A boat ride on a very busy canal. I took a Grayline tour and there was one other person on the tour that day. We had the boat to ourselves, along with the pole guider. Soft drinks, water or beer are offered for sale by the pole guider. Some boats have food to sell to tourist. The Mariachi bands are in their own boat but will tie up their boat to yours and jump on to sing. Silver merchants jump into the boats with high hopes you will buy their jewelry.
The floating gardens were built by the Aztecs. It is kind of unique to see and enjoyed the brief ride.
There is also a flea market which sells both goods and food. Very good food too.
I set out to Xochimilco taking the Metro to the end station Tasqueña, and catching the Tren Lijero (an additional 2 pesos) to the end stop, Xochimilco. It was about a 10-minute walk to the Embarcadero, where you pick up the trajineras (boats) that the boatsmen will push you through the canals if desired. I foolishly didn't bargain down from 300 pesos for the ride; however for the magnificence of the experience, it was worth it to me.
Xochimilco was founded in 900 A.D. and spoke the same language as the Mexica, Nahuatl. Much of the Valle de Mexico during the Classic and Postclassic period was lake. To create fertile ground, the Xochimilca built floating gardens called chinampas using damp-resistant wood from the ahuejote tree, mud, lilies and stone. Builing these chinampas, the Xochimilca created a systems of thousands of canals, that would allow easier access by canoe to these fertile gardens of vegetables, fruit and floriculture. Although the Xochimilca fought battles themselves, they were morphed/allied to the Mexica empire that used their agricultural technology in the Mexica capital of Tenochtitlan.
Anyhow, riding the trajinera, I just felt such peace and joy. People in smaller canoes would offer goods from jewelry, cloth to elotes (corn) and enchilada. I had lunch as a woman prepared a chicken enchilada in her canoe, which she attached to my trajinera. Other trajinera, with groups of maybe a dozen or 15 Mexicans, would invite a band of 8 mariachis to play/sing for them; I saw some couples dancing on the boats to spirited mariachi music; a marimba (wooden xylophone?) played well and energetically for another group of couples; a cellist sat in boat waiting to be called over. I felt such inner happiness at the beauty and joy surrounding me. My trajinera boatsman Marco made 2 stops, one at a market, the second at a garden; each boat is colourful and has a name overhanging. The whole experience makes me smile in remembrance and I have never experienced anything like it in my 33 years.
Xochimilco (pronounced So-Chi-Meel-Co) is one of, if not the most interesting thing you can do in Mexico City. For this reason, it is best that you go when it is in full swing - on a Sunday afternoon.
To visit the gardens, you rent a boat for the afternoon. While the boats used to come in various sizes, you now have to rent one size regardless of the number of people in your party. For the five in our party, the 20 person boat was excessive in size, but not in cost - I believe it was about 14 dollars.
The drivers will take you on a slow journey through the canals that make up the gardens. You will pass other boats filled with poeple, bumping into many of them in the traffic jam-ridden areas. Many boats have food on them - just pull up next to them to buy something. Others have bands, and for a dollar or two the band will ride next to you for a song!
The hardest part about this trip is getting there and away. While most taxi drivers know where the docks are to get on the boat, many do not go there without a passenger - in other words, if you don't arrange for a taxi to come pick you up after your trip is done, don't plan on getting one! There are no reliable taxi stands anywhere near the garden either, so you will not just get lucky, unless you are REALLY lucky, which our 1.5 hours of searching proved we were not.
This is an incredible experience - do not miss it if you can help it.
Xochimilco is a favourite destination for fun and relaxation 20 km south of downtown MC. It is known for its canals, which give you an idea about the former character of this region which was the main water catchment area for the city.
We made the long trek out to Xochimilco to ride a boat through the last remaining canals in Mexico City. When we boarded our very own trajinera named 'Beatriz', we knew that this experience was worth the extra effort. We took an hour-long ride on the canals for 140 pesos and left from the embarcadero Nativitas. This embarcadero is a further walk from the others, but the prices are posted and are cheaper than the prices the guys closer to town were quoting us. We bought beer and some food to take with us on our ride.
We passed people in boats selling everything from tamales to mariachi songs. Also, there were various plant nurseries along the banks open for business. There were other tourists on boats and entire families having grand parties with the mariachi boats that they had hired. Our oarsman, Sergio, told us that it gets busy on the canals on the weekends.
I had no idea that the canals existed in Mexico City and recommend this experience to any visitor.
This place is called Xochimilco, where in ancient times, was a commerce-Lake where people used to trade their mercancies in small boats called "Trajineras".
Now, this trajineras, which are nice decorated with colourful flowers, are used as Party-vehicles. =)
Xochimilco is now a traditional place to make great parties while taking a ride through the lake, and having some drinks, buying food, handicrafts or even asking the Mariachi-trajinera to play a song.
There can be around 20-30 people in a Trajinera (so it gets cheaper) and you can buy everything (drinks, food, etc) before jumping in, in small grocery shops outside.
wonderful place to go in mexico city. the best time to go is during the week rather than the weekend when there is virtually noone there. it is very nice place to take your girlfriend or wife. as you travel down the waters, barcos carrying musicans are eager to play for you (for a price of course). otros barcos carrying souveniers follow along side of you. another barco with its own kitchen also docks next to you in the middle of the water offering a hot meal and cold drinks. very nice experience and a time for you and your loved one to spend some nice quiet time together.
Xochimilco is a great place in Mexico City, originally created by the Aztecs to be agricultural canals. Now the canals are home to the embarcaderos, floating boats that are rented in mostly by families in the day and parties in the night. The boats come complete with a pole carrying gondola driver. People generally bring there own drinks and refreshments. However once on the canals Gondolas will approach your and try to sell you food, drinks and candles. There are even Marachi gondolas who will glide beside your boat and provide live music at the right price.
While in Mexico City, be sure to go to Xochimilco; the Venice of Mexico.
The floating gardens should not be missed.
Hop on a boat and ride through the canals, while munching on a taco or tamale cooked up on one of the many floating kitchens. Wash it down with a cold one while being serenaded by floating mariachi bands!
There are two main 'embarcaderos' (boat landings) in Xochimilco, as well as a half-dozen secondary ones, and the canal system is extensive enough that traffic jams are rare.
Today, in fact, it can be quite overwhelming to pole along the canals in one of the colorful punts on a busy weekend, but a sense of excitement accompanies the smaller vessels that carry entertainers (marimba,mariachi...) or vendors (snacks, tamale, elote...) - Frida Kahlo also wrote about the marvelous produce and unusual local dishes she had found on the canals - that join visitors as they drift along the innumerable canals in the shade of towering ahuejote trees... Some vendors even boarding yours uninvited!
Along the canals were small gardens and homesteads with cackling hens and crowing roosters. Dogs perched precariously or even crawled into small boats along the shore to beg for handouts as the trajineras came by, and an occasional bony horse or cow grazing in a pasture...
The boat tour is highly entertaining, but for those interested in the history and techniques of chinampa farming, the nearby Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco (Xochimilco Ecological Park) is the place to go.
There is the Cuemanco boat landing and the largest flower market in Latin America (32 acre)...
Xochimilco is quite a different experience you just cannot miss.
(Xochimilco floating gardens).
The canals of Xochimilco (about 115 miles of them remain) are all that is left of Lago Xochimilco (Xochimilco lake), a vast body of water (five lakes) that once filled the Valley of Mexico.
For at least 800 years, since well before Spanish contact, the inhabitants of Xochimilco ('place where flowers grow') have been practicing agriculture using 'chinampas' (artificial islands assembled from reeds, sticks and soil).
And although the Spanish conquerors razed a number of Aztec structures to fill in the lake in the center of the city, Xochimilco's system of chinampas were relatively undisturbed until water shortages and the sprawl of civilization marked the beginning of its decline at the end of the 19th century.
So culturally important is the area, in fact, that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1987 named it a World Heritage Site - one of 470 in the world.
Tourism dates to the 1920s, when weekend visitors began showing up at the boat landings to observe the colorful chinampa lifestyle.
Soon local entrepreneurs were converting traditional, punt-like cargo barges called 'trajineras' into tour boats, dressing them up with flower-festooned facades.
Today expensive flowers are reserved for special occasions.
Instead, the boats' arched facades, each bearing a woman's name, are painted in bold letters and bright colors that lend the vessels a 1960s psychodelic air orcovered with canopies and pinata-like paper-flower decorations.
About 3,000 trajineras, configured to hold anywhere from four to 18 passengers each, are licensed to ply the canals. That's a lot of boats.
The boats look like a larger version of the 'Canoa Enflorada' (flower boat), painted in 1931 by Diego Rivera. (Frida Kahlo once wrote about witnessing a water fight on one of the canals between rival boats).
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It's a nice get away from the hectic city center. During the weekend it's pretty busy there to because it seems to be a favourite place to a lot of Mexicans. But still, there is a very nice atmosphere.
You can take any boat to get to the different islands. The view of these colorful boats named after women is so nice. You will even see boats with a group of mariachis on it who will sing to you 'for a good price'.
There are several markets on the islands where you can buy typical Mexican cloths, food, objects.
Experience what Mexico City was like before the Spanish reclaimed the canals. Apparently, ancient Mexico City was built on a lake with a network of canals. This part of Mexico City still retained its canals and this where a lot of locals go to escape the city grime. It really is like being in Venice but instead of gondolas, you see floating markets and floating mariachi bands. Great fun.
Xochimilco is a must, even though it will be busy there (mostly by mexicans themselfs) it is nice to have a ride on the canals. The boats are colorfull, the music is great and the food is good.
You can also buy some really nice artifacts there.
Popcatepetl ( popo for the locals)is also a must, even though the vulcano acces is limited due to activity, there are still nice streams hikes and all in the vinicity. And if you are as lucky as me, you could even witness an eruption from the distance, that is an unforgetable experience.
On a Sunday go to Xochimilco and make a trip with the so-called trajineras. These are boats, decorated with flowers.
You will see also trajineras with Mariachis you can hire to play some music. You'll find floating eating-houses, and you can also buy some souvenirs.