How to spend 5 days in Mexico City

Xochimilco Mexico City: How to get there and take a boat tour [2023]

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Famous for colorful, flower-decked boats 🚣🏻‍♀️ floating down the narrow waterways, Xochimilco Mexico City has become one of the most popular places to visit in the country’s capital with many tourists making a stop here. 

While Xochimilco’s Trajineras (the name of the colorful boats) grace many tourist guides and booklets, not many tourists know that Xochimilco is also the name of the surrounding area. In this article, I’m going to tell you all the reasons why you should visit this place.

👉Spending a few days in Mexico City? Read my complete guide to best hotels in Mexico City to help you choose your accommodations 🏠

Is Xochimilco worth visiting?

Xochimilco aka the Venice of Mexico City is one of the best cultural experiences in the country’s capital. Whether you are looking to party or learn more about the history of Mexico City and the role that Xochimilco canals played in the Aztec Empire, this place is a great stop on your Mexico City itinerary 🗺

While Xochimilco is known for its party atmosphere as you can buy food and drinks and even hire a Mariachi band to perform a mini-concert for you, it is also a wonderful cultural experience. Regardless of what you might have heard, Xochimilco Mexico City is not just about partying and drinking

This guide will cover all aspects of visiting Xochimilco, including how to get to Xochimilco from Mexico City, the best Xochimilco tours 🎒and what mistakes to avoid when visiting Xochimilco. 

How much does a trajinera boat cost in Xochimilco?

The hourly cost of a boat ride in Xochimilco is between 350-500 Mexican Pesos 💰 for one hour for the entire boat. This price depends on the time of the year (low season or high season), and the day of the week. Since weekends tend to be busy with many locals coming here, it’s better to visit on a weekday.

👉 Remember that you need to pay in cash!

Xochimilco Mexico City hours

The Xochimilco trajineras run between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ⏰ Most visitors spend about 2-3 hours in Xochimilco touring the canals and stopping at various points of interest. ✔️

Plan 2-4 hours for your trip to Xochimilco Mexico City, plus the time you spend on the commute to get there and back. 

Xochimilco Mexico City is one of the most fun cultural experience for tourists in the country.

A brief history of Xochimilco Mexico City

Xochimilco is a rural area south of Mexico City, that’s a major tourist magnet thanks to the colorful boats, called “Trajineras.” In 1987, Xochimilco became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, because of its cultural contribution to the heritage of Mexico. 

💛 The name Xochimilco means “flower field” in Nahuatl, and refers to the crops and flowers that were grown by the Aztecs here before the colonization. The canals that you see today were used by Aztecs for commercial purposes. The artificial floating gardens “chinampas” rooted to the lake bed provided crops to Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. 

Chinampas are a good example of the Aztec ingenuity, as the produce grown here sustained a big population in the capital. 

👉 Today, you can still find floating gardens “or chinampas,” but they are mostly utilized to grow flowers and fruits. Xochimilco is the last remnant of the vast network of canals and manmade islands in the lake system before the Spanish built the modern Mexico City on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. 

Xochimilco Mexico City is one of the best day trips from the historic center if you don't want to be on the road for a couple of hours.

How far is Xochimilco from Mexico City?

Xochimilco is about 28 kilometers south of Mexico City. Xochimilco is often combined with a stop at Coyoacan, one of the most popular neighborhoods of Mexico City that is home to the famous Museo Frida Kahlo (Casa Azul), colorful markets, and a wonderful food scene.

When is the best time to go to Xochimilco?

The best time visit Xochimilco Mexico is depends on what type of experience you are looking for. If you want to enjoy the quiet canals, arrive by the opening time. This way, you can experience the Xochimilco canals before they get busy. If you want a more lively atmosphere, arrive any time after 12 p.m. when Xochimilco canals are busy with colorful trainers zipping around and you can enjoy drinks and the Mariachi music.

How to get to Xochimilco from Mexico City 

You can get to Xochimilco from Mexico City by metro, Uber, or car rental. You can also book one of guided tours of Xochimilco if you don’t want to deal with the logistics of planning your trip.

Taking Metro to Xochimilco from Mexico City

Taking metro to Xochimilco from Mexico City is the most economical option. Go to the nearest Metro station and figure out how to get to Xochimilco. A one-way Metro ticket costs only 5 pesos, which is great if you are traveling on a budget 💸

Learn how to take Uber from Mexico City to Teotihuacan, one of the most popular day trips!

PRO TIP: Avoid pica hora (or rush hour) early morning on weekdays when everybody goes to work and from 4 p.m. until about 6 p.m. when everybody goes back home. This is the busiest time and it’s common to have pickpockets on trains during this time.

Xochimilco Mexico City is a great cultural adventure on your Mexico itinerary.

How to get to Xochimilco from Mexico City by metro 

Find your way to Tasquena station which is the final station on the Blue Line.

From Tasquena, take an overground metro line Train Ligero which begins in Tasquena and takes you to Xochimilco, a final stop on this line. You will need to get a rechargeable metro card, that you can pick up any train station in Mexico City. It can be used for your future trips on metro. 

👉 Taking Metro to Xochimilco could take over one hour depending on where you are in Mexico City. Plan extra time for your trip.

From the Metro station, it’s a quick walk toward the Embarcadero or the pier from where Xochimilco tours depart. As you keep walking you will be greeted and approached by many people trying to give you directions or even sell you Xochimilco tours.

Be polite, but don’t feel obligated to buy anything, just say gracias (thank you), and keep walking. 

GOOD TO KNOW: If you visit Xochimilco on your own, be prepared to negotiate a price 💵 with your boat driver. Xochimilco boats can fit in up to 10-12 people, and all the passengers typically split the price of the boat ride. If your boat is not full, you will need to pay the full amount, so the difference could be anywhere between 350 Mexican Pesos (if you are on your own) and 60 Mexican Pesos (if you are with a group).

Taking a guided tour of Xochimilco

A guided tour of Xochimilco is the best option if you are visiting for the first time and are not confident in your Spanish skills. When you take a guided tour, you will not have to negotiate prices and ask for directions to the boats, as your guide will organize everything for you.

Many Xochimilco tours combine a boat ride on the famous canals and Coyoacan where you can get a tour of the neighborhood and see some of the most famous landmarks such as the Museum of Frida Kahlo. 

PRO TIP: Coyoacan is one of the most important areas of Mexico City that has its own identity and a wonderful charm, that’s why I recommend a tour that combines Xochimilco and Coyoacan

Mexico City Xochimilco Tours

Taking Uber to Xochimilco from Mexico City

If you don’t want to take public transportation from Mexico City to Xochimilco, Uber is a great option 🚙 Uber in Mexico City is much cheaper than in the United States and Europe, and will typically cost around 200 Mexican Pesos for a one way trip (although prices can fluctuate depending on the time and day).

✅ If you take Uber to Xochimilco, ask your driver to drop you off at the Embarcadeo Nuevo Nativitas, one of the best spots for starting your Xochimilco tour. There are many different embarcaderos (docks) in Xochimilco, but Nuevo Nativitas is considered one of the best ones.

Renting a car for your trip to Xochimilco from Mexico City

If you have a car rental 🚘 you can drive to Xochimilco canals any time you want. Keep in mind that you will have to find a parking space and pay a fee if it’s private parking with security. The upside is that you can spend as much time as you want in Xochimilco without relying on public transportation. 

How to get to Xochimilco from Mexico City

Prices of Xochimilco tours

The hourly maximum for a boat ride in Xochimilco canals is between 350 and 500 Mexican Pesos, which covers the whole boat. Although there’s no specific time for a boat ride, most of them are between 1,5-2 hours. Negotiate the rate ahead of your tour. 💰

GOOD TO KNOW: The price you pay in Xochimilco covers the hourly ride, not the number of people on it. Your ride will be cheaper if you take it with a group of other travelers because you will all split the price. If you have friends or anybody who wants to come with you, bring them to Xochimilco canals!

Most boats can fit up to a dozen of people, so if you are traveling by yourself or in a couple, join up with other travelers to split the cost. 

How to negotiate a price for Xochimilco boat tours

When trying to negotiate a boat ride, start with a low-ball offer and go from there. Do NOT start with a high amount like 700 Pesos, because it will be very difficult to get a competitive rate from that point. Begin with 500 Pesos for two hours and go down from there. If a boat captain wants to charge you more 500 Pesos, you should look for another ride.

✔️ If you are visiting Xochimilco without a guided tour, you need good haggling skills, and at least a basic level of Spanish. Otherwise your ride could be more expensive, especially if you are visiting Xochimilco canals on a weekend when there are a ton of tourists and boat drivers know that they can get a ride any time. 

Taking a boat ride of Xochimilco: everything you need to know

When you get on a boat, all your need to do is relax and enjoy this festive cultural experience with hundreds of boats crowding the area.

You can buy food while taking a boat ride in Xochimilco

As you float down the canals, you will pass by many other Trajineras with tourists, as well as vendors trying to sell you food, drinks, arts and crafts like woven blankets and toys. It looks a bit like a floating market where you can buy food and trinkets during your ride. 

There are also boat vendors who sell nieve, an equivalent of shaved ice that comes in a variety of exotic flavors. 

… Or hire a Mariachi band

There are also boats with Mariachi bands, xylophone players and singers, and various other bands, who will approach you asking if you want to buy their music performance. If you decide to do so, they will attach their boat to yours, and play music as you float down the canal.

These boats will approach you and offer their services/goods, and you can get them right on the spot. 

Ask your driver to take you to more remote canals

If you have more time, ask your boat driver, to take you to more remote canals where you can enjoy peaceful scenery away from the noise and crowds. 

Best things to do in Xochimilco

Things to do in Xochimilco Mexico City

Of course, everyone knows Xochimilco as the home of the famous canals and colorful Trajineras. But it’s not the only thing that you can find here. Let’s take a look at other things that you can do in Xochimilco, after taking a tour of the canals. 

Isla De Las Munecas 

One of the most unusual (and creepy) spots in Xochimilco is La Isla De Las Munecas (The Doll Island) which was supposed to be a tribute to a girl who drowned in the Xochimilco canal, but turned into a tourist attraction after a local man started decorating it with thousands of dolls. Today, Isla De Las Munecas is one of the top stops in Xochimilco, and as the hanging dolls deteriorate, they get creepier by the day. 

Greenhouse 

If you want to visit a less unsettling place, ask your boat driver to stop at a big greenhouse (or invernadero in Spanish) located in the middle of the canals. This place can’t be accessed on foot and you can step inside and explore the beautiful garden, as well as animals, and, if you get lucky, even, axolotl, the endangered amphibian. 

Trying pulque 

Pulque is an ancient Mesoamerican drink that has a pretty low alcoholic content and good nutritional value. Pulque is sold by many vendors floating down Xochimilco canals, and although it has an unappealing look and gooey texture to it, it’s one of those must-try drinks in Mexico.

A cup of pulque goes for about 20 Pesos ($1 USD), and since this drink can’t be exported, Xochimilco is a perfect place to try it. 

Xochimilco Mexico City: tips for visiting

✅ Leave jewelry and expensive clothing at home

Leave your expensive clothing and jewelry at home. As a foreign tourist, you will also be thought of as a cash cow, because people working in the tourism industry will think that you are loaded with money and try to sell your stuff and charge more money for tours.

Avoid wearing expensive brands and jewelry when visiting Xochimilco canals. This will help you to get better prices and when haggling.

✅ Keep an eye on your belongings 

Xochimilco can get busy. Always keep an eye on your belongings when you are on a boat and when you are walking the streets of pueblo from the train station. 

✅ Learn Spanish 

Even if you are taking a guided tour of Xochimilco Mexico City, learning some basic Spanish is a great idea. Locals will always treat you better if you can communicate with them in their language and show gratitude and courtesy.

✅ Leave a tip for your boat driver 

Xochimilco boat drivers make low wages and typically depend on tips. Make sure to leave a gratuity at the end of your trip to help them out. Check my tips for Mexico travel if you want to know how much you need to leave in tips every time you go to a restaurant or take a guided tour.

✅ Come on a weekday 

Weekends can be crazy busy in Xochimilco, that’s why I recommend visiting on a weekday.

If you have time constraints and have to visit on a weekend, come early morning. Some visitors come to Xochimilco specifically for its loud and festive atmosphere, and if you are one of them, then the weekend is the best time for your trip to Xochimilco Mexico City. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Sunday is the best day to experience Xochimilco like a local and party Mexican style 🇲🇽 with many families making their way down here from Mexico City for a fun afternoon.

Is Xochimilco safe?

Xochimilco canals are perfectly safe to visit during the day, but better avoided at night when the tourism activity dies down. If you are finishing your trip by the time the area closes, you can get an Uber or walk to the metro station to make your way back before it gets dark.

Final thoughts on visiting Xochimilco Mexico City

Xochimilco is a wonderful cultural experience and one of the best things to do in Mexico City. While it can be crowded and chaotic at times, it’s well worth your time and money as it has a festive atmosphere and the friendliest people. 

The increased tourism activity has been causing the deterioration of the canals of Xochimilco Mexico City. The area is also threatened by unsustainable urban growth, pollution, and over-pumping of water which has led to a decline in levels of water in the canals over years. 

Consider donating some money to the Xochimilco restoration fund before your trip there.

Where to stay in Mexico City

Mexico City is huge and depending on where you plan, you should choose hotels based on your travel. Here are a couple of options for your stay in Mexico City:

📍BudgetHotel Templo Mayor – a great budget hotel in the heart of Mexico City 

📍Mid-rangeDomingo Santo Boutique Hotel – a beautiful boutique stay near Templo Mayor and Zocalo

📍LuxuryLa Valise Mexico City – one of the most beautiful hotels in Mexico City in a quiet walkable neighborhood

More resources for planning your trip to Xochimilco Mexico City

  • Agoda.com – a great website for budget hotels in Mexico City.
  • WorldNomads – Great service for insurance coverage that will keep you safe on the road.
  • Safety Wing – Excellent insurance plan for long-term travelers that offers competitive rates is you are planning to stay on the road several weeks in a row. 
  • iVisa – the best website for getting help with your Mexico visa.
  • DiscoverCars.com – Consider renting a car at Discover Cars if you want to day day trips from Mexico City including Xochimilco canals. 
  • GetYourGuide.com – This is one of the best platforms for finding guided tours of Xochimilco Mexico City. Get Your Guide is my favorite platform that offers awesome tours and top-notch guides in many destinations in Mexico.
  • CheapoAir.com – One of the best platforms for saving money on flights within Mexico and beyond. 
  • Booking.com – a popular website with tons and tons of options for accommodations of all sorts.

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