail as it sits dead centre in the middle of the world.

As the hapless museum worker demonstrated the flushing water ‘trick’ to gasping tourists, our friend Jo called him out on it. “I know how you did that!” The museum worker looked sheepish. “It’s just an example” he replied. With the magic trick rumbled, we moved on.

Water trick at the middle of the world
The water trick that got rumbled!

Taking obligatory selfies with the 0°0’0 GPS co-ordinates, it was time to visit the seemingly irrelevant shrunken head exhibition. Yes folks, not only can you find the middle of the world (maybe), but also a shrunken head, bizarre taxidermy creatures and displays of native Ecuador tribal huts.

Don’t ask me why they’re here, but it is entertaining. I hadn’t seen a shrunken head before and this 175 year old frazzled unfortunate fellow was there or us to enjoy. It turns out that native tribes in Ecuador were shrinking heads as recently as 50 years ago. What a history lesson!

175 year old shrunken head in Ecuador
A 175 year old shrunken head

After half an hour at the Intiñan Solar Museum, we decided to head back to Quito.

After my visit I’d like to proudly tell you that I’ve stood in the middle of the world. Maybe I have, but as none seems to know where it is, I’d feel like a fraud to boast about it. Whatever it’s true location may be, sometimes it’s just fun to pretend.

How to get to Mitad del Mundo and the Intiñan Solar Museum

There’s no end of agencies in Quito that will take you there. Your hotel or hostal should also be able to arrange a trip for you. Expect to pay in the region of $15 USD for this and then you will also have to pay the $5 entry fee on top. However, make sure they will give you time to visit both Mitad del Mundo and the Intiñan Solar Museum. A lot of people haven’t heard of Intiñan and miss out.

A one way taxi from Quito will set you back $17 – 20 USD.

Alternatively if you’re a budget backpacker, you can get to Mitad del Mundo for a staggeringly cheap $0.50. Yes, that really is 50 cents. Make your way to the La Ofelia bus station and from there ask for a bus that goes to Mitad del Mundo. Each leg of the journey is $0.25. (Quito certainly does offer cheap public transport!). The journey from La Ofelia takes roughly 45 minutes depending on traffic. To return to Quito, flag down one of the frequent buses passing the entrance of Mitad del Mundo.

When you have visited Mitad del Mundo, the Intiñan Solar Museum is just a five minute walk away. To get there turn left as you exit the Mitad del Mundo entrance and follow the road around the corner.

Trying to balance an egg at the centre of the world
Trying to balance an egg at the centre of the world

How much does Mitad del Mundo and the Intiñan Solar Museum cost?

Only $5USD for Mitad del Mundo and $3.50 for the Intiñan Solar Museum.

How much time is needed to visit Mitad del Mundo and the Intiñan Solar Museum

It depends what speed you like to go, but one to two hours at Mitad del Mundo and half an hour at Intiñan Solar Museum should be enough for most people. Factor in at least an hour travel each way from Quito and you’ll need half, if not a full day to visit.

Get the best value accommodation in Quito here:

Booking.com

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2 thoughts on “Standing at the Middle of the World in Ecuador”

  1. We went by this when we visited Ecuador, but we had too much on our itinerary to stop. It would have been fun to stop and check it out!

    1. There’s so much to see in Ecuador it’s hard to fit it all in. I bet you had a blast though whatever you got up to. Which places did you visit? 🙂

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