The floating gardens of Xochimilco were one of the best parts of our trip to Mexico City. Maybe even the best part — my husband claims he would plan an entire trip around going to Xochimilco with a group of friends.
Boarding the boats
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Xochimilco is one of the municipalities that makes up the Federal District of Mexico. What makes Xochimilco especially noteworthy today is the preservation of the canals and artificial islands that provided transportation and irrigation during Aztec times. At one point these waterways were spread throughout the Valley of Mexico, but from the time of the Spanish onwards the canals have been drained, paved over, etc.
As one of the last examples of the pre-Hispanic waterways, Xochimilco has been preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From what I can gather, even with the UNESCO designation the canals have had a rough time of it (check out the litany of problems reported on Wikipedia).
We visited on a Saturday morning. If you can time your visit for a weekend I highly recommend it! The waterways were filled with families having picnics, celebrating special occasions, and generally enjoying the water.
All the boats have different names, or can be renamed for special occasions
Apparently if you visit during the week you’ll see more tourists, but the canals are less crowded.
All that land started as artificial islands built by the Aztecs
Floating down a quieter section of the canal
The islands were originally used for agriculture, and many still are
I thought the crowding was one of the best parts, personally.
So many boats!
Trajinera traffic jam
The boats have a long table running down the center, with about two dozen chairs.
Plenty of seating
Have more people attending the party? Tie two boats together!
Helpful boat captains link trajineras together as needed
And what’s a party without music? For a small fee, a mariachi band would tie their boat to yours, and serenade you down the river.
Mariachi on the river
A four-boat party, plus mariachi
Taking a break
For those that didn’t bring a picnic, various vendors floated along the canals selling fruit, corn, micheladas, and many other things I couldn’t name.
Peeling purchased fruit
Sure, the water was a little dirty, and yeah, there were the requisite folks trying to sell me jewelry, but it was so fun. I highly, highly, recommend a visit!
Logistics of visiting Xochimilco
Like Teotihuacan, there are myriad tour companies that will take you to Xochimilco. I don’t think that’s necessary.
We hired a driver for the day, as we had a lot of ground we wanted to cover, but public transit is a great alternative (and probably the better option, actually).
- Take the blue line Metro to the end at Tasqueña
- Follow the signs to the light rail, then take that to the end
- The embarcadero is a short walk away (maybe ten minutes)
- The round-trip ride will be less than $2 USD
The standard rates for the trajineras are $350 MXN per hour. That’s for the entire boat, not per passenger (which is apparently a common “tourist” rate). There are big posters, so you shouldn’t pay more than that, though you could potentially pay less.
Plenty of boats if you arrive in the morning
Feel free to bring lunch, drinks, snacks — whatever. We saw families with multiple boats (and multiple coolers). You can always buy food from the various boat vendors as well, in which you’ll want to break any larger bills before the visit.
This was such a fun day. I always love being out on the water, but this was particularly fun. I loved the bright colors, the music, and the laughter.
Canals of Xochimilco
Hopefully the local population will rally around Xochimilco so as to preserve the space. It’s a special and unique experience, and I’m so glad we made time for it!
Have you been to Xochimilco? Any other tips?