Xochimilco: The Magic of Canals & Boats in Mexico City

Mexico City is dotted with UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the one  I really want to tell you about Xochimilco tucked away in a corner of Mexico City – (Say Zo – chee – milko). There’s something intriguing even about the name Xochimilco.

It’s one of the last remaining remnants from when Mexico City was an island – yes an island, hard to believe when you look at the metropolis today.

Xochimilco Train Station

We’ve arrived! – Getting there is easy – just take metro Line Two to Tasqueña and then the light railway out to Xochimilco.

Colourful Boats and Canals

The canals are a popular place for locals to hang out on weekends and naturally the way to see the canals of Xochimilco is by boat. So we headed out to Xochimilco on Sunday for an afternoon of party mexican style, beer and mariachi!  Each weekend Xochimilco transforms into fiesta-filled canals packed with party boats, musicians, and marimba players.

Xochimilco Mariachis

Party boats full of musicians and marimba players fill the canals of Xochimilco

The mariachis will serenade your boat for a price! Take care, we gave them a 200 peso note and they didn’t give us the change, then proceeded to play 2 songs when we asked for one –  then said no change.

Xochimilco for a Relaxing Afternoon

A fiesta of colourful party boats on the Canals

The boats are a spectacle in themselves and really the best decoration of the canals. In true mexican style  they are brightly painted with floral and other designs and often girls names. They are non motorized and there’s about 200 of them so it can get pretty colorful. There is a long table with chairs to allow for eating and drinking. It really does turn into an all out party mexican style as you would expect.

Locals at Xochimilco

The locals bring their own food, pets and refreshments!

Xochimilco Boats

A bit of congestion in the canals!

 How to get to Xochimilco

Getting there is easy – just take metro Line Two to Tasqueña and then the light railway out to Xochimilco. From the end of the rail line you follow the crowds and walk to the various landing stages where the boats are moored. It took us 2 hours from Mexico city so start early. The metro and the light rail cost 80 pesos each – cheap until we got to the boat ride!

Xochimilco Train

Light Rail train from Tasquena to Xochimilco just 30 pesos!

 Hiring a Boat in Xochimilco

The boat prices seem to be variable so be prepared to negotiate, we were quoted between 800 pesos and 1400 pesos for the same trip – needless to say we took the 800 peso trip for 2 hours. You can do 2,3 or 4 hours.  2 hours was perfect, any longer I would have drunk too much beer!

Xochimilco - floating down the canals!

After hiring your boat, your oarsman will paddle you along the busy canals and floating gardens. You will pass other party goers and tourists also out for a scenic party tour, vendors selling souvenirs and food items from floating restaurants.

Xochimilco Floating Restaurant

Xochimilco floating shopsFurther up the canals there’s the Island of the Dolls. Back in the fifties a solitary man collected thousands of decaying dolls and strung them in the trees to appease the angry spirit of a dead girl that he discovered. It’s a four-hour return journey to see the dolls,  don’t be fooled by the ‘fake ones’ on the 2 hour return journey.

Xochimilco Fake Island of the Dolls

Don’t be fooled – this is not the real Island of the Dolls – these are just a few dolls on the banks of the canals.

Although they go every day, Sunday is the busiest day to go so there’s plenty of action and entertainment.

Xochimilco Traveller Tip

If you are a ‘tourist’ you fall into what I call the  “Donation Category”  – so take extra care with pricing when negotiating with your boatie. There’s a few opportunist mariachis and food vendors too! Like the lunch quote for 110 pesos per person. Bring your own picnic and refreshments is a really good idea.  One thing I really detest when traveling is being taken for a ride as a tourist and I really felt there was a bit of craftiness going on here.

Xochimilco, the Venice of Mexico, is a perfect destination for young lovers and enchanted travellers seeking a romantic afternoon, on the gondolas, eating, drinking and dancing to the mariachi music all along the way.

Did you venture to the Island of the Dolls?  Share your  Xochimilco experience?



3 Comments on “Xochimilco: The Magic of Canals & Boats in Mexico City

  1. The boats go on week days too. The atmosphere is much calmer, almost too calm. There are still mariachis on boats but the quality is much poorer than on the weekends.

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