The Equator is the most famous imaginary line on the planet. It touches only three continents and 11 countries. In South America, it passes through Ecuador, Colombia, and northern Brazil. In Africa, it divides Gabon, both Congos, Uganda, Kenya, and Somalia. In Southeast Asia, it intersects Indonesia and Kiribati.
Where it crosses there are no seasons. The sun rises and sets exactly 12 hours apart at the same time every day of the year. The climate is always hot. And only 20% of the world’s population lives below it.
So where is the best place to experience the Equator? Since neither Sao Tome or the Maldives make landfall with it, I’ve left both of those out. Political unrest and security concerns disqualify a few others. If you want to touch this imaginary line in memorable style, these are your best bets.
If Nature had a favorite country, Ecuador would certainly make the shortlist. Consider all the wonderful things the equator traverses here: the Galapagos islands, mind-blowing beaches, Volcan Cotopaxi, the Amazon rainforest, world-renowned heritage cities, and a bajillion species of wildlife. Better yet, the easy-going, indigenous, and Afro-Ecuadorian population is equally endearing, making it one of the most beloved and top-rated countries in all of South America.
Although the Amazon Rainforest extends into the aforementioned Ecuador and nearby Columbia, the heart and bulk of the experience crosses all of Northern Brazil along the widest and wildest river in the world that shares its name. This area is so remote, there are no roads. Heck, an estimated 10% of locals here have never contacted the outside world. Truly one of the last untouched areas where the Earth breathes and visitors gawk.
This may be the coolest little African country you’ve never heard of. Simply put, French-speaking and travel-friendly Gabon combines picturesque beaches with forest and safari-rich wildlife. Think surfing hippos. Brightly colored mandrills. Gorillas and jungle chimps. Elephants. Fire dancers. And unlike the rest of central Africa, Gabon’s national treasures, pristinely preserved parks, and rich biodiversity enjoy peace, stability, and few crowds to compete with.
If you ask 100 visitors what their favorite African nation is, magical Kenya will likely be a top pick. The reason? The country is arguably the best place to see The Great Migration, a natural spectacle where crocodile-dodging wildebeest and zebras cross the Mara River. Nairobi National Park (pictured) is one of the best places to see the “big five” animals on safari. Simply put, Kenya offers some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire continent, leaping warriors in red plaid and prolific marathon runners very much included.
Indonesia is staggering. The largest archipelago in the world, it’s home to more than 17,000 islands. Minus the population of California, there are as many Indonesians in the world as Americans. And like America, Indonesia is a melting pot of Southeast Asian culture, food, beliefs, and lifestyles. Where to begin? Jakarta, Bali, Raja Ampat, Java, South Borneo, Gili Islands, and Komodo (Dragon) National Park are popular landing spots.
Off the Grid columnist Blake Snow writes epic stories for fancy publications and Fortune 500 companies. Follow him on Twitter.