I’ll be honest with you. La Mitad del Mundo, a touristic “city” within San Antonio de Pichincha, is a cheesy tourist trap. Its large 30m tall monument is said to be exactly on the equator but is actually about 240m off the mark (nobody looking at the pictures of you straddling the yellow line has to know).
Tourist trap aside, the monument does have some historical significance. In 1736, this was the spot that French scientists Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer, Charles Marie de la Condamine determined was precisely on the equator. Of course, they were later proven wrong by modern technology, but it was quite a feat for their day and pretty accurate, if you think about it.
Is it worth a visit? You can’t come all the way to Ecuador and NOT visit the equator – so yes, it is. Not just for the monument, but there are plenty of other interesting things to see in the area that makes it worth the trip. I was disappointed that most people come just for a stupid picture on the fake equator and they don’t bother to see more interesting things.
We paid US$6 each for a full pass to La Mitad del Mundo, which includes admission to the monument and all the museums. Admission to the park only was US$3. Hours are 9am to 6pm. Once through the turnstiles, there is a long path with busts of the French scientists and geographers who traveled to the area on the French Geodesic Mission. The monument is directly ahead at the end of the path. As you’re walking along the way, you’ll probably be bothered by people offering deals on meals in some of the restaurants serving traditional Ecuadorean food in the “city”. We ate at one and it wasn’t great.
To the left, there is a planetarium and a few museums with art exhibitions.
Once at the monument, you’ll be able to take the same pictures everyone else takes: arms raised and feet straddling the line, or the trick photo holding up the globe. The monument is actually very beautifully done with a flower garden indicating north and south.
If you walk around the monument, which was built in 1979, you will notice each side has a different emblem inscribed. An explanation is included for each direction to explain the emblem and what can be seen in the distance in each direction.
Inside the monument, you’re ushered into an elevator that takes you to the top for some fantastic views in every direction. In the picture below, you can see the “city” that includes several restaurants, overpriced souvenir shops, a small church, and a bullring.
As you make your way down the stairs of the monument, a nice ethnographic museum with displays about several indigenous people of Ecuador. On the ground floor are interactive displays.
To get to Mitad del Mundo, take a yellow Metrobus in Quito to Ofelia (the very last stop). Then get on any bus that says “Mitad del Mundo” and get off when you are at the huge traffic circle near the monument. The whole trip cost US$0.40 each and took us almost an hour and a half.
It’s possible to see all the attractions in one day if you leave early enough. We arrived at Mitad del Mundo at 11am and were able to finish everything by 4pm without rushing.