Last Updated on March 30, 2023
As it turns out, the equator in Ecuador isn’t where it’s supposed to be…
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
By Jim Ferri
If you ever want to stand right on the equator “line,” what better place to go than Ecuador? After all, in Spanish even the word “ecuador” means “equator.” The problem though, is just where to go to stand on the line of the real Ecuador equator.
La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World), the huge Equatorial monument north of Quito…the place the tourist office sends you to…the one all the tour companies shuttle you off to…the one that thousands of tourists are brought to every year…isn’t on the equator at all. The real equator is about 250 yards away.
Blame the French
It’s a sham due to a the screw-up by a French expedition in 1736 that set the wrong position. And get this – the mistake was found just a few decades ago when the Global Positioning System (GPS) was invented.
Unfortunately, the Ecuadorian government had already built La Mitad del Mundo on the present spot to lure tourists. It’s a nearly 100-foot tall monument that’s mildly interesting. It contains a small museum about the ethnic cultures of Ecuador.
But if you want to visit the “real equator” you need to go to the Inti Nan museum. It’s about five minutes away and is more like a mini-carnival for those who visit it. Others say a “tourist trap.” But still, it’s interesting and fun.
Come here and you can stand on the line painted on the “real Ecuador equator.” Then you can do all sorts of magical equator-like things. Such as balancing an egg on the head of a nail. Or falling over sideways as you attempt to walk the line with your eyes closed. A lot of it is sham for sure, but fun nevertheless.
I have to think that the government does as much as it can to keep the whole misplacement of the monument showing their Ecuador Equator line and the competition from the Inti Nan museum quiet.
That’s likely since the area not only lures tourists but is a place for various special events. The Miss Universe pageant visited back in 2004.
Visiting the Real Equator
I had heard of the misplacement of the Ecuador equator line some time ago and wanted to visit the “real” spot.
When visiting Quito I told our guide (from Ecuador’s largest tour company) to take us to the Equator. Additionally, on three different occasions to also told him to take us to visit the Inti Nan site. But each time he down-played the idea. It wasn’t until we were at the government Ecuador Equator monument when I told him very directly again. He then agreed to take us there.
But even then he said we had to do it fast. He also, and nervously, tried to hurry us along after just a few minutes at the site.
But there’s more to all this Ecuador equator line confusion. Some say that neither spot marks the real equator. Some say that it’s just that the Inti Nan Museum is much closer than La Mitad del Mundo.
But I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.
After all, GPS also shows that the Prime Meridian is about 100 yards off, as well. It’s not at the exact place it’s said to be at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England.
And one other note…before or after your search for the real equator you may want to spend some time in Quito, or beautiful and almost-magical Cuenca, or spend a few days in the incredible Galapagos Islands.