As I walked through the gate and up the sidewalk, nothing seemed out of the ordinary…then, the monument came into view. Rising 30 meters (about 90 feet), it dominated the center of the “village” that has sprung up around it. The bright center line separated the two halves of the world and acted as a guide like the yellow brick road leading straight to the door.
My eyes struggled to adjust to the dimness of the entry as a woman dressed in bright green and yellow traditional clothing and an even brighter smile greeted me. She directed me into the elevator where an informational video played on repeat. As the woman in the video began her third round of narration, everyone in the elevator exchanged eye rolls and chuckles.
When the doors opened, I was once again greeted by the sun’s rays, only this time they lit a 360ₒ view of Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). Walking out onto the viewing balcony, I felt the wind for what seemed like the first time in Ecuador. I struggled to keep the hair out of my face as I took in the village below. That bright yellow line now looked like it was lifted right off a compass, distinguishing North from South.
Having circled around twice, I began descending the dark stairs. After each flight came an exhibit explaining another aspect of Ecuadorian life. From the culture, traditions, and beliefs of the native peoples to the unique effects of gravity at the equator. These pit-stops offered more than just a break for my legs, though, especially because I was lucky enough to be with a local Ecuadorian who gave me even more of the country’s rich history.
Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ecuador. It commemorates the expedition of French scientists to Ecuador to help the local scientists establish the middle of the world. They marked their calculations with a monument that eventually doubled as a museum, teaching visitors about Ecuador’s indigenous people, traditions, the history of the monument, and the effects of gravity at the equator.
Unfortunately, my visit was not long enough to see the entire village; so, you will have to pick up where I left off exploring the specialty shops of the village full of souvenirs and even one dedicated to chocolate. Inspired by famous places like Rome, you can shop and snack your way around the world, including some of the authentic Ecuadorian favorites that I sampled such as empanadas de morocho, empanadas de verde (made with plantains), and chicharrón con mote.
A $5 admission ticket will get an adult into the monument and surrounding village. For more information, including hours and a full list of attractions, visit the Mitad del Mundo website.
As it turns out, scientists recalculated the middle of the world using GPS about 19 years ago and determined the initial findings were off slightly, so a new site was established in this alternate location. Learn more about the Intiñan Museum.
Pro Tip: This site is fun and informative (not to mention perfect for Instagram), but keep in mind that it is a tourist trap, which is reflected in the prices in the village shops. If you are looking to save a little money on souvenirs, you can get most of the same products at the Mercado La Mariscal in Quito for a better price with a little haggling.