Xochimilco, Mexico City: a Mexican twist on Venice!
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This article was featured as Wanderlust Travel Magazine’s Blog of the week!
The sun was shining as we set of to the Floating Gardens of Xochimilco, which translates as ‘where the flowers grow’. The Floating Gardens are a maze of canals and islands built by the Aztecs and it is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. I was incredibly excited for the open air gondolas, mariachi bands, colourful flowers and delicious Mexican food that make up the canals of Xochimilco, a little taste of Venice in Mexico!
The floating picnic party was in full swing when we arrived at around midday. I was blown away by the hundreds of brightly coloured trajineras (the gondola boats) packed with locals and tourists hanging out on the canals.
Our driver (so worth it for whizzing around Mexico City!) sorted out our transport on the river and introduced us to our boatman for the trip. For US $25 he would lead us through the maze of canals of Xochimilco for 3 hours in our own private trajinera. With the deal done we were ready to hit the water!
Floating through Xochimilco
Getting on and off the boats is an adventure in itself and involves hopping over all the parked boats like they’re stepping stones, ably assisted by the boatmen! The boats are traditionally named after female relatives and there are lots of Patricias, Angelitas, and Terisitas, although strangely we spied one called the Titantic! We boarded our own lady for the day, the ‘Angelita’ and settled down at our yellow picnic table to enjoy the ride.
Our boatman steered us expertly through the heaving river with a long wooden pole as we meandered away from the embarcadero where we boarded.
Tortillas, Beer and Sombreros!
Then the fun really began! As we sailed along vendors in other boats passed by offering food, drinks, jewellery, flowers, blankets and even a song! A boat, food and drinks, shopping… I was delirious with the excitement of all my favourite things at once!
Of course we had to indulge in a little retail therapy on the river and we purchased some snacks, drinks, a tune from a mariachi band in full costume and a very cheesy photo of us posing in sombreros. We had to laugh that the vendors had portable printers in the middle of the Floating Gardens!
The musical boats:
On the banks of the river
The banks of the river are filled with flowers, trees and orchards and sometimes its possible to catch a quick glimpse of Mexican family life.
One of the most intriguing places we passed was the Island of the Dolls which is a collection of old broken dolls discarded in the the canals and hung from the branches and tree trunks by a local resident to appease the spirit of a girl accidentally drowned in the canal and who he had found. It’s such an eerie place in the middle of all the fun and joviality of the Floating Gardens.
Island of the Dolls:
Lots of religious statues along the way:
Time to disembark!
After a lovely few hours on meandering through the Floating Gardens it was time to disembark. Our lovely driver spoiled me with a beautiful bunch of flowers as we were returning to the dock!
Back on dry land we had a wander through the little market stalls lining the embarcadero with souvenirs, trinkets and food for sale.
And with that we hopped in our waiting car and made our way back to the metropolis of Mexico City. Accompanied by amazing memories of our crayola coloured day and one extremely cheesy souvenir to take home…!
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Prices: Fixed prices are posted for cruises, food, drinks and music but some negotiation may be necessary for the boat ride.
Opening hours: The Floating Gardens are open throughout the week. Weekdays are usually quiet and Sunday is the liveliest day when a fun and festival atmosphere takes over.
Getting there: Xochimilico is one hour southeast of Mexico City and is accessible by Metro. Take line two to the last stop, Tasqueña, and switch to the light rail for the rest of the journey to Xochimilco.
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