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The small district of Xochimilco in Mexico City of is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its incredible floating market and water canal ways that date back to the pre-hispanic Aztec era. The canals, which have earned the district the title of the ‘Venice of Mexico City’, are surrounded by stunning floral displays, floating gardens, and colorful decorations. It’s a beautiful sight and well worth a visit when in Mexico City. Here are seven reasons why you need to add Xochimilco to your travel plans:
1. See a Less-Traveled Part of Mexico City
Mexico City is enormous and most travelers concentrate on the historic district and the museums. Xochimilco is a small district in the south of Mexico City, and while it’s rough around the edges, it gives a great insight into life in one of the world’s biggest cities. It’s also a great chance to get away from the urban sprawl of the city’s center and see a part more off the beaten track than the main tourist hot spots.
2. Explore the Colorful Waterways
Xochimilco’s waterways are an explosion of colors. Hop on a gondola-like boat and float along the canal, where you’ll see walls lined with plants, tree curtains, floating gardens, and brightly colored boats peacefully sailing past. Make sure your camera or phone is fully charged, you’ll be wanting to take a lot of pictures!
3. Listen to Mariachi
While at Xochimilco, kick back and listen to Mariachi bands breaking into traditional song. Mariachi bands are known to start playing in squares, on parts of the canal-ways, or even on board some of the boats. If there’s a particular song you’d love to hear, you can request it for a small price. Locals descend on Xochimilco during the weekends to party, kick back with a beer and listen to music, so why not join the fun?
4. Sample Local Foods
There are several food markets in Xochimilco were you can tuck into delicious Mexican street food. Head to the main market in downtown Xochimilco for tasty banana-leaf-wrapped tamales, tlacoyos, and tacos.
5. Explore the Aztec Islands
While exploring the waterways of Xochimilco on a boat ride, visitors can see small, artificial islands, which are called chinampas. The chinampas were a technique developed by the Aztecs to grow produce on waterways, being raised agricultural fields that lie between canals. It was this ingenious invention by the Aztecs that allowed them to farm on swampy waterways. Today, on these small islands, flowers, vegetables, and ornamental plants are grown and create wonderful blooming scenery.
6. Buy Iris Flowers
Head to the Mercado de Flores, or flower market, which lies in a building south of the Xochitl market. Here, you can see all the different types of flowers that are grown in the chinampas around Xochimilco. The most popular flower in the area is the Iris — why not buy one for your significant other?
7. Visit the Creepy Island of Dolls
Once you’ve had enough bright colors and happy tourists, do something a bit different and visit the nearby Island of Dolls, which is one of the creepiest places on earth. The island lies south of Mexico City between the canals of Xochimilco. Legend has it that a young girl was found to have died from drowning in one of the canals, and in her memory, a doll was hung from a tree on the island. As years passed, the girl was said to have haunted the island, and more dolls were placed in the trees by the island’s one inhabitant. However, over time the dolls have deteriorated, and the result is a series of limbless or decapitated dolls hanging from trees. It’s a terrifying sight — even for those with a strong stomach.