The Equator passes just twenty kilometres to the north of Quito where for a short time it exists as a real line. This line runs through the official Equator museum, La Mitad del Mundo. After arriving at the Mitad the official location of the Equator is immediately obvious due to the size of the monument. Completed in 1982 the pyramidal stone construction stands at an impressive 30 metres and is topped with a golden globe.
Inside the park it is possible to climb the monument for a small additional fee, but more important to most visitors is the golden line that passes underneath it. Although amazingly touristy this line is undoubtedly the reason people visit the Mitad and its well worth the short wait to get 'that' photo. As well as the Equatorial line the park contains several other attractions including a planetarium, a mini model of Quito, a recreation of a colonial square and many shops and restaurants. However it does not take much time to complete a visit to the official park.
For the real excitement and in fact the real equator, leave the official park and head 200 metres down the road to the Museo Solar Inti Ñan. With the development of GPS technology it was discovered that the official equatorial monument stands around 240 metres away from the actual Equator, and on the true location inevitably a rival museum has sprung into existence.
Museum Inti Nan - Mitad del MundoThe extremely fun Inti Ñan museum is situated in a picturesque cactus garden located exactly where we now believe the Equator actually passes through Ecuador. Free tours available in English show small groups of tourists around the many attractions at this interactive museum. The varied attractions include totem poles from around the Americas, a real shrunken head, the chance to fire a blow pipe and of course the correct Equatorial line itself.
The highlight of the tour is watching the experiment conducted upon the Equatorial line. Although these experiments are almost definitely faked it is still extremely impressive to observe water flowing different directions down a sink on either side of the Equator, due to the Coriolis Effect. The tour concludes with the somewhat cheesy opportunity for international tourists to get a stamp in their passports, proving that they've been to the centre of the world
Both the Mitad del Mundo and the Museo Solar Inti Ñan are unquestionably tourist traps, however their different approaches complement each other and for the small entrance fees they both definitely warrant a visit.