Cruise Mexico’s Xochimilco Canals in a Trajinera Gondola

Arriving at the Xochimilco canals was like seeing an explosion of Skittle colors — a rainbow piñata of boats. Rows and rows of trajineras (gondolas) waiting for hundred of passengers which would no doubt be arriving shortly. Each doned a unique name; Viva Lupita, Margarita, Carmelita…

Ms. Julietta was waiting to take me on a ride.

Riding Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

Xochimilco lies 17 miles south of Mexico City and is best known for its network of canals and chinampas (artificial islands). This canal system attracts locals and tourists alike to take a leisurely ride on the colorful boats, manned by quiet gondoliers.

It’s like Venice, but not really.

We were here with Go Eat Give, a nonprofit organization dedicated to merging culture, culinary and volunteerism with travel. This was going to be quite a bit of culture immersion, with a dash of culinary.

Riding Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

Riding Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

The trajineras were stacked back to back and side by side, we had to walk through one to get to the next. Each boat had seats for about twenty passengers and our group filled them all. We departed down the long channel, slowly being pushed with a thick, long stick.

It was a busy day on the water, at times a traffic jam of trajineras.

Other vessels passed us along the way, some carrying families who were celebrating a members cumpleaños (birthday) and others packing college students enjoying a day away from studying. There was dancing, singing and laughing aboard them all.

Mariachis on a Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

A trajinera filled with a lively mariachi band pulled up along side of the Ms. Julietta and offered to entertain us for peso tips, we graciously obliged. They belted out powerful Mexican folk music that could be heard all along the canal.

It was turning into a party on Ms. Julietta.

Riding on a Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

Vendors on a Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

Vendors on their small canoes passed up by, peddling flowered head bands, blankets, glasses of micheladas (beer bloody mary) and elotes (corn on the cob). It’s hard to pass up an ear of grilled corn slathered in a creamy chili and lime sauce with cheese, it’s a classic Mexican street food or in this case ‘water food’.

Lunch on a Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

Our lunch was catered by a local restaurant and brought on board prior to departure. Mariachis played in the background as we ate soft tortillas frilled with refried beans, peppers and cheese.  A plate of very addictive chicharrones (fried pork rinds) was passed around and cervezas were plentiful.

We had all the essentials of the perfect day — friends, music, food and beer.

Drinking Coronas on a Trajinera Gondolas in Xochimilco

After a couple hours we returned to the dock, where souvenir shops in the mercado area waited for our purchases. I skipped the shopping and headed straight for the the Danza de los Voladores (dance of the flyers) show that was happening in a courtyard nearby. This Mesoamerican dance ceremony, consists of flyers climbing to the top of a 30-meter pole. Secured by ropes they then launch themselves to the ground, mesmerizingly spinning around the pole all the way to the bottom.

I got dizzy just watching.

Dance of the Flyers at Xochimilco, Mexico

Insider Information

Trajineras de Xochimilco | ReviewsMAP

You can negotiate with the boat owners upon arrival or arrange your trip through your hotel. If you do not make prior arrangements, arrive early as they tend to get very busy. A boat ride should cost around $350 pesos ($21 USD) per hour for the entire boat, not per person. If you want to save a little money, you can bring your own food or a picnic.

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My trip to ride the trajineras in Xochimilco was hosted by Go Eat Give & Mexico City Tourism, but all opinions are my own.

2017-03-08T16:54:14+00:00 October 29th, 2015|Categories: Central America, Mexico, TRAVEL|Tags: , , |


  1. Esther of Local Adventurer October 31, 2015 at 5:54 pm - Reply

    looks like such a wonderful experience. I think music, food, booze, and good company.. makes a great combo pretty much anywhere you go, but I love how colorful this is – an explosion of skittles is a great way to describe it haha

    • Annette White October 31, 2015 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      I agree, it’s hard to go wrong with music, food, booze ad good company!

  2. Izy Berry November 3, 2015 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    This boats are amazing !!! In mexico citys this boats sometimes they use them to make partys

  3. Nick @ Goats On The Road November 4, 2015 at 3:40 pm - Reply

    The first line of this article is the absolute perfect description of the gondolas! Speaking of, I love that each one has its own name. Looks like an amazing way to experience Mexico’s Xochimilco canals.

    • Annette White November 4, 2015 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      I also loved that each one had a different name, especially because one was named after one of my dearest friends, Lupita!

  4. Golden Triangle Tour 4 Days February 1, 2016 at 2:32 am - Reply

    The borough is centered on the formerly independent city of Xochimilco, which was established on what was the southern shore of Lake Xochimilco in the pre-Hispanic period. Today, the borough consists of the eighteen “barrios” or neighborhoods of this city along with fourteen “pueblos” or villages that surround it, covering an area of 125 km2 (48 sq mi). While the borough is somewhat in the geographic center of the Federal District, it is considered to be “south” and has an identity separate from the historic center of Mexico City. This is due to its historic separation from that city during most of its history. Xochimilco is best known for its canals, which are left from what was an extensive lake and canal system that connected most of the settlements of the Valley of Mexico. These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas, attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola-like boats called “trajineras” around the 170 km (110 mi) of canals. This canal and chinampa system, as a vestige of the area’s pre-Hispanic past, has made Xochimilco a World Heritage Site. In 1950, Paramahansa Yogananda in his celebrated classic Autobiography of a Yogi wrote that if there is a scenic beauty contest, Xochimilco will get the First Prize.

  5. Golden Triangle Tour 3 Days February 1, 2016 at 5:56 am - Reply

    Great Blog listings, it is wonderful travel blog stories provide the best adventures for the Travellers. I have also want to travelling experience with the sensory deprivation. Thanks for the sharing the fantastic travel story i am inspire of this travelling.

  6. Haley April 4, 2016 at 4:26 am - Reply

    I did that tour last year with a group of friends and we loved the boats, atmosphere, music, flowers .. everything was so amazing and colorful. Reading your article brought back the memories of that great experience!

    • Annette White April 7, 2016 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Happy to hear that you enjoyed it too! I still don’t think I’ve ever seen boats so colorful 🙂

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