A ride on board of a trajinera in Xochimilco is one of those essential, unskippable Mexico City experiences. Picture a 20 people party on a colorful boat, equipped with food, drinks and even live, mariachi music. Sounds good?
That is just a short version of the whole experience, which starts at the pier, located half a mile from the south portion of Anillo Periférico, a main speedway that runs around the city. You’ll see the trajineras right away, stacked one after the other. Some look like debris while others seem brand new.
Trajineras are flat-bottomed wooden boats, colorfully painted and decorated. Most of them have a name, which can be read from the top of the iron frame at the front. Some of them have love declarations and other kinds of titles.
Many vendors and tours salesmen will approach you and offer you services. You should know that the standard rates for a trajinera in Xochimilco range from about $20 to $100 USD –depending of the length of your ride, it starts at one hour. It is highly likely that someone will try and charge you more than fair, especially if you look foreign.
You may bring your own food and drink to the ride, but it is not necessary. Not long after it starts, you will see several boats and canoes approach your trajinera with goods like tamales, quesadillas, tacos de canasta and micheladas.
While you enjoy some delicious Mexican snack and a beer, take in the beautiful, natural scenery around you. The canals you navigate are as ancient as Tenochtitlan, the lost Aztec capital. They used to be a huge center for agriculture, thanks to the invention of the floating chinampas.
As you arrive to the main canal, you will notice that things start to get a little bit more crowded and noisy. Soon, you will be approached by floating mariachi bands that offer their services to the passing trajineras. Don’t miss the chance to top your ride with the best possible soundtrack!
Some operators offer a trip to Isla de las Muñecas (Dolls Island), a unique place where old, ragged dolls are hanging from the trees like fruit. This strange island was property of a certain Julián Santana, who placed them there because he thought they scared away the spirit of a little girl who was drowned there.
As you come back to the pier, you’ll know that you’ve experienced something different. Book a room at City Express Plus Periférico Sur Tlalpan, a 10 minute drive from the piers. After an afternoon at the trajineras in Xochimilco, you might want to rest in the best possible way!