Mitad del Mundo translates to “The Equator,” and the small village has been constructed around the site where the equator was thought to have run through a region just outside of Quito. Within the village, the collection of several small monuments leading up to a single prominent monument celebrate the geographically important site.
Quito’s equator was mapped out and identified in 1736 by a French geodesic expedition team led by Charles-Marie de La Comdamine. While their work was extraordinary for the time, the French geographers were approximately 250 meters off; this calculation error has had surprisingly far-reaching consequences. The monument standing over 98 feet high at the center of the Mitad del Mundo Square, including a painted line denoting the equator, were all constructed on the erroneous information and now represent a false equator. That doesn’t keep the locals, or passersby, from enjoying the sight and taking advantage of the still-famous photo op.
The monument also houses the Ethnographic Museum, which presents information about Ecuador’s different tribes and ethnic groups. If you travel straight to the top of the monument, you can follow the spiral down through various floors, each of which focus on different ethnic groups. See examples of musical instruments, costumes, boats, and even housing as you take this stroll through time in the middle of the earth. Or the “almost” middle of the earth.
The Museo Inti Nan (Inti Nan Museum) is also in the Equatorial village, but it was constructed on the true equator and serves as the actual marquee of the center of the earth. The Museo Inti Nan is an interactive museum that celebrates not only the equator but the indigenous people of Ecuador. Observe the Corollas effect or easily balance an egg on its head. You can also learn how the indigenous people made shrunken heads in a step-by-step tutorial, though this activity might not be the best for those with a weak stomach.