Going to Ecuador? Don’t miss the Equator.

By Posted in - Ecuador & Travel Blog on July 1st, 2013 The official equator sign and Ecuadorian flag flying during our equator tour.

Welcome to the Equator! In Ecuador!

On our recent trip to the Galapagos we were able to tack a couple extra days onto our trip and see some of the sites in mainland Ecuador, near Quito. My favorite stop during this time was our trip to the equator.

I should start off by saying that I was overly excited to visit the Equator and I could totally feel my inner ‘dad’ coming through. My entire childhood was spent stuffed in a mini van with my parents and two sisters, road tripping across the U.S. to almost every state – only missing 4!

My father was writing a book about cowboys and Indians and his research entailed going to every no-name cow town in the west. We would spend entire days driving around searching for lost western towns full of gold rush tall tales and Billy The Kid lore. If anything came from these epic car rides it was a great patience and appreciation for the open road. Because let’s be honest, spending that much time in a car as a teenager with your entire family will either:

1. Make a murderer out of you (probably one of your siblings) OR

2. Provide you with an undying love for fun and wacky roadside sites (world’s largest prairie dog in Kansas I’m looking at you)

Fortunately, me and my sisters resorted to option 2. And as we spent our 8+ hour days researching ghost towns for my dad, we were able to remain somewhat tame knowing that we’d also be hitting up the world’s largest ball of yarn later in the day.

Excited yet? We were.

So when Adventure Life sent over a list of additional tours that could be tacked onto our trip to the Galapagos, the day trip to the Equator jumped off the page immediately. I told Randy that it was on the top of the list and a couple days later when I read the list to my sister Bridgette she literally squealed with delight – “The Equator! The Equator!” After all, this is the holy grail of “Been There, Done That” roadside travel stops and a trip to the Equator was not one to be missed!

So on our first full day in Quito, our Adventure Life guide picked us up at the hotel and off we went to visit the middle of the world, the line that divides the Southern and Northern Hemispheres in all it’s invisible glory – the Equator!!!

I would like to report that our visit was a complete success! The ultimate in roadside sites and attractions, if you are in Ecuador you must go to the Equator. I HIGHLY recommend it! And here’s why – they have so many cool things to do there! Plan to spend an hour or two checking out the area and playing the games of middle earth.

Before I tell you about our trip I want to point out there are TWO equator markers in Ecuador. Years ago, the original Equator was marked incorrectly in a spot down the street. There is a still a monument in that location but when GPS was used to verify the spot it was discovered to be inaccurate. The correct spot to visit the middle of the earth is here at the Intinan museum, which is just a few minutes drive from the Middle of the World monument. You’ll know you are at the official equator when you come across the sign on a gate saying that this location is “calculated with GPS” to be exactly at 0 latitude.

How it works:

Upon your arrival, a specially trained guide takes you through the site, explaining all of the interesting facts about ‘life on the line’. Being in Ecuador, there are a variety of beautiful flowers and plants growing around the area like these beautiful orchids.

Flowers in bloom during our equator tour.

As your Equator tour begins, one of the first things you learn about are the tribes of the Amazon (we didn’t go to the Amazon on this trip so it was really interesting to learn about them here). The most dramatic and eye catching part of this section are the shrunken heads which you can see below. Yes they are REAL shrunken heads! Wow!

Who cannot be fascinated by a real shrunken head? I mean, it’s unreal, yet real. Crazy.

Pictured below is a shrunken head of a sloth and a 12 year old boy. The sloth head is about 50 years old and the boy is about 150 years old. The guide will explain the entire process of how a head is shrunk and what it means.

The entire process is pretty interesting and disgusting. It involves cutting off the head, crushing the insides and pulling everything out through the neck. Then stuffing the head with rocks and putting it in a special solution. Over time the head shrinks but maintains the shape due to the rocks on the inside.

If you were a family or friend they would shrink your head and wear it around their neck. If you were a foe, they would shrink your head and put it on a stick as a warning to others. No one knows now what the case was with the 12 year old boy and all we can do is hope he died somewhat naturally and was then petrified for love, not war.

I know right now you must be thinking: “Do they still shrink heads in the Amazon?” Good question!

The answer is YES. The tribes in the Amazon still shrink heads. Although now, they only shrink animal heads and they only do it to pass this fascinating tradition on to younger generations so that it isn’t lost over time.

After learning about the tribes you will also learn about the Candirú which is a small fish that can enter your urethra and grow inside your body. It can get pretty large. I saw one in a bottle located near the heads and trust me, you do not want this thing inside you. After seeing this I had a huge smile on my face because for years my friends in San Diego refused to believe me that such a creature existed. There I was at the Equator with undeniable proof.

If I can divulge one important bit of information regarding the Candirú it is this: Do not pee in Amazonian rivers. This is how it gets inside your body and it will most likely be so tiny that you will never even see it at the time. So whatever you do, in no way should you ever relieve yourself while swimming in the Amazon. Never. Ever.

Shortly after learning about the shrunken heads and the Candirú we were given an Ecuadorian banana to eat. Odd timing? Yes, but it tasted great.


A blooming flower from our equator tour.  Two shrunken heads from the equator tour in Ecuador.

After that we were brought through other really unique areas that highlighted the history Ecuador and it’s people. The tour guide was really informative and great at making this outdoor museum come to life with stories. There are plenty of small buildings to walk in and explore. There is even an old bar with several guinea pigs running around. Later you’ll find out that if the guinea pigs are quiet for your visit that means you are a good person with good energy. If they are noisy, then you better head for the hills because you’ve got some negative ju-ju going on.

Guinea pigs are a very important animal in Ecuador, not only were they used for food but also to predict negative events such as earthquakes. Ecuadorians have lived with guinea pigs for centuries and continue to do so today and use them for these same purposes. Luckily for us they were quiet during our visit and we were given a big grin and a high five from our tour guide to congratulate us on our positive vibes. Go us!

Plants and pottery during our equator tour.

An amazon hut from our equator tour.

Finally it was time to make our way to the star of this attraction – the Equator! It did not disappoint. They have so many cool tricks and games to play that are unique only to the Equator. Our guide took us through each one and honestly, it was a lot of fun.

First she showed us on the globe, exactly where we were and then we started a series of tests. The one shown below is Randy trying to walk a straight line.

On the Equator it is absolutely impossible to walk in a straight line – and it isn’t because of too many Coco Locos!

It’s actually the force from the gravitational pull of the hemispheres that forces you in one direction or the other. As you can see here Randy is just starting to slightly head to the south. Ultimately, he ended up completely off the red line and fully into the southern hemisphere. It was a pretty remarkable trick and we both tried it a couple of times because we really felt like we were walking in a straight line but each time we ended up completely off the line and way off to one side. Neato!

The equator tour guide points to a globe.  A man walks the line during an equator tour in Ecuador.

Next up was the balancing egg trick. It is easier to balance an egg on a nail while on the Equator than anywhere else in the world. That’s not to say it’s 100% easy but it’s not very hard either. After a couple of seconds we were able to get this egg perfectly balanced. Yah!

An egg balancing on a nail during our Equator tour.

‘Look Mom – No Shadows!’

As luck would have it, we visited the Equator just one day before the solstice. This made our trip even more special because during this time there are no shadows on the Equator! As you can see Randy’s shadow is directly below him and the shadow of the solar clock  is completely non-existent. How cool is that?

A young man stands with a Tom Bihn in Ecuador during an Equator tour.  A sundial stands tall during our equator tour.

Also on the Equator water does not swirl down the drain. There are several sinks and buckets of water set up around this area and on each side of the hemisphere the water swirls down the drain in different directions. On the equatorial line it doesn’t swirl at all – it just goes straight down!

You also get the chance to take your photo on the Equator with this fantastic sign. Proof for years to come that you have made it to the GPS verified middle of the world!

Two travelers pose in front of a 0 Latitude sign during an equator tour.

After the Equator tour you are free to roam around the museum for as long as you want, playing the games, studying the shrunken heads or just admiring the landscape.

In my opinion visiting the Equator is a MUST DO in the Quito area. It was a lot of fun and a very unique experience, plus it comes with an added bonus – at the end of your visit they will stamp your passport with a special middle of the earth passport stamp. Fun!

Have you ever been to the Center of the Earth?

*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first. Thanks!

Disclaimer: While our we were hosted in Ecuador by Adventure Life, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.

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(12) awesome folk have had something to say...

  • Mike (Nomadic Texan) -

    July 1, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Too cool guys. I love Ecuador and have been to the southern region, but not Quito or the northern area. I am going back in August, but am only seeing Cuenca. Hope to make it to he Equator one of these trips! Safe Travels mi amigos!

  • Nicole -

    July 1, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    So cool. I recently read another post about traveling to the Equator and it also talked about the original site not being the real site. Bummer for them. That seems like a very neat place to visit on the way to or from the Galapagos Islands. Thanks for sharing!

  • Elizabeth -

    July 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Loved your post! We are planning a trip to Ecuador next year. And being the nerd that I am, I am so stoked to visit the Equator!

    Thanks for the info – I’m even more excited now.


  • Elizabeth -

    July 1, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Loved your post! We are planning a trip to Ecuador next year. And being the nerd that I am, I am so stoked to visit the Equator!

    Thanks for the info – I’m even more excited now.


  • Danny Delnison -

    July 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    Go to there in the fulture? Yes!!!
    You’ve convinced me
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Beth -

    July 1, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    So awesome! I had no idea you can’t walk in a straight line on the Equator. Def hope to make it out there someday!

  • David -

    July 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Thanks for sharing the great equator lore. fascinating for those that follow the solstices and equinox. Water in the sinks, ease of balancing, and the inability to walk a straight line particularly interesting . Great job, love your stories.

  • Katherine Belarmino – Travel the World -

    July 2, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    That is just the sort of nerdy thing that I would love to visit! Sounds like a lot of fun.

  • OCDemon -

    July 4, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    I think some enterprising country in Africa should just name themselves Equator in whatever language they use there, and set up all these contraptions as well. Somehow Ecuador managed to carve out an imperial monopoly on being “the country on the equator” despite the dozen others that share the distinction. Then they can have a funny rivalry and see who can come up with the most clever equator-based magic tricks. That would be great.

  • Jennifer -

    July 6, 2013 at 1:41 am

    I love quirky attractions like this! I haven’t been to Equador – or even South America – yet, but when we do make it, we’ll be sure to go to the Equator. What a fun experience!

  • Tricia -

    July 11, 2013 at 11:11 am

    We’ve been hearing so much about Ecuador lately – this piece offers more encouragement to get there! Love the shot of the orchid, as well as the tidbit about the lack of shadows.

  • […] I never really thought much about the Equator, after reading Bethany of Beers and Beans post Going to Ecuador? Don’t Miss the Equator, it definitely has my attention now. Shrunken heads and fun science experiments? Yes […]