The Best Holiday Guide to Mexico City

Xochimilco Canals, Mexico City

The canals of Xochimilco are a breath of fresh air amidst the pollution of Mexico City and the gondolas add a dash of colour to the greys of the inner city. The canals are the last reminder of the rivers that once crossed the valley floor of Mexico City and today small flower and plant nurseries line the banks of the canals as once great farms did.

The colourful gondola boats

The colourful gondola boats

Floating down the Xochimilco canals can be a relaxing and enjoyable excursion or, as the Mexicans do, a time to drink and party. On the boats, young Mexicans try out drinks or sing to each other, while floating bands and stalls ply for trade. The canals of Xochimilco are a chaotic mixture of noise, sights and smells and it’s a great place to experience while in Mexico City.

Xochimilco’s Canals Tourist Information And Prices

The colourful gondolas that float along the canals of Xochimilco are hired by the hour and most people spend between 1:30-2 hours on the water. The hire cost greatly depends on how busy the waterways are, of your level of haggling and fluency in Spanish. Typically an hour’s hire is $16.00 ($200.00 pesos) per person, but larger groups should be able to haggle down the price.

Mexico City To Xochimilco’s Canals

The Xochimilco canals are on the southern edge of Mexico City, 23 km from the city centre and getting there does involve a long journey. By public transport, the entire journey takes an hour and a half (including the walk from the station).

Gondolas Xochimilco Canals

Gondolas for hire at Xochimilco’s Canals

The journey involves catching the number 2 metro line (blue) to the final station of Tasqueña then catching the metro (Tren Ligero) again to the final station of Xochimilco. There is a 15-minute walk to the moorings of the canal boats. An easier method is to catch a taxi, but then you’re at the mercy of Mexico City’s traffic. At its best, the journey will take 30-minute, but at its worst more than an hour.

Further Information About The Xochimilco’s Canals

The canals of Xochimilco are all that remain of the extensive canal network that once connected the lakes of the extinct volcanic valley of Mexico City. These indirectly man-made canals were once the main transport method used by the Aztecs and today it provides a source of fun and enjoyment for the residents of the traffic filled Mexico City.

Young Mexicans hire the colourful Aztec motif designed gondolas and transform the calm, floating along the canals into a party and celebration, which commonly involves other gondolas. Sunday is the best day to partake in this festival atmosphere experience.

Xochimilco Canals Mexico City

A fleet of other small canoes and gondolas adds to the vibrant atmosphere with hawkers selling gifts, floating tortería restaurants preparing food and Mexican musicians singing their hearts out. The small flower beds (Chinampas) that float on the canals are truly unexpected in sprawling Mexico City. Each plot of land commercially grows flowers or plants to be sold in the city’s markets and the greenery adds to the unique experience that is the canals of Xochimilco.

The gondolas are called trajineras and have their origins in pre-Hispanic boats used by the Aztecs. This connection with the Aztecs continues, true to the colour schemes and bright patterns that adorn the sides of the gondolas. Today there are over 200 trajineras, which are within the 114 miles of canals and over three quarters of these are specifically designed for tourists and visitors, with the remainder carrying goods or providing services to tourists.

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The best guide to Mexico City