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.
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!
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 (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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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