Fight that sinking sensation which you may be feeling if you have read about the slowly disappearing Mexico City by floating on the ancient canals at Xochimilco. Each weekend this World Heritage Site transforms into fiesta-filled waterways packed with party boats, musicians, and marimba players.
A long, long time ago, Mexico City (or Tenochtitlan, as it was called) was built on an island in the middle of a series of five interconnected lakes. Over time the water evaporated or was used, until almost nothing remained of the lakes. For those wanting to imagine the area during Aztec times, Xochimilco is home to most of the canals that remain today. There are lots of organized tours to the area, which can be nice because the colorful boats you'll ride out are intended (and priced) for fourteen passengers. Alternately you can go alone and partner with other tourists at the dock, or simply pay for the entire boat for yourself or your small group. The cost is about $15 USD per hour and most tours take several hours.
After hiring your boat, your oarsman will paddle you along the busy canals which are often called floating gardens or floating markets. You will pass other day-trippers out for a scenic tour, vendors selling souvenirs and food items from "floating shops" (well, canoes...) and even mariachi bands prepared to serenade your boat for a small price. Sunday is the busiest day to come, so your boat will be fighting for space but you'll see even more entertainment and have even more vendors available. Boat rides are also available to the ecological park, although there isn't necessarily much to see there and the ride isn't bright and colorful like the main market/garden routes. One can also ask their boatman to visit the Island of the Dolls (La Isla de las Munecas), where a solitary man strung thousands of decaying dolls in the trees to appease the angry spirit of a dead young girl, back in the 1950s. It is a two-hour journey to see the dolls.
The town of Xochimilco has a huge, busy market and lots of restaurants if you'd like to grab a meal on dry land!
To get to Xochimilco take the metro all the way south to the Tasquena station, then transfer to light rail and continue south to the Embarcardero station in Xochimilco (this was closed when I visited but I believe that it has reopened). From the station just follow the crowds about four blocks to the dock where boats depart.
Another place you must visit is Xochimilco, a place with water canals where small boats (called TRAJINERAS) sail along, and where you can get Mexican food & music while on the boat (or eat on "shore"), buy handcrafts and flowers, have a beer and just have a good time. Most foreigners ADORE this place. I strongly recommend it, it's fun and very Mexican! And they say it's also great to visit at night, even though you can't see the surrounding vegetation if you go there by night.
The prices for a ride on the trajineras have gone up quite a bit since my last visit (some 8 years ago, now it's 2011); It used to be about 20 USD per hour on a boat that holds up to 12-15 people, and the rides were usually 2-3 hours long. Nowadays you have to pay PER PERSON (or at least that's how I was charged since it was only 2 of us) and the tour is only 1 hour long, and you have to pay almost twice as much if you want the 2 hour tour. In 2011 the fee we were charged was MXN $200 (about 15 USD) per person per hour. If we had picked the 2 hour tour, we would have paid MXN $350 per person. Of course they offered to lower the price once we were in the middle of the canal so we would stay longer, but we declined.
I heard that if you went there by night you would have to pay twice as much money, but many people said it was really worth it because it was a lot of fun. I don't know if that's still the case nowadays, but I think the service providers there have become quite greedy with the tourists and the locals as well... it's a real pity because they don't even use the money for the maintenance of the area - it's quite dirty and run down nowadays, so it might lose the UNESCO World Heritage title that it had been granted in the past.
I expected this place to be a little bit different but I was in no means disappointed. We came here on a Sunday and had lunch on the trajineras which is what they call the boats that you ride on.
Basically you get on one of the boats and they row you out down the river and canals. As you ride along the river, mariachis might be on other boats and row along side of you and ask you if you want to hear some music. Others might pass along side of you and ask you if you want them to make you something to eat.
Some people bring their own food and drinks and make a picnic type of family outting. We saw a few young people who get on the boats and just hang out drinking. Locals come here to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other stuff. Some people just just to ride the canals and be romantic.
There are many boats out on the water and sometimes it can get crowded and the boats might hit eachother so hold on to your beer. They dont go very fast but if you are not expecting a bump it might startle you.
While we where there, there were many boats not in use but a local told me that there are times when all the Trajineras are being used and you have to wait for a while. We ordered our food there from one of the "mobile" restaurants that approach you and the food was very good. They also make right there practically in front of you. It was quick and affordable.
So you have to get on and ride one of these trajineras in Xochimilco. They run about 10 dollars USD per person and go from 9am to 6pm.
A great place to hear Mariachi is During a trip in Trajinera at Xochimilco Lake. It's fun and if with the right person even romantic. The cost is around $60 pesos per song, so if you plan on paying a Mariachi take with you the name of your favorite Mariachi songs.
There main attraccion of the lake is take a trip in a trajinera ( a boat decorated) are lots of trajineras to choose from, you get on one and spend an hour or two on the lake. The environment is kind of relaxing and festive, better to prepare and take drinks and some food or snacks with you to your trip in the trajinera (boat). The best thing to do when in group because the cost of the Trajinera is per hour, not per person. A good idea is to bring your own food and drinks, a good idea is also bring a cd Player or at least ipod or Cell Phone with music. You can buy Food, snacks and drinks from the other boats passing by or pay the mariachi orchestra to hear them play the song you want.
The cost of a small trajinera (1-10 Persons) is of $140 per Hour.
From zocalo you take metro 2 to tasquena then you take the tren ligero to last stop from here you can take a kind of collectivo. i was lucky i could walk with someone to it. it is called something navidatas. dont take a boat at the beginning just follow the water to the end i did get a whole boat for myself for 140 pesos for an hour it is 160 for a bigger boat.
also if you want to use a toilet sanitorios the one near the boat at the end is less crowded 3 pesos.
dont expect floating gardens because they even have houses on them. just enjoy a nice boattrip.it will stop at a place were they sell plants but that were the only flowers i saw. flower season more in april i think and later
from zocalo mexico df takes at least an hour to get at navidas
renting a boat
Embarcadero (nativitas) Trajineras
small toldo azul (blue) 140 pesos an hour
grand toldo verde (green) 160 pesos an hour
bought a 2 persons blanket for 200 pesos (with sunstone on it) at teotihuacan they tried to ask 450.
did buy a cup of fruit for 20 pesos forgot about water warning but didnot get ill. was also near boat rental at end
Xochimilco is located at the south part of Mexico City and I think it's a very interesting place for toursts since you can buy flowers, eat Mexican food and ride a trajinera, a colorful boat to take you to its canals for a 1.5 hour ride. Along the way there are vendors in smaller boats selling food, mariachis or drinks. A great world famous spot you can't miss!
i did this on my last day in mexico. i was supposed to spend more 'quality time' somewhere. but i found myself all alone wandering around, not knowing what to do really. then i remembered that a VTer told me that i should go to xochimilco with some friends. what friends? i technically had no one in mexico! and the people i knew started to run out of excuses to not meet me. i said fine. let's go to xochimilco wherever that was.
i was in zocalo, city centre. so i took the metro to the south end of the city for 45 minutes. then i changed to another train that took me to xochimilco for another 45 minutes. i got off the train, walked a bit, got lost another, and finally found my destination.
it was the very mexican boat voyage around a little canal with Miriachi to sing your favourite music for you. as i was supposed to be at the airport at 5pm, i had a little spanglish chat with the boatman. he was playing cards with his group, bored until i showed up, so i could their faces lit up. i negotiated the price for a 15-minute lift by the boat around the canal. he told me that he could only offer it for 30 min at least. but i couldn't. he was kind enough and still gave me a nice lift before i took off. it was a nice mexican farewell that would always make me remember the love and pain i experienced in such an amazing vibrant city.
costs of the boat lift:
$250: 45 min - 1 hour
$200: 30 min
£100: 15 min
and you still can negotiate a good bargain.
Xochimilco is touted as the Mexican Venice. Its 180 km. tree-lined canals are plied by brightly colored and flower-decked trajineras, the local equivalent of the gondola and the amphibious cousin of the Philippine jeepney, complete with female names and the occasional religious praises distinguishing one from the other. We boarded one which had a long yellow picnic table and yellow chairs. There were 12 of us but it could have accommodated a few more. We were provided with a big tub of ice packed with beer and assorted sodas and juice for the journey.
As the boatman expertly guided us out from the crowded dock and into the waterway, I sat back and let the experience delight my senses. We glided gracefully past private houses along the banks which reminded me of those homes along the canals near Camden Lock. We were approached by vendors on their own punts selling everything from jewelry to candied apples, corn, toys, ponchos, and of course flowers. Xochimilco does mean “place where flowers grow” in the Nahuatl language. We cruised past other trajineras carrying picnicking families, tour groups, couples on dates, and marimba musicians.
And then there were the mariachis! We were serenaded by 2 different groups. They attach their boat to yours and then entertain you for $6 per song. The first group did just that, and played for us from their boat.
It's more relaxed than other parts of Mexico City. You can travel along the (not very clean) canals there on simple boats with your own personal guide and just sip some drinks (which you buy beforehand in the little shops nearby). This is only really good to do with a group and make sure you bargain a little to negotiate the price, since they will definitely try and charge you more than you should pay.
Xochimilco is a great place for spending a relaxed afternoon. The place is the little that's left from the lake on which Mexico city was originally built by the Aztecs. There are lots of boats, you get on one and spend an hour or two on the lake. The best thing to do (and also the cheapest one!) is to go with a big group of people and bring your own food and drinks - plus a radio or a CD player! You can also buy snacks and drinks from the other boats passing by or pay the mariachi orchestra to hear them play the song you want. I can't remember how much this all costs and where exactly Xochimilco is but it's a popular place so I'm guessing anyone you'll ask should know it.
I've heard Xochimilco compared to Venice, and although that's quite a stretch, Xochimilco is a very interesting place. It is a series of canals in the southern part of the city where you can hire long colorful boats to take you out for as long as you want. It is a very popular destination for Mexico City families, especially on Sundays when you'll see huge groups of people relaxing and eating as their boats drift along the canals. People on smaller boats sell fresh-made food of all sorts, and other boats have mariachi bands that will serenade you for a fee. It's a great place to just relax and maybe have lunch.
A ride in Xochimilco is an absolute must, any cares, concerns, stress, etc. will melt away!! We went pretty early in the day, during the week, so it was not crowded nor very loud. The ride lasted about 45 minutes or so, but I am not sure since I was completely oblivious to the real world!! Make sure to check out the "doll house" along the canal--the home of a man who rescuses abandoned dolls and displays them on his trees!
Beware not to fall. 'The trajineras' are small barges with a front arch beautifully decorated with flowers. Some of the canals that you'll go through were once part of the Aztec canal system of transportation. This is pretty much all the remainings of it.
You can see mariachis playing on the other trajineras. I don't doubt you'll have a great time.