Mexico is a country with a colorful past and present, and its culture has become one of the most popular in the world. One of the best ways to experience the best of Mexican culture is by taking a trip to the nearby town of Xochimilco, a rural yet vibrant neighborhood a few kilometers south of the capital. The town is most famous for Xochimilco Canals, which has been dubbed as the “Venice of Mexico”. Here tourists will find colorful gondola-style boats called trajineras. It’s a distinct bit of Mexican culture native only to this little town. Aside from the canals, there are a lot of other exciting things to do in Xochimilco, Mexico, so here’s a list that you can use as a guide.
1. Be beguiled by the mysterious Island of the Dolls
Isla de las Munecas, or more commonly known as Island of the Dolls, is a popular yet mysterious tourist destination in Mexico. Nestled between the canals of Xochimilco, this place was named as such because of the urban legend behind it. A man named Julián Santana Barrera once owned and looked after the island, and legend says a girl once drowned here. So to appease her spirit, he began hanging dolls on the trees, and he has been doing so until his death in 2001. Afterward, the mysterious island began attracting tourists who sometimes bring their own dolls and leave with some enchanting stories as well. So if you’re into the mysterious and paranormal, this place is for you!
The Island of the Dolls
Address: Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco, 16036 Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
Website: The Island of the Dolls
2. Go horseback riding at Bosque de Nativitas Park
Bosque de Nativitas Park is a park in Xochimilco adorned with a lot of trees and plants. Its landscape is almost comparable to a small forest, except it’s more accessible to the public. The most common trees found here are pine trees, so expect a temperate and cool ambiance when visiting. It’s also near one of the docks of the canals. You may simply take a stroll through the park or you and your kids can go horseback riding, which a popular activity around here. There are also areas for picnics and barbecues that are perfect for family visits.
Bosque de Nativitas Park
Address: Xaltocan, 16090 Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
Website: Bosque de Nativitas Park
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
3. See the amazing views atop Volcán Teuhtli
Teuhtli is an extinct volcano that serves as the border between Xochimilco and Milpa Alta in the south of Mexico City. 2170 meters (8891 feet) above sea level, Teuhtli’s shape is in shield formation, which means its diameter measures more than the height. It’s also classified as a Hawaiian eruption type of volcano, meaning it is mostly lava-based and not as destructive as the other types. People enjoy climbing up because of the easy landscape. Upon reaching the summit, hikers will be greeted with a wonderful view of Milpa Alta.
4. Go jogging around Ecoturistico Michmani Park
For those who like to do regular exercise, Ecoturistico Michmani Park is a good place to do so. Whether you prefer to jog, bike, run or even do some yoga, there’s plenty of room at this park. Plus the ambiance is very quiet and calm so you’ll be able to focus on your routine. If you’re with the family, it’s a nice place to have a picnic and play a fun game of catch too! There are also cabins and canoes for rent should you wish to have more activities for the day.
Ecoturistico Michmani Park
Address: Anillo Perif. 7695, Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco, Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Website: Ecoturistico Michmani Park
Opening hours: 8am - 7pm (daily)
5. Hop on board a traditional trajinera at Lake Xochimilco
Lake Xochimilco is one of five lakes within the Valley of Mexico. It was once a thriving area but was drained throughout the years to help reduce flooding. Lake Xochimilco was one of the last remnants, and it lives through the Xochimilco canals. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, it has turned into a tourist destination where trajineras, or colorful rafts, can be rented out for a trip across the rivers. While on a trajinera, tourists will learn about the culture and heritage of the area surrounding the Valley of Mexico and the now remaining Lake Xochimilco.
6. Pay homage to the sacred image of the Niñopa
Primera preposada 2018, familia López López, barrio de la Santísima, Xochimilco, CDMX.Posted by Niñopa on Sunday, 9 December 2018
All over the world, the Child Jesus has its own name and image to different Catholic regions and groups. Niñopa is this borough’s version. It was a gift to the people of Xochimilco from Martin Cortés of Valencia, Spain in 1586. Derived from the Spanish words Niño, meaning child, and Pa, meaning father, Niñopa is a symbol of the locals. This is mainly because it does not stay with the parish church but instead remains in the custody of a majordomo or a sponsor. These are usually families and they have the responsibility of taking it to church and bringing it to the sick. They also have the privilege of arranging the fiesta in honor of the Niñopa yearly, which tourists can take part in.
Address: Calle Pedro Ramírez del Castillo 29, San Pedro, 16090 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
7. Marvel at Mexican culture inside the Archaeological Museum of Xochimilco
Delve into Mexican culture when you visit the Archaeological Museum of Xochimilco. Geographically and historically, Xochimilco is one of five lakes around the Valley of Mexico and is the only one remaining. Because of this, its heritage is closely related to water. The museum has several ancient clay pieces from before the Europeans inhabited the area, and some even date back to the ancient Aztec civilization.
Archaeological Museum of Xochimilco
Address: Av. Tenochtitlan s/n, Santa Cruz Acalpixca, 16500 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
8. Shop for local goods at Mercado de Xochimilco
Some say it is not a trip to Xochimilco without visiting their famous local market. Mercado de Xochimilco is made up of two buildings, Xochitl Zona and Mercado de Flores. In and around Xochitl Zona, you will find a lot of fresh local produce and native items. Some of the favorites include tamales and tlacoyos, which are both traditional delicacies. Moving on to Mercado de Flores, as the name obviously implies, you will be able to choose a variety of flowers grown in the local area. The market is listed as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Mercado de Xochimilco
Address: Av. Nuevo León s/n, Santa Crucita, 16070 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Opening hours: 8am - 8pm (daily)
9. Admire the architecture and history of San Bernardino de Siena Church
Built in the 16th century, San Bernardino de Siena Church is known as the parish church of Xochimilco. It’s located in the center of the plaza and stands out with its renaissance architecture, which was a common style during the 16th century for churches, especially in Mexico. Aside from its beautiful architecture, there’s a lot of history behind the church. Much of it relies heavily on the Spanish colonization during that time. Today, it’s the center of social life in Xochimilco, as well as the center of festivities relating to Niñopa.
San Bernardino de Siena Church
Address: Av. Nuevo León 22B, Santa Crucita, 16070 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Website: San Bernardino de Siena Church
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
10. Spend some time with nature at Cuemanco Ecological Park
Take a break from your usual routines with technology and breathe in some fresh air at Cuemanco Ecological Park. It’s a family-friendly park that is a favorite of many because of the lush green fields and shady trees. It’s the perfect place to have a picnic, go biking or jogging, or simply relax amongst the falling leaves. There are also some activities to enjoy here, like horseback riding and canoeing.
Cuemanco Ecological Park
Address: Golf Club Cuemanco, Coapa, Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco, 16036 Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 6pm (closed on Mon)
11. Go birdwatching at Xochimilco Ecological Park
Another great park to visit is Xochimilco Ecological Park, a 13-hectare (32-acre) natural reserve park. A large part of this area is made up of swamps and small lakes. You can spend your time relaxing here, but you will also get the chance to spot some wildlife such as otters, weasels, lots of birds, and the axolotls, an endangered species native to Xochimilco. There’s also a plant market in the vicinity for those who wish to shop for agricultural goods.
Xochimilco Ecological Park
Address: Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco, Mexico City, CDMX, Mexico
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
12. Taste authentic Mexican food at Fonda Tepepan
If you’re looking for a nice and quiet place to eat, Fonda Tepepan is a favorite restaurant among locals mainly because of its good food and pleasant ambiance. This place is quite hidden which explains the lack of crowd. This should not stop you though from checking it out. People have recommended Mexican favorites such as chiles en nogada, green enchiladas and chorizos, and unexpectedly, their great coffee too! Expect all of these and more to be served by their friendly staff.
Address: Camino Real a Xochimilco No.1, Santa María Tepepan, 16020 Xochimilco, CDMX, Mexico
Opening hours: Mon - Fri: 8am - 7pm; Sat - Sun: 9am - 7pm
13. Have a bite at Casa Don Neto
Another popular restaurant in the area is Casa Don Neto. They offer a variety of dishes in big portions from their extensive menu, which locals have mentioned change from time to time. There is also a vegetarian selection here. The price is affordable for such offers, which is why a lot of people stop by to have a meal at this establishment. The staff is very attentive despite the crowded hours, so it’s best to come early.
Casa Don Neto
Address: Margarita Maza de Juárez 43, San Antonio, 16000 Xochimilco, CDMX, Mexico
Website: Casa Don Neto
Opening hours: Mon - Sat: 9am - 8pm; Sun: 10am - 7pm
14. Rock and roll at Metal Rose
Metal Rose is a unique kind of cafe because it’s rock and roll themed. Catch some live bands perform heavy metal rock music and meet up with some friends. While rocking out to their tunes, enjoy some good tacos, which is what Metal Rose is known for. They also have other good selections on their menu.
Address: Av. Miguel Hidalgo #35, San Mateo Xalpa, 16800 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Website: Metal Rose
Opening hours: 5pm - 11pm (daily)
15. Grab a cocktail at Pulqueria Temple of Diana
Pulqueria Temple of Diana is a laidback and traditional bar that is enjoyed by many. It’s most famous for its pulque, a traditional Mexican cocktail made from the fermented sap of the maguey. They also have a variety of other well-known cocktails. The service here is known to be great and even personalized at some points, which has given past customers a great experience. Be prepared to wait a bit, especially if it’s crowded, because there tends to be a lot of people during peak hours.
Pulqueria Temple of Diana
Address: Av 5 de Mayo 65, Santa Crucita, 16070 Xochimilco, CDMX, Mexico
Website: Pulqueria Temple of Diana
Opening hours: 10am - 9pm (daily)
Experience Xochimilco, Mexico
Xochimilco may be a rural borough, but it’s certainly a place full of vibrant Mexican culture. Hop on board a trajinera to see the local sites and taste the native delicacies to experience Xochimilco at its fullest. You’ll surely have a trip to remember!
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