Follow my tips for off the beaten track options, and to stay safe, and save time and money at UNESCO World Heritage site Xochimilco.
Tenochtitlán and the ancient canal system
- If you are interested in learning more about the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlán and what it would have looked like, make sure to visit the Templo Mayor museum in the Zocalo, the city’s main square. I also found this paper to be really insightful.
Getting to Xochimilco
- Although Xochimilco is some distance from the centre, it is easily accessed by public transport.
- First, take Metro Line 2 (the blue line) to Tasqueña (in a few stations on the way, you may see it spelled Taxqueña).
- As you exit the train platform through the turnstiles at Tasqueña, head through the doors straight ahead of you to get to the Tren Ligero (light rail). The light rail does not accept Metro tickets. You need to use a rechargeable card (initial cost: 10 pesos). You can buy and recharge the card at any metro station, and the fare is automatically deducted when you swipe your card at the turnstiles.
- Xochimilco is the last station on the light rail line.
- Trajineras (gondolas) are hired at the embarcaderos just a short walk away. You can follow the small blue signs on the street with arrows to get to the embarcadero or take a bus or taxi. See here for more detailed information.
- The traditional tianguis market stalls are buzzing on Saturdays. Sundays draw the most crowed and the atmosphere is at its liveliest.
Hiring your trajinera
- Prices for the trajineras are fixed and at the time of writing were priced at $350 MXN per hour. For a more detailed guide to official rates for hire, food, serenading mariachis etc., see the government webpage.
- Purchase your trip from an official vendor at the embarcaderos (boarding platforms). You will likely be approached by various people peddling lower fares but it’s better to be cautious and avoid taking risks.
- I haven’t used this company but they offer off-the-beaten-track options on their routes, including Doll Island and the Axolotl Museum. The prices are pretty easy to understand even though their website is in Spanish.
Food and Entertainment
- You can buy food, drink and crafts from various vendors selling their wares from their boats.
- When buying drinks, there’s no need to bulk buy. You can just call the vendors over each time and that way, your drinks are always cold ☺
- Travellers on a tight budget will be pleased to know that you are free to bring your own food and drink, including alcoholic drinks as well as cooler boxes.
- Call or whistle to the passing mariachi boats and they will hook on to your boat for as long as you can afford. Their prices are displayed on their boats and they are usually opening to bargaining.
- Dancing is most definitely permitted on deck.
- You will see that there is traditional mole on offer and although it is delicious, it is sometimes watered down. No need to skip it entirely, just don’t let this be the only place you try mole during your stay in Mexico City!
- I recommend you leave the mole for another time and hail a corn vendor for some corn on the cob that has been roasted over a small fire on board before being rubbed with optional chilli powder and lime. For something really traditional, the same corn vendor will also sell esquites. I love them extra spicy with lime and mayonnaise!
Off the beaten track options
- If you are interested in a more ecologically-focused tour that offers an insight into the use of the chinampas in food production, check out this article. I haven’t taken this tour myself but I am a big fan of Lesley’s blog and trust her opinion ☺
- Ever heard of the Anabelle doll? I dare you to watch that film then ask your gondolier to take you to the needlessly creepy “Doll Island” (Isla de las Muñecas). Picture (dead?) dolls and teddy bears hanging from creaking trees, their remaining eyes watching your every step, reminding you that you are on THEIR territory. Read the whole gruesome story here and find useful tips on how to get there here. Be warned, it is the stuff of nightmares!
- Less frightening and more adorable in my opinion is a trip to the axolotl breeding centre. Dubbed the “water monster” by the Aztecs, the axolotl is one of my favourite creatures in the whole world, and it is battling extinction in its native Xochimilco. If you are taking a boat trip from the Navitas or Catalongo landings, ask your boatman to take you to the Museo de Ajolote along the Apatlaco Canal, where one family has set up a breeding area. Although viewing the animal is free, contributions to support this work are encouraged.
- Make sure to stop off and hug the enormous Cuauhtémoc Ahuehuete Tree before you leave Xochimilco. You’ll find it tucked away in Calle Sabino.
Museo Dolores Olmedo
If you have made it all the way to Xochimilco, don’t leave without visiting the Dolores Olmedo Museum!
- You can easily fit a visit to the museum into a day in Xochimilco.
- As part of its 20th anniversary celebrations, the museum is allowing photographs during 2014.
- Audioguides are available in both English and Spanish.
- Check out the museum’s English language website for opening hours, prices etc.
Don’t forget to check out my blog post and video on my day in Xochimilco.