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Discover the Magic of Xochimilco: Mexico City’s Vibrant Canals and Gardens

Blog Mexico City
xochimilco boats

Fancy immersing yourself in traditional Mexican culture and having a great time whilst doing so? Then climb aboard a trajinera, a traditional flat-bottomed gondola-style boat, in the borough of Xochimilco in Mexico City.

Experience a boat party on a traditional Mexican trajinera, a party like no other. Enjoy this floating fiesta on one of Mexico City’s last remaining Aztec canals, an unmissable experience. The tradition of the trajinera dates back to the 1910s, and the canals have served as a transportation method since the pre-Hispanic era. Furthermore, Xochimilco, known as the “Venice of Mexico,” is an ancient network of canals and islands. Moreover, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the south of Mexico City.

What is a trajinera?

Xochimilco’s lifeblood flows through its canals, lined with festive and colorful trajineras. Trajineras are brightly painted wooden boats. These gondola-style boats are each named affectionately after Mexican women, locations, or sayings. Imagine boarding “La Guadalupe” or “Cielito Lindo,” and instantly becoming part of a floating caravan that celebrates life with music, marimbas, and mariachis playing live on neighboring boats. It’s a communal celebration where every boat becomes a floating stage and every row a dance floor. “Trajinar” in Spanish means “to carry goods from one side to another”. This is what these boats were originally designed to do, although now they have been repurposed for tourism and partying.

Xochimilco Boat Tour: A Culinary Voyage

mexico city xochimilco
Elote vendor at Xochimilco

No party in Mexico is complete without food and drink (more specifically – tacos and tequila!). Every weekend, the canals are alive with boats, music, food and drink sellers, and flowers.  It’s a fantastic amount of fun and an entertaining way to spend an afternoon with friends. Picture this: boats laden with elotes, quesadillas, and the irresistible aroma of freshly made tacos navigating between the trajineras. Join us for a spicy michelada as we sail down the canals. ¡Salud! These culinary delights mirror the city’s street food culture, just on water—vibrant, vivid, and utterly delicious.

¡Ay ay ay! Soak up some Mexican Culture!

Be prepared for Mariachi bands to hop on your trajinera and play songs for you! You can request popular Mexican songs (alongside Happy Birthday) in exchange for cash. The more you pay, the more animated your Mariachi band will be! You can always try brushing up on your Spanish and haggling with the locals, but remember to always respect their art. The music truly enhances this once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience and is sure to animate you and your group. Music + booze + boats = a recipe for undeniable fun.

Chinampas: Floating Gardens Steeped with Tradition

mexico city xochimilco
Floating gardens. Xochimilco, Mexico City

As you float down these historic waters, every corner offers a snapshot of local life and customs. From the chinampas (floating gardens) showcasing sustainable ancient farming methods to spontaneous performances by folk dancers, every moment is a living postcard of Mexican heritage. The chinampas are man-made gardens full of vegetables, fruit, and flowers. Many of Mexico City’s finest restaurants rely on the chinampas for fresh and locally-grown produce. In fact, local fine dining restaurant, Pujol, which was recently awarded two Michelin stars, sources many of its ingredients from this area. Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Mexico City – a must-see for those visiting the city. The ancient gardens are now vital for urban sustainability and are protected by the UNESCO. Consequently, your visit also contributes to the preservation of these traditions. 

Want to visit Pujol, or the other best restaurants in Mexico City? Let us plan your trip so you don’t miss out on any of the best things to see in Mexico City

A Water Tour of Mexico City in Xochimilco

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xochimilco mexico city

You can get to see a surprising amount of Mexico City through the 114 miles of winding chinampas-filled channels. Learn about the fascinating and bone-chilling story of La Isla de las Muñecas, or The Island of Dolls. Legend has it that the thousands of dolls hung on the trees on this island are to protect it from evil spirits. This was after a girl drowned in the waters nearby. You can visit it and walk around the island if you dare! Furthermore, there are plenty of other stops you can make in your trajinera; visiting local markets and restaurants along the way.

Planning Your Trip to Xochimilco in Mexico City

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As part of this tour, we not only organize your boat but also provide a cooler of drinks, plenty of snacks, and some music to dance the afternoon away. This is a great option for groups on vacation. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, just let us know so we can plan all the bells and whistles to make this an unforgettable afternoon on the water. Each boat fits up to 20 people, making them perfect for large gatherings.

When is the best time to visit Xochimilco?

xochimilco trajineras

Correctly timing your visit will undoubtedly improve your experience. If you are looking to party, meet other groups, and share tequila shots with strangers, weekends are definitely for you. Peak seasons such as Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos are bustling with activity, music, and people. However, if you want a more chilled experience, consider a weekday visit. Early mornings are magical too, with the mist rising over the calm waters. You can also take a “sunset tour” in the late afternoon, and watch the sunset over the city and reflect in canals.

Start planning your Mexico City Xochimilco tour today!

Mexicans love any excuse for a party, and so do we at Two Travel too! Grab a group of your best buddies, climb aboard a trajinera, and get ready to make some memories.

Sounds like something you and your group would love? Get in touch today to get more information and start exploring the other options that Mexico City has for you!

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