The colourful canals of Xochimilco

So last week I finally got to visit Xochimilco – an area of Mexico City containing a canal system which dates back to pre-Hispanic times. The canals are marked as a UNESCO world heritage site and after writing 2 reports on water access in this area, the geography nerd in me was dying to see it in person. We arrived to the canals about lunchtime, there are many entrance points but we opted for a slightly quieter and less touristy one. With picnic goods in tow we were ready to go and hired a boat for 4 hours.

Picnic on board!

The boats are these incredibly colourful, long type boats (called trajineras), and you pay for someone to punt you around. The starting point is pretty hectic, as loads of boats are trying to operate in a very small area, but this was all very fun and all very Mexican, I think I actually enjoyed the chaos of starting and finishing the most!


The chaos

We quickly went out into a wider and quieter area, where not only were the tourist boats punting along, but also were boats full of sellers and mariachi bands, where you could buy beer, crisps with salsa valentina or pay for a band to come and perform on your boat, it was brilliant!


A mariachi band boarding

I also learnt a lot about the area and just how ingenious the whole water management system was. The surrounding areas of land are actually floating islands, with posts to stop them from moving and providing perfect land for agriculture. Again the geography nerd came out and I was in awe of this Aztec engineering feat!


The floating islands held by posts and perfect of agriculture

The one con of the afternoon was one of our stop offs, showing reptiles and amphibians found in this area (including a rare salamander that only exists in Xochimilco). It was great to see that this was used for education purposes but I’m just really not a fan of animals of any sorts in cages, so instead busied myself trying and failing to take photos of the mass amount of butterflies flying around.

The photo is very much lacking butterflies but still a very pretty stop!

All in all, it was a great day out and I’d definitely recommend anyone visiting Mexico City to come to the canals of Xochimilco for an afternoon, just bring some food and drink and enjoy floating around. I personally found 4 hours a bit long, but that’s just because of my incapability to sit still and you hire the boats by the hour so can go for as short or long a time you want!

Has anyone else visited this area? What about tips for other must-see places in Mexico City? Let me know!



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