The most authentic monument to the Mitad del Mundo (aka Center of the World) lies in the small town of Buena Esperanza. Depending on traffic, it’s only an hour or so outside of Quito on the way to Cayambe. Tour agencies often make the trip to Otavalo along this road just so they can stop and take advantage of a very Instagram-able moment or two.
The Less Famous Mitad del Mundo
Recently I was reading a copy Ñan magazine while planning our trip to Otavalo. I saw a marker on a map that said Mitad del Mundo but it was nowhere near the monument I knew went by that name. I thought it must have been a typo. That’s how brainwashed we are. There can only be one, right?
Just in case, I told my husband to keep his eyes open as we drove the route. We came to the spot on the road where this second Mitad del Mundo was supposed to be and it wasn’t there. Aha! I thought. It was a mistake!
We passed the tollbooth and were headed on our merry way, deciding to stop at the next town to grab lunch. What do you know? There was the lesser-known Mitad-del-Mundo standing right before our eyes. The Ñan magazine map had mistakenly switched the toll booth and the «other» Mitad del Mundo.
What To Expect At the «Other» Mitad del Mundo
In many ways, this Mitad del Mundo is what we in the United States might call a wide spot on the road. On the righthand side of the road, there is a broad open space that looks like a makeshift parking lot. There are wooden stalls set up for selling both food and tourist items. Across the street, there was a stage and a crowd was slowly gathering for some event later that afternoon. There were also a few restaurants advertising Comida Tipica, meaning dishes local to the area.
Most interesting, in the center of a park-like plaza stood a huge cement globe, positioned so that the slender arm of Central America ran dead center and we could easily see both our home state of California and our current home in Ecuador.
My eye caught a cement structure practically hidden in the shadows next to the restaurant where we planned to eat lunch. As we approached, we realized it was the original Mitad del Mundo monument and marked the actual Equator. Its paint was wearing off, showing the age of the piece. However, it was love at first sight for me. I was staring at a piece of history and a geographical wonder.
Balancing an Egg on the Equator
As we were getting ready to leave, two gentlemen who had been watching us photograph the two monuments kindly waved us over. They asked if we had seen the egg. I honestly thought I hadn’t heard them correctly. Un huevo? Donde? Why would I need to see an egg?
That’s when they pointed back towards the large cement globe we had seen before. A few feet away was a pedestal with a single egg balanced in its center. One of the gentlemen proudly told us that this near-magical feat can only happen exactly on the Equator. We then proceeded to take more photos showing the Equator running from the egg to the globe with us standing on either side.
Spoiler – the egg balancing is a myth. It’s equally difficult anywhere! However, if you can get it to work, it still makes for fun photos!
Our Favorite Mitad del Mundo
Since originally writing this article on October 23, 2014, I’ve managed to visit the more famous Mitad del Mundo. In fact, I’ve visited both locations multiple times. My favorite is the smaller, lesser-known one, for three reasons.
First, it’s free. You can take a photo with a monument for no cost.
Second, it’s very local. You can eat a meal or visit the local bizcocho bakery. You might even walk across the street and up the road to visit Quisato, the sundial on the Equator. For a small entrance fee, you will learn all about how the ancients plotted the Equator and other lines using astronomy.
Third, it’s historic. I wish they would add some information about when this monument was originally erected. But even without exact dates, this place feels authentic in a way the larger monument does not. I hope you get to visit it sometime soon!
Since originally publishing this article on October 14, 2014, the locals of Buena Esperanza have cleaned up the plaza, painted the globe, and opened some new businesses.
Mitad del Mundo
The cement monument and globe; called the Bola de Guachala by locals.
Expect a small entry fee
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This is funny, I crossed the Equator twice, going to Cotachachi and back to Quito, and didn’t even realize this until I read this article. My pre-trip research was focused mostly on the Galapagos. OTOH, I’ve crossed the Arctic Circle four times; twice in Finland, once in Norway, and once in Sweden, and I was well aware at the time that I was doing it. There are signs on the road, of course, but even if there wasn’t, the Arctic Circle is also pretty close to the tree line in those three countries. Much more obvious than the egg balancing.
It really is an easy place to miss. Tourism in Ecuador is really designed so that tour guides can show you everything and the self-guided tourist can sometimes feel very lost. It’s only after we visit a location that we often learn the best things about it! It’s why I’m glad we live here and can explore a little differently. When you were here, the main road was also open so you may not have passed this exact little spot. It’s in between El Quinche and Cayambe. If you look on the google map, you won’t even see the road you took anymore… they’ve removed it from the map altogether.
So glad to see a picture of the original Mitad del Mundo. We enjoyed the new one. Our egg balanced perfectly… Maybe the Equator is wider than we think. We heard talk that the new version was not the real equator but there were several phenomena that seemed grounded proof like the swirling of the water on each side of the equator and the strain flow in the middle. Also there was a test of strength. There seemed to be a difference on and off the equator…
Would love to have shared your meal, Angie!
The Mitad del Mundo you visited is also on the Equator (or at least very close to it; we’ve heard that it’s slightly off as well)! But there could be as many Mitad del Mundos as we could fit on the continuous line around the earth, from Ecuador to Kenya and back again.
Hope you are all doing well!
Un abrazo fuerte, Angie