If you have some time to spare and looking for an experience not usually found in a mega-city, travel down to Xochimilco on the southern fringe of Mexico City for a boat ride in the canals in the shade of towering ahuejote trees.
Xochimilco lies 28 km south of Mexico City. With its network of canals and artificial islands, it testifies to the efforts of the Aztec people to build a habitat in the midst of an unfavourable environment. This is one of very few surviving Aztec areas in Mexico and is quite popular with Chilangos (slang for people who live in Mexico City) and tourists alike. In Xochimilco, flower-decked boats called trajineras (a punt) carry visitors through water canals (sort of a Mexican Venice).
Mariachi bands and trinket sellers will offer their services and goods. If you agree to have a show from one of the bands, they'll hook their trajinera to yours for the duration of the show. Or you can simply order a song. The other vendors can be a bit overbearing because there are so many of them, however. They will offer linens, scarfs, broideries, carpets, pinatas, glass crafts, etc. Also, some will prepare food to sell, or sell beer. The latter can be a life saver as it gets really hot during summer. Some sellers may just decide your trajinera is nicer than theirs and simply board too!
There are two main 'embarcaderos' (boat landings) in Xochimilco, as well as a half-dozen secondary ones, and the canal system is extensive enough that traffic jams are rare. Today it can be quite overwhelming to pole along the canals in one of the colorful trajineras on a busy weekend. During the day, families and tourists take the rides, but during the night, just about every trajinera is a party of its own and full of young people.
Nearby there is also the the largest flower market in Latin America with a massive 32 acres of blooms. For those interested in the history and techniques of chinampa farming, the nearby Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco (Xochimilco Ecological Park) is the place to go.
Xochimilco is a UN World Heritage site.
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