Xochimilco (Mexico City): Everything You Need to Know Before You Go
Mexico may evoke images of bright colors, mariachis and cacti in your mind.
Is that a stereotype? Not exactly!
These are all elements of the Mexican culture that you can find in Xochimilco, a must-see destination in Mexico City!
In this post, I will share with you My Complete Guide to Visiting Xochimilco with everything you need to know to plan your trajinera ride along the canals, choosing the best dock depending on the experience you want, whether it’s partying with the mariachis or exploring nature.
I will also give you my tips and practical information to discover the other attractions of Xochimilco, which are much less crowded.
So, are you ready to see what Xochimilco has to offer?
- Xochimilco (Mexico City): Everything You Need to Know Before You Go
- 1. Take a trajinera ride
- 2. Discovering the heart of Xochimilco
- 3. Eating at the Xochimilco Market
- 4. Drinking a good pulque
- 5. Visit the flower market
- 6. Horseback riding
- How far is Xochimilco from Mexico City
- How to get to Xochimilco?
- When to go to Xochimilco?
- How much time is necessary to visit Xochimilco?
- Where to stay in Mexico City
- Want to rent a car in Mexico?
- Book your plane ticket at the best price
- Tourist map of Xochimilco
- Xochimilco from the sky
- You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!
1. Take a trajinera ride
A trajinera ride in Xochimilco is a must-do activity in Mexico City.
Xochimilco is famous for its chinampas, a large network of islands and canals that were built in pre-Hispanic times, and are recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Back then, the valley of Mexico was filled with five big lakes and this clever system allowed them to grow corn and other crops. They developed a sustainable farming method that still produces five harvests a year!
Over the centuries, the lake of Xochimilco shrank to a few canals and today you can explore the floating gardens of Xochimilco by trajinera, a colorful wooden boat. That’s why it’s called the Venice of Mexico.
During the ride, you will encounter other boats that will offer you a variety of food, drinks, crafts, flowers and traditional Mexican music.
The mariachis from Xochimilco are the most famous, but you can also listen to norteño and marimba groups.
Book your boat ride in Xochimilco
|Ticket||Description||Price (may vary)|
|Boat Tour in Xochimilco||Boat ride on the canals, illimited alcohol, mariachi music, lunch on a floatting island||50$ usd|
|Xochimilco + Frida Kahlo Museum||Hotel pick-up, boat ride in Xochimilco, Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan||94$ usd|
|Xochimilco + Frida Kahlo Museum (private)||Hotel pick-up, boat ride in Xochimilco, Frida Kahlo Museum in Coyoacan (Private Tour)||412$ usd (up to 3 people)|
What to see in the canals?
The main thing to do in Xochimilco is to cruise through the canals in a trajinera, but there are also other places and activities to explore.
Actually, there are two different areas: the tourist canals and the natural reserve.
So what you will see will depend on the tour you choose, and also on the time and budget you have:
- The agricultural greenhouses
- Lake Xochimilco or lakes Xaltocán, Caltongo, del Toro.
- The Island of the Dolls: this is one of Xochimilco’s most popular and mysterious attractions, located in the Teshuilo Lagoon. The island is filled with dolls that were collected and hung by its former owner, Julian Santana Barrera. It is a place unlike any other, and some might find it creepy.
- Ajolotario: it is a conservation area for the axolotl, a salamander species that is endemic to Xochimilco, that has the amazing ability to regenerate its injured limbs. It is endangered and has become an symbol of Mexico (you can even see it on 50 peso bills).
- The interactive Chinampa: this is an island in the Xochiquetzalli community, where you can learn about the traditional planting and farming methods of the locals
- The National Museum of Axolotl: it is a museum located in a chinampa where a biologist explains the importance of the axolotl, and there are also snakes, tarantulas, frogs, etc.
- Bird watching: the protected area of Xochimilco is home to many endemic and migratory species from Canada and the United States. There are specialized tours that leave early in the morning because it is the best time to see them.
Which dock to choose?
Xochimilco has ten different docks to choose from, depending on what kind of experience you are looking for. You can either explore the tourist canals or the natural reserve.
1-The tourist canals
This is where you can enjoy a classic Xochimilco tour with mariachis and other musical groups, and join the festive atmosphere.
The tourist docks are: Nuevo Nativitas, Las Flores, Zacapa, Caltongo, Salitre, San Cristobal, Belem, and Belem de las Flores.
- Nuevo Nativitas is the largest dock, with a craft market, a big parking lot, and several restaurants nearby.
- Salitre, San Cristobal, Belem and Belem de las Flores are close to downtown Xochimilco and easy to access.
- If you are into architecture, you can visit Los Manantiales restaurant on the Zacapa dock. It is a building shaped like a lotus flower, designed in 1957 by the famous architect Felix Candela
2-The natural reserve
This is where you can discover the Xochimilco ecological park, a 200-hectare reserve, where you can see different kinds of birds. You can also learn about the traditional farming methods that are still practiced in the chinampas.
These tours are much quieter and less crowded, and they are ideal for ecotourism in Xochimilco.
The docks are: Cuemanco, Fernando Celada and Puente de Urrutia.
Cuemanco is the main dock to access the Xochimilco reserve, but it is very calm because there are not many boats. There is no music or food here, to preserve the environment.
Cuemanco is also famous for its flower, cactus and succulent market, one of the biggest plant markets in Mexico City.
So, what is the best dock in Xochimilco?
It depends on what kind of tour you prefer.
If you want to experience the classic Xochimilco ride with music and party, you can go to Nativitas or Las Flores. If you want a more peaceful and natural ride, you can choose Cuemanco.
How much do tours in Xochimilco cost?
It is very important to understand that the price varies a lot depending on the tour you choose.
These are the prices for Xochimilco (keep in mind that they are approximate and may change):
Shared Trajinera (1h) – the cheapest option
There are shared boats (trajinera colectiva) that go back and forth between the Nativitas and Salitre docks.
The price of the shared trajinera is then 45 pesos (30min one way) or 90 pesos per person (1h round trip). If you are 2 or 3 people, this can be a good option to visit Xochimilco on a budget.
The traditional tour (1h, 2h, 3h)
This is the classic boat tour (with room for 18 people) through the canals of Xochimilco.
You can find boats that offer food and music, but you can also bring your own snacks and drinks (and save some money 🙃).
The 1 hour tour is round trip along the same route, so you don’t get to see much in 30 minutes. That’s why I suggest you take a 2 or 3 hour tour, which lets you explore the canals better, and have a great time with your family or friends!
Ecological route (4 to 5h30 hours)
The tour goes through the ecological zone of Xochimilco, which is much more serene. You can observe the many birds, visit the greenhouses, lakes (depending on where you start) and see some attractions: Ajolotario, Interactive Chinampa, the Axolotl Museum or the Island of the Dolls.
You have to pay approximately 1800 pesos per boat for 4h30, or 2000 pesos for 5h, 2200 pesos for 5h30.
Other prices to keep in mind
Although these stops are included in your tour, the entrance fee must be paid separately:
- Ajolotario (adults 100 pesos, minors 50 pesos)
- Interactive Chinampa (50 pesos per person)
- Island of the Dolls (50 pesos per person)
- Axolotl Museum (50 pesos per person)
You can also customize your trajinera by requesting it in advance: 500 pesos for the name painted on the front or 2000 pesos with flowers.
Frequently Asked Questions about Trajineras
Can I bring my own food?
Yes, you can bring any food you want. You can also buy it at the dock, or from one of the many vendors who come with their boats. Some packages include food as well.
Can I bring my own drinks?
Yes, you can bring any drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) without any extra cost. You can also buy beers, michelada, pulque, etc. at the dock or during the tour.
Are there restrooms?
Yes, there are some at the docks for about 5 pesos, and also on the tour (ask the guy who drives the trajinera, he knows 😉)
How much do mariachis cost in Xochimilco?
A mariachi song costs 150 pesos, but they often offer packages like 4 songs for 520 pesos. Marimba is cheaper, usually 70 pesos per song or 4 songs for 200 pesos.
What is the schedule in Xochimilco?
The trajineras are usually available from 7 am to 7 pm. You can also take a night tour between 7 pm and midnight, but you need to book it ahead of time.
2. Discovering the heart of Xochimilco
Xochimilco is more than just the canals, though. It also has a charming local life that you shouldn’t miss.
In the main square of Xochimilco, you can see the Cathedral and Ex-Convent of San Bernardino de Siena (16th century). It is a stunning building and I have heard that its altarpiece is amazing but… it was closed when I visited because of the damage from the 2017 earthquake.
By the way, if you also like churches (for their architecture), there are several beautiful ones, tucked away in the streets of Xochimilco.
For example, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary (18th century) which I find interesting with its tiles. It is right across from the Xochimilco market.
3. Eating at the Xochimilco Market
The best way to experience local life in Mexico is to visit the market. It is a colorful and lively place filled with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, meat, herbs and piñatas.
It is the perfect place to discover the variety of local products, and also to enjoy delicious and affordable food in Xochimilco.
I had a tlacoyo, a typical Mexican dish. It is a thick corn tortilla, stuffed with beans and topped with nopales, cheese, onion and spicy sauce – a very satisfying snack for only 20 pesos!
4. Drinking a good pulque
A pulqueria is the place where they sell pulque, a fermented Mexican drink (with about 6 to 8 % alcohol).
I love the pulquerias in Mexico City for their unique atmosphere, where you can meet all kinds of people, from colleagues to families to friends.
For me, there is no better place to discover the soul of a neighborhood and yet, tourists rarely visit pulquerias (except maybe in Roma Norte) What a shame!
So of course, I had to go to the Pulqueria el Templo de Diana which is the most famous in Xochimilco. It is a true institution that has been around for 4 generations.
Personally I don’t like the natural pulque, as it is a bit sour and thick, but luckily the Templo de Diana has an amazing list of cured pulques with different flavors.
By the way, I have never seen a pulqueria with so many flavors of cured pulque: chocolate, lemon cake, grape, beet, cherry, pistachio, almond, walnut, guava, apple, chia, mango, coconut, oreo, you name it.
A small glass costs between 50-70 pesos and a large one 60-90 pesos, depending on the flavor. I suggest starting with the small glass as it is quite big.
We ordered two small glasses, one of marzipan and another one of peanut.
- Templo de Diana: Av 5 de Mayo 65, Santa Crucita, Xochimilco (1 block from the plaza and market)
5. Visit the flower market
Xochimilco is famous for its flowers and plants.
There are four markets in Xochimilco: Madre Selva, Mercado Acuexcomatl, Palacio de la Flor and Cuemanco.
They say the most interesting ones are Cuemanco and Madre Selva. I chose the latter, located at the entrance of the Bosque de Nativitas, because Xochimilco is very big and I wanted to make sure I could walk back to the center.
Here you can find all kinds of flowers, plants, succulents and cacti in amazing shapes that I had never seen before. Mexico is truly the land of cacti!
6. Horseback riding
The Madre Selva Market is at the entrance of the Bosque Nativitas, a park of more than 17 hectares that attracts families on weekends.
Here you can enjoy horseback riding, or ponies for the little ones.
- The official rate is 80 pesos for 30 minutes or 160 pesos for 1 hour.
How far is Xochimilco from Mexico City
Xochimilco is located in the south of Mexico City, about 12 miles (20 km) away from downtown and other tourist areas.
The travel time to get there can vary a lot depending on your mode of transportation and the traffic conditions.
You can choose to go by car or public transportation, but be prepared for some delays in the busy capital!
How to get to Xochimilco?
Here I explain how to get to Xochimilco on your own or with a tour:
Take a tour to Xochimilco
Avoid traffic and hassle by booking a tour that picks you up from your hotel, takes you to the boat ride in Xochimilco, and visits the Frida Kahlo museum.
Go to Xochimilco on your own
By public transport – the cheapest way to get there
- Take the metro to Tasqueña, the last station of the blue line 2 (1h30 from downtown, ticket 5 pesos).
- Then take the light train to Xochimilco station (40 min, ticket 3 pesos but you need to have the 20 pesos electronic card which includes 1 ticket)
- It is about 25 min walk to the Nativitas pier or 1 hour to Cuemanco.
You can book this boat ride that includes illimited alcohol, mariachi music and lunch on a floatting island!
Taking an Uber – faster and more comfortable
These are estimated fares (one way), as they depend on the traffic: from Colonia Roma or Condesa 180-230 pesos, from Coyoacán 120-150 pesos, from downtown 420-450 pesos.
When to go to Xochimilco?
It depends on what kind of atmosphere you prefer: if you want a peaceful and relaxing ride, go during the week, from Monday to Thursday.
If you want to party in Xochimilco, with all the music and fun, you have to go on the weekend.
You can visit Xochimilco any time of the year, but keep in mind that during the rainy season in Mexico City, it usually rains in the afternoon (but rarely before 3 pm).
So if you go between June and September (July and August are the wettest months), I suggest going for a ride in the morning or early afternoon.
In any case, it is always better to go in the morning to avoid traffic in the canals when there are too many trajineras.
There are also several festivals in Xochimilco:
- Candlemas Day (February 2): This is the most important religious holiday in Xochimilco. Here they worship the “Niñopa”, a sculpture of the baby Jesus that dates back to the 16th century and has about 5,000 outfits. On February 2, a big celebration is held in his honor with music, fireworks, dances and food.
- Friday of Sorrows: From 9 am in Nativitas there is a big parade of trajineras, a very colorful spectacle! When they announce the winning boat -the most beautiful and flowery- the participants of the contest La Flor Más Bella (The Most Beautiful Flower) show up in their traditional costumes.
- Festival Viva Mexico in Xochimilco (September 6th-8th): from 12 pm to 8 pm, it is a great craft and food fair.
- La Llorona (early October to late November): this is a nightly play based on the legend of “La Llorona” that is performed on the island of Laguna Tilac. It combines modern and pre-Hispanic instruments, Nahuatl songs and theater. You can take a trajinera from the Cuemanco dock to get there. The show starts at 8 pm, but you should get there an hour earlier. Get your tickets here
How much time is necessary to visit Xochimilco?
It depends on what you book. The trajinera ride can take half a day (2h, 3h, 4h) or more if you take the ecotourism tour (5 hours).
I recommend that you visit Coyoacán in the afternoon.
If you want to eat something simple and cheap, eat in Xochimilco, otherwise go to Coyoacan where you can find several nice restaurants. They are two very different neighborhoods.
One of the most typical dishes in Xochimilco is tlapique. It is a mixture of fish, tomato, onion, nopal and epazote (a Mexican aromatic herb), which is slowly cooked in a corn husk. I found it at the Belen dock, but it is everywhere.
Where to stay in Mexico City
- Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral (historic center): one of the best hostels in Mexico City. Clean dorms and rooms, amazing rooftop terrace with bar, great atmosphere and an exceptional view over the cathedral and the Zocalo, starting at 15$usd for a dorm and 32 $usd for a private room!
- Hotel Villa Condesa (Condesa): if you are looking for a romantic hotel in Mexico City, this is a little oasis in the heart of La Condesa. It is an elegant house with small green terraces and tastefully decorated rooms. Rooms are spacious, breakfast is very good and the service is particularly attentive. Around 160$usd per night!
- Casa Goliana (Roma Norte): high-end hotel with the best value for money in its category, located in an early 20th century house, typical of the Roma area. Rooftop terrace, comfortable rooms, very attentive staff, and good breakfasts. Around 190$usd per night
- Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City (Juarez): this 5 star hotel is one of the best hotels in Mexico City, ideal for a business trip or a romantic stay. Located on Paseo de la Reforma between Colonia Juarez and Roma Norte. A large indoor garden, gym, swimming pool, spa, restaurant, and bar, Around 640$usd per night!
Want to rent a car in Mexico?
Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Mexico City and make the most of your stay!
To rent a car, personally, I always use Rentalcars.com, for a few reasons:
- You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
- Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
- Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort
Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:
Book your plane ticket at the best price
do you want to go to Mexico? To get the best rate for your airline tickets, you can use our comparator, in collaboration with Skyscanner: It is the guarantee to get the best price for your international flight and flights within Mexico.
Tourist map of Xochimilco
Here is the map with all the best attractions of Xochimilco that I mentioned in my guide:
Xochimilco from the sky
And for you to see the extent of Xochimilco’s canals, here is a video taken with a drone!
🚗 Rent a car
🗽 Book entrance tickets and guided visits
🏄 Book your sports activities
🌍 Take a travel insurance
🙎 Book a tour
✈️ Book your flight
You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!
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