Mitad del Mundo and around

Some 23 km north of Quito, at the town of San Antonio de Pichincha, is the
Mitad del Mundo Equatorial Line Monument
at an altitude of 2483 m. The location of the equatorial line here was determined by Charles-Marie de la Condamine and his French expedition in 1736, and agrees to within 150 m with GPS measurements.

The monument forms the focal point of the
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo
a park and leisure area built as a typical colonial town, with restaurants, gift shops, a post office with philatelic sales, travel agency, pavilions of the nations which participated in the expedition (each has a museum covering a variety of topics), a numismatic collection and so on, all run by the
Consejo Provincial de Pichincha
. There are free live music and dance performances at weekends and holidays from 1300-1800. It is all rather touristy but the monument itself has an interesting
Museo Etnográfico
inside. A lift takes you to the top, then you walk down with the museum laid out all around with exhibits of different indigenous cultures every few steps.

Worth visiting is the interesting
scale model of colonial Quito
about 10 sq m, with artificial day and night, which took seven years to build. The artist also has models of Cuenca and Manhattan (USA); all are very impressive. There is also a
with 30-minute shows.

Just north of the complex and a bit difficult to find (200 m north of the roundabout, look for a small sign and lane to your left) is the eclectic and entertaining
. It shows fascinating experiments relating to the equator (perhaps aided by a little sleight of hand), as well as exhibits about native life and sun-worshipping peoples. Recommended. Research about the equator and its importance to prehistoric cultures is carried out near Cayambe, by an organization called


Four kilometres beyond Mitad del Mundo, off the road to Calacalí, is the
, well worth visiting, but try to go in the morning as there is often cloud later. The rim is at 2875 m, on the edge is the
, a lookout where crafts are sold, with wonderful views of the crater floor. In the crater, with its own warm microclimate, is the hamlet of Pululahua, surrounded by agricultural land and, to the west of it, the
Reserva Geobotánica Pululahua
. The crater is breached northwest; the climate gets warmer and the vegetation more lush as you descend.

The Pululahua Mirador is easily reached. The city buses continue on the road to Calacalí past Mitad del Mundo to the Mirador's turn-off. From there it is 30 minutes' walking uphill. To drive into the reserve, continue beyond the turn-off for the Mirador another 4 km. Past the petrol station turn to the right. It is 2.4 km to the Moraspungo park gate where a very scenic drive into the crater begins. In 8 km you reach the valley floor. From there you can turn right towards the village of Pululahua, or left and continue downhill to the sugar cane growing area of Nieblí. From
, the main road continues towards the western slopes of Pichincha and the coast .

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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