What You Should Know About Xochimilco (Mexico City) Before Visiting

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Set amongst a colossal city is a series of ancient canals known as Xochimilco. It is here where you'll get to witness a World Heritage Site. From the minute you arrive at Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas (one of the many piers), your senses are immediately bombarded. Xochimilco is one of 16 boroughs located within Mexico City. It's an area that has traditionally held a separate identity than that of the historic center of Mexico City.

Since first being inhabited (around 900 CD), Xochimilco has played an integral role in the cities agriculture. However, after the Spanish conquest and the Great Flood of 1609; Xochimilco and its surrounding lakes have suffered one of the most radical transformations in the history of urbanization.

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GETTING THERE

Although Xochimilco is located in Mexico City, it's a bit of a drive from the city center. Getting here involves a relatively safe and easy 90-minute trip using public transportation. First, take Metro Line 2 (the blue line) to the end — station Tasqueña. As you exit the train platform through the turnstiles at Tasqueña, head through the doors straight ahead of you to get to the Tren Ligero (light rail).

You'll then take the light rail to station Xochimilco, it's the last station on the light rail line. From here we recommend taking a taxi ride (or Uber) to Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas. It's where the main parking lot and boat launch is located. It's where you'll also find tons of public food stalls and where all the locals head, so it’s definitely one big party.

INSIDER'S TIP

We suggest taking an Uber to Embarcadero Nuevo Nativitas from the city center. It's a little pricier than taking public transportation, but still relatively inexpensive considering the distance.

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WHAT TO DO IN XOCHIMILCO

One of the best things to do in Xochimilco is to enjoy the warm and colorful people while strolling through town. It's filled with beautiful buildings and flower gardens.

If you’re looking to grab some souvenirs, visit the two main markets. One is known for its variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as some handmade goods. In the food market, make sure to stop by the stalls that cook local delicacies and try a wide variety of tamales, traditional champurrado and quesadillas.

Once you've had the chance to explore around town, get ready to enjoy a relaxing sail on the ancient canals. The canals are filled with colorful boats known as "trajineras." As you sail, you'll have the opportunity enjoy traditional Mexican food and local music.

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THINGS TO KNOW

Present day Xochimilco is a far cry from its past. Since being declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 (in an effort to save this area), Xochimilco and its canals have been devastated by pollutants and heavy metals. The biggest threat to the canals and their ecosystem is illegal land settlements. These settlements are polluting canals with untreated garbage and waste, and filling in canals to make “new land.”

What was once referred to as the "Venice of Mexico," is now a dilapidated version of its former self. We are not suggesting that you don't visit, we are just being honest with what you'll witness. It's no longer the lake where you'll want to run your fingers through, as Frida Kahlo once did.

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Instead, it's become a place where you'll have a few beers as you float down a canal to sounds of mariachi playing. It's definitely a festive environment, one that provides an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. We recommend taking drinks and food beforehand, because of a rumor told to us by a local of how the canal water can sometimes find its way into the food.

Once you've made your way to the pier and ready to take a boat ride, you'll have two options. You can either take a taxi or charter your own boat. The taxi cost 20 pesos per person (one-way) and it drops you off at a different location. If you really want to experience the canals, skip this option.

We recommend charting your own boat. These boats have tables and chairs, allowing you a bit more space to stretch or party with your pals. This option cost 350 pesos (about $18) for the entire boat, regardless of how many people are on it. So the more people you bring, the cheaper it becomes. This is definitely an experience you will not forget.