To the Middle of the World

Mitad del Mundo Travel Blog

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Church in Cotacachi

Cotacachi

After a morning spent at the market in Otavalo we drove to Cotacachi, a town a little to the north. The town is known throughout Ecuador for its leather work, on items such as clothing, footwear, bags, belts and wallets. We strolled the length of the main street, where every shop it seemed was selling these leather goods – everything from tiny coin purses for a couple of dollars to very stylish handbags, jackets and even small pieces of furniture. Had we wanted to shop, we could have spent ages choosing, but as it was we soon tired of every shop looking the same! However, a detour off the main road along Avenida Bolivar offered us a glimpse of this striking church which we were pleased to have seen, though there was no time to see if the interior was as interesting as the exterior.

On the church steps, Cotacachi

Cotacachi is also considered to be a good place to get a taste of traditional Ecuadorean food. We spotted several places that looked tempting, but as lunch was included in our tour we had to go where Jose Luiz took us. I was at first disappointed to see that the large restaurant he stopped at was apparently catering just for tourists visiting with their guides, but I have to admit that the lunch we had there was excellent – a really good shrimp ceviche to start with, pork (grilled outside in the garden) to follow, and we could also have had desert though both Chris and I were too full and declined this. It was a pleasant, relaxing meal after the bustle of Otavalo market.

Apparently Cotacachi is becoming a popular place for Americans to retire to, and I could see why it might appeal, set in the scenic highlands of northern Ecuador and with a good standard of living for relatively low prices.

Mitad del Mundo monument
Too quiet for me though!

El Mitad del Mundo

Our afternoon was spent at the Middle of the World! You might imagine that this is at the centre of the earth’s core! But no. El Mitad del Mundo is the name given to both a monument near Quito, and the area immediately around it which was erected to mark the line of the equator. Rather than cause confusion, as “Ecuador” means “Equator” in Spanish, it was given this more fanciful name.

Today we know that in any case the monument stands not on the equator but very near it instead, but that is because we now have more sophisticated means of measuring such things than did those whose exploits are commemorated here. The monument here commemorates the work of the French Geodesic Mission in 1736.

Standing on the equator - possibly!
In that year a multi-national team – Spanish, French and Ecuadorean – was sent to this region to try to scientifically verify the roundness of the Earth, and to establish whether its circumference were greater around its equator or around the poles. In doing this they needed to establish the exact line of the equator, and this is where they determined it lay – close, but not quite accurate, although impressive for that day and age.

Around the monument various museums and attractions have sprung up, aimed at the many visitors who come here, and it was in one of these that we spent most of our time, the Museo de Sitio Intiñan. Depending on your perspective this is either a tourist trap or a lot of fun. We took it all with a pinch of salt and thoroughly enjoyed our visit, although it is all a bit tacky in some ways. I've included a full review below.

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Church in Cotacachi
Church in Cotacachi
On the church steps, Cotacachi
On the church steps, Cotacachi
Mitad del Mundo monument
Mitad del Mundo monument
Standing on the equator - possibly!
Standing on the equator - possibly!
Mitad del Mundo Sights & Attractions review
Tacky but fun
Inti Nan is a tourist attraction in the vicinity of the Mitad del Mundo monument. Depending on your perspective it is either a tourist trap or a lot o… read entire review
Mitad del Mundo Sights & Attractions review
Mitad del Mundo monument
The monument that bears the name Mitad del Mundo is a 30 metre tall stone pyramid topped with a globe 4.5 metres in diameter, so it’s hard to miss! … read entire review
Mitad del Mundo
photo by: jendara