Xochimilco: Visiting the Floating Gardens of Mexico City

Want to visit the floating gardens of Xochimilco? I think it’s something everyone should experience at least once when they visit CDMX.

Whether you’re into the party scene of floating down the Xochimilco canals or want to learn about the traditional floating gardens of Mexico City (called chinampas), I’ve written this article to guide you on your way.

I’ve included everything you need to know about the Xochimilco boats, how to get to Xochimilco from Mexico City, and other things to do in Xochimilco once you’re there.

Plus I’ve included some alternative options for visiting Xochimilco if you want to get off the beaten path.

Let’s discover Xochimilco Mexico so that you can plan the ultimate adventure!

Colorful boats, trajinera, laying docked on the canal of Xochimilco, Mexico City.
Colorful boats line the canals of Xochimilco Mexico City.

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What is Xochimilco in Mexico City?

Xochimilco is a district of Mexico City that is known for its canals and chinampas, a farming system developed by the Aztecs to cultivate crops using the region’s lakes.

The floating gardens of Xochimilco have been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site because of these unique agricultural techniques that are still used today.

Colorful red, yellow and blue boat in Xochimilco, Mexico City with a sign board "Princesa", a long table and chairs for tourists.

How Do You Get to Xochimilco from Mexico City?

To get to Xochimilco from Mexico City, you first need to decide if you will use public transportation, take an Uber, or book a tour.

I’ve detailed each below. The best option for you will depend on your budget, group size, and the time you have.

How Far is Xochimilco from Mexico City?

Xochimilco is about 15 miles (25 km) southeast of Mexico City’s historic center. Depending on traffic and your starting point, it takes at least an hour to get to Xochimilco from Mexico City.

While the distance may seem significant, reaching Xochimilco is relatively easy thanks to the city’s extensive public transportation system. Whether by metro, tour, or taxi, you can visit Xochimilco on a day trip.

Book a Tour to Xochimilco

4 colorful boats or trajineras in Xochimilco each with their own name, such as "Lupita", "Clarita" and "Alejandra".

If you’re traveling solo or prefer to have everything taken care of, you should book one of these Xochimilco tours. It’s also a great way to maximize your time in the city since they often include more than one stop.

I’ve highlighted my top picks below. You may also want to read my guide to Xochimilco tours.

Mariachi band singing performance at a colorful boat called Andrea in Mexico City's canal with other trajineras in the back.
One of the many mariachi bands along the canals in Xochimilco. Like the other vendors, the band pulls alongside your boat and jumps on for the performance.

Love eating in the city? Read about the best taco tours in Mexico City that you can book.

Uber to Xochimilco from Mexico City

Taking an Uber in CDMX is straightforward and safer than taking a taxi. For an Uber to Xochimilco from Mexico City centro, expect to pay about 300 pesos each way.

How to Get to Xochimilco Using Public Transportation

To get to Xochimilco from Mexico City using public transport you’ll first need to get to the Tasqueña metro station (map).

Tip: Use precautions when using public transportation in Mexico City such as keeping your belongings in front of you.

Then take the Tren Ligero (light rail) to the last stop on the line. When you exit the station, follow the signs towards the embarcaderos where you’ll find the Xochimilco boats.

A line of brightly painted trajineras, the Xochimilco boats, on the canal nearby Mexico City.

It’s less than a kilometer walk to the Xochimilco canals. While this is not difficult to navigate using maps, you should to be aware that you will be persuaded to agree to a Xochimilco boat ride along the way.

I recommend waiting until you’re at the boats. When I visited by public transport, I chose to go to Nuevo Nativitas where the rates are posted.

Tip: To save money, stop to buy a few refreshments along the way. We stopped for fried plantains and of course cerveza. You can buy drinks and snacks once you are on the boats in Xochimilco. And I highly recommend you do for both the experience and to support the vendors.

A man selling street corn in the canal from a Xochimilco boat in Mexico City.
A vendor spreads mayonnaise on our street corn. Con limon y chile? Siiii!

Xochimilco Boats

You can hire a Xochimilco boat, called a trajinera, directly from one of the docks.

If you decide to visit Xochimilco on your own, you’ll need to decide ahead of time which embarcadero (dock) to leave from. As I mentioned before, on my first visit to Xochimilco I chose Nuevo Nativitas since their prices are posted.

If you’re not traveling with a group, I suggest finding others along the way to share the cost. We hired a Xochimilco boat for 2-3 hours at the cost of 500 pesos per hour.

On a colorful yellow, blue and red trajinero looking towards other colorful boats called Daniel and Andre in the middle of the canal at Xochimilco.

On my second visit, I went with a friend who was living in Mexico City. His native Spanish skills and knowledge of the area allowed us to negotiate a lower rate for the boats.

Once you’re floating down the Xochimilco canals, you’ll have an opportunity to order beers, snacks, and even a mariachi band from the vendors floating by on smaller boats.

I never suggest going to big attractions on the weekends, especially on Sundays, when things tend to be free for a lot of Mexicans, but this is one of those occasions where the atmosphere would be so much more electric. Trajineras hold up to 20 people, or you can tie two together if you have a large group.

Different colorful boats in Xochimilco, Mexico City's canals framed by trees on the side of the canal.

Tip: I’ve heard there are collectivo boats on the weekends which allows you to share the boat with others for a lower cost. Plus join together to party, which is always a fun experience.

Love this Guide to Visiting Xochimilco? Pin It!

Pinterest Guide to Xochimilco. Like these travel tips? Pin It!

Other Things to Do in Xochimilco

One of the best things to do in Xochimilco other than taking a boat ride through the canals is to visit the market. It’s similar to other Mexico City markets, but is known for its beautiful flowers.

If you decide to do this, I recommend arriving in the morning to walk around the market and eat breakfast at one of the stalls inside.

Xochimilco Island of the Dolls

One of the most famous spots in the Xochimilco canals is the Island of the Dolls.

As the legend goes, the caretaker of this chinampa found the body of a young girl who had drowned in one of the canals. When he found a doll floating nearby, he assumed it was hers and hung it in a tree out of respect to her spirit.

Xochimilco dolls (some small, some bigger) hanging on the tree seen from the canal.

Possibly haunted by the girl’s spirit, he started hanging more dolls in an attempt to please it. Today the island, which opened to the public after his death, is full of dolls – many with blank eyes and missing limbs. Some visitors claim they’ve seen the dolls move and even whisper among themselves.

If you want to visit the famous Island of the Dolls in Xochimilco, the best way is to book this tour which includes visiting the island.

Is Xochimilco Safe?

Yes, Xochimilco is relatively safe. As you would any time you travel, it’s best to take some precautions such as going with a group and being mindful of how much you drink. Be aware of your surroundings, especially if you use public transport to get to Xochimilco.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Xochimilco Mexico City

Xochimilco is a must do when you travel to Mexico City. Whether you decide to join the party or visit the chinampas and learning about their history, the floating gardens of Xochimilco are a must visit.

FAQ About Floating Gardens of Xochimilco

Is it worth visiting Xochimilco?

Visiting Xochimilco is absolutely worth it for anyone interested in experiencing a different side of Mexico City. The vibrant colors, lively atmosphere, and rich history of the floating gardens make it a fun filled afternoon. Whether you decide to explore the canals by boat or learn about the chinampas and enjoy the natural beauty of the surroundings, Xochimilco is a unique experience.

Why is the city of Xochimilco famous?

Located southeast of Mexico City, Xochimilco is famous for the floating gardens, called chinampas. This unique farming technique was developed by the Aztecs and is still used today. Xochimilco is also famous for the colorful boats called trajineras that take visitors through the canals.

Is Xochimilco a tourist trap?

While Xochimilco has become a popular tourist destination, I would not consider it a tourist trap. The experience of floating down the canals aboard traditional trajineras while soaking in the party atmosphere is something everyone should experience. However, visitors should be aware that it can get very busy, especially on the weekends.

Is it safe to go to Xochimilco Mexico City?

Generally it is safe to go to Xochimilco. It’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings and take normal precautions. I recommend being mindful not to drink too much while at Xochimilco.