On the Xochimilco canals in Mexico City


Cruising along the Xochimilco canals is a great way to spend an afternoon visiting Mexico City. The colors and sounds are incredible. And, if you plan things correctly, the food is rather impressive as well. A dozen or so of us stocked up on supplies and then headed onto one of the many colorful barges (or trajineras) plying the waters to relax, eat, drink and enjoy some music.

Brightly decorated boats line the dock at Xochimilco, awaiting passengers and a ride along the canals
Brightly decorated boats line the dock along the Xochimilco canals, awaiting passengers and a ride along the canals
We definitely got too much food for our ride. But it was all so very, very good.
We definitely got too much food for our ride. But it was all so very, very good.

Food and friends are a big part of the scene but music is what rules the waterways. Bands navigate the waters hopping from barge to barge, performing a song or two before casting off and heading to the next group of revelers. Some are good and some are bad. All are entertaining. Watch the video above for a few samples of the performances.

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Many of the scenes along the water are enjoyable as well. Whether it is one of the local kids hamming it up for the camera or watching an older man steering the barge like it appears he has for decades, these little bits are always enjoyable to me. It is a view into the local side of an otherwise very touristy scene.

This guy was awesome; looked like he's been working the canals his whole life.
This guy was awesome; looked like he’s been working the canals his whole life.
Some musicians waiting for a barge to stop by and pick them up for a few songs.
Some musicians waiting for a barge to stop by and pick them up for a few songs.

We spent about four hours on the boat, I think. Between friends, food, beer and music it was easy to lose track of time. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on who in the group speaks Spanish and is still vaguely sober or paying attention. Most of the prices are fixed and published which helps avoid too much in the way of haggling over numbers. The boats are about $25/hour and everything else adds on top of that, like ~$1.50 for a beer or $5-7 for a song. With a big group it is easy to split the costs and even a smaller group would probably do just fine with those rates, though you might not spend 4 hours as a smaller group.

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This was a part of Mexico City I had never heard of before the trip and I’m now very, very keen on recommending that others head there when possible. I really had a lot of fun.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

3 Comments

  1. Definitely a colorful and fun place and not hard to reach via transit – though it’s a distance out from the city center, so quite a few stops. Last time I was there I combined it with a visit to the Dolores Olmedo Museum (on the way), with its strong collection of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo works and thousands of pre-Hispanic figurines and sculptures. It’s at the La Noria station on the Tren Ligero which leads to Xochimilco.

  2. I am with you Seth. Xochimilco is the coolest thing to do in Mexico City, although I am super careful about what I eat there as last year I was in bed for 4 days after a trip to Mexico City. I also recommend grabbing a coffee in Cafe Tacuba, which I think is the city’s oldest cafe, and then heading very close by to Bar Opera for a drink. Legend has it that this very old bar was shot up by Pancho Villa. These are both in the central historic area of the city.

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