Finding the Equator – A Responsible Tourist in Quito, Ecuador

Finding the Equator – A Responsible Tourist in Quito, Ecuador

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Blog : Finding the Equator – A Responsible Tourist in Quito, Ecuador

By : By K. Njuguna (Follow on Twitter @wa_muthee) | Date : 2015-04-27

Finding the Equator – A Responsible Tourist in Quito, Ecuador

The city of Quito has a very rich history and a very beautiful natural backdrop. The climate varies from cloudy, chilly and wet conditions in December - January to scorching hot, dry conditions from June - August. The temperatures can vary from 10 to 33 degrees Celsius at any time of the year due to Quito's unique climatic conditions and terrain. Quito was built in a high valley in the Andes overlooked by many hills and a dormant volcano, Pichincha.

Old Quito

Old Quito, the world's first UNESCO heritage site, has an impressive concentration of historical sites including the presidential palace, artisan shops, restaurants and museums. One can lose oneself wondering around the many squares and checking out building after building. It is also recommended to have a hot chocolate and empanadas (meat pies), with complementary corn at a one of the relaxing cafes on one of the oldest neighborhoods in Quito, La Ronda. All of the ingredients are local! All maize (corn) originated from South America and you can imagine the immense variety here. You can even get red maize.

Mitad del Mundo

You can take a 45-minute bus ride from the centre of Quito to the "Mitad del Mundo," literally the middle of the world. It's roughly the site of the equator. There are 2 main sites of attraction, a theme park with exhibitions and museums on the expeditions over 200 years ago to measure the angle of the meridian, and the ethnography of Ecuador. Actually the ethnography museum is fun with a guide, you learn a lot of cool stuff about the diversity of the country. The highlight is the "Museo Inti Nan," or the Solar Museum. You get to learn more about the pre-Columbian culture and then do some cool experiments like balancing an egg on a nail (it should do so easily on the equator), try and walk in one line (difficult), among others. The theme park has an equator line marking but it is just indicative of the site of the first investigations. Better GPS technology measurement show that the Solar Museum is nearer to the zero latitude, but just as the Earth is not perfectly round, one cannot be exactly on the Equator as the actual line is thicker and more uneven than the yellow markings on the ground. So don't get too worried about the accuracy of some of those experiments and enjoy the experience.

Quito Markets

A trip to the market can be quite a revelation. The centre of Quito has several markets for fruits, groceries and artisanal products. There may be fruits there that you have never eaten before. Local fruit is very abundant and affordable, but some items including apples and grapes are imported from far-away places like Peru, Chile and the US.  It is a good idea to also ask about how the fruits were produced. The famous 'Chiquita' banana produce comes from the south of Ecuador, but is not necessarily sustainable as it is run by a conglomerate that is famous for undercutting the prices of smaller, independent producers.

The Botanical Gardens

The botanical garden is one of the best in the world. The equatorial climate guarantees that one will see some interesting flora whether it's blossoming, releasing funky odours or just plain different all year round. For example the, "Rabbit Ears." They are common in the high altitude dry areas and literally have the texture of real rabbits! Beware of the hibiscus-like flower, the Brugmansia, whose pollen contains a poison that causes one to lose consciousness on contact. However, it has a lot of medicinal value to treat a wide variety of ailments. In the botanical garden greenhouse you are in for a treat.  If you have never heard of the rarity and splendour of orchids, you will appreciate this place. All the flowers were in blossom and open for a couple of days. But you need to plan ahead in order to get there in time for the blossoming.



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