Visiting The Island Of The Dolls – “Isla De Las Muñecas”

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The Island Of The Dolls

Deep in the canals of Xochimilco, located just South of Mexico City, lies a disturbing omen to a mysterious and tragic past. Here, a small island, which can only be reached via an arduous boat trip, lined with hundreds of deformed, decapitated and sinister looking dolls exists. This place is known to locals as Isla De Las Muñecas, which translates to The Island Of The Dolls in English.

Creepy doll on island of the dolls.
One of the many mutilated dolls on the haunted Island Of The Dolls.

The island is a creepy and disturbing place to behold, yet the haunted legend that accompanies this Island Of The Dolls is far more horrific.

Dolls on Isla de las Muñecas.
Multiple creepy dolls strung up in a tree in the Isla De Las Muñecas.

 

The Legend of The Island Of The Dolls

The Story behind the Island Of The Dolls has a tragic beginning. Legend states that many years ago a man named Julian Santana Barrera moved to an island, where he wished to escape society and become a recluse. Upon arriving, he found the body of a young girl floating dead, face down in the water, next to the island he was to call home.

Haunted hut on Isla de las Muñecas.
Looking around the haunted Isla De Las Muñecas.

Soon after, Julian found a doll floating nearby in the same water. To show his respect for the deceased girl, he picked up and strung the doll up to one of the island’s trees. It is told that Julian began to hear suspicious noises of voices in the darkness of night whilst trying to sleep, despite being in the solitude of the Xochimilco canals. He feared that the spirit of the dead little girl he had found had returned to the island to haunt him. This fear drove him to begin collecting dolls and displaying them all around the island in an attempt to ward off and appease her spirit.

Baby doll on Isla de las Muñecas
Disturbing baby doll on the Island Of The Dolls.

Julian would continue this practice of collecting and displaying dolls around his island for the next 50 years until his death in 2001. Julian’s death adds extra mystery to this legend as his nephew was to discover his lifeless body, floating face down in the water in the exact spot the little girl’s body was found years before. Many believe that Julian’s spirit has now joined the many others said to already haunt The Island Of The Dolls.

Isla de las Muñecas hut.
Inside hut on the Island Of The Dolls.

Today, the island still exists and displays hundreds of unwelcoming and disturbing dolls. The legend of Isla De Las Muñecas is widely and well known to many having featured in many popular televisions shows such as Ghost Adventures and Destination Truth. This exposure to the masses has resulted in the island becoming a popular tourist attraction for visitors to Mexico City, yet has also caused the creation of fake doll islands and confusion with navigating to the original island for many.

Decapitated haunted doll head on Island Of the Dolls.
Decapitated doll head on Isla De Las Muñecas.

Tips For Visiting Island Of The Dolls

I was recently successful in visiting The Island Of The Dolls and thought it necessary to share my experience. I found a lot of confusing and disheartening information on the internet about locals looking to scam tourists and fake doll islands. As someone who is not fluent in Spanish this was a concern and something I greatly researched before making the trek. I hope the following information is useful to someone and I believe that if I am able to make it to the island, anyone should be able to.

Island of the dolls in Mexico.
Exploring Mexico’s Island Of The Dolls.
Where do I need to go to visit the Island Of The Dolls?

There are multiple piers that allow guests to explore the canals. However, I recommend leaving from Xochimilco’s Embarcadero Celada. This pier is located in close proximity to The Island Of The Dolls and has many boats to choose from. I found the boat keepers polite and easy to negotiate with.

Boats of Xochimico taken to island of the dolls.
Colorful boats lined up at Xochimilco waiting to go to Island Of The Dolls.
When should you visit the Island Of The Dolls?

I recommend visiting The Island Of The Dolls on a weekday, since the canals are supposedly crowded and busy on weekends. I visited on a Monday and found negotiation peaceful and few other travelers around. Research before you visit to make sure you don’t end up at the port on a public holiday.

Mexico's Island Of The Dolls.
One of the many dolls on the Island Of The Dolls in Mexico.
How much does it cost to visit the Island Of The Dolls?

You’ll have to negotiate for a boat to take you from the port. There is signage at the front of the pier that displays the maximum cost per hour for a boat (note this price is not per person). If you are able to find others at the Embarcadero wishing to visit the island, splitting the fare helps to reduce costs. As at April 2018, the cost per hour for a boat was 500 pesos. It is a 4-hour round trip to the island, so expect to pay a maximum of 2000 pesos. If you are fluent in Spanish you could also try your luck negotiating a cheaper price. Once you get to the island, you will also need cash to tip the caretaker of the island to enter. I also brought a few hundred pesos to tip my boat driver. Finally, be sure to bring plenty of water and food. The boats have table and chairs on them so it is perfect for a picnic on the canals.

Creepy dolls on Doll Island.
More dolls decorating the island.
How do you tell the fake island from the real island?

Make sure to agree up front with the boat keeper to go to the ‘real’ doll island and not the fake one or ‘imitation.’ You’ll know you are on the right track to the correct one as you’ll pass an island of dolls covered in a fence of black shade cloth. You’ll continue onto the real Island Of The Dolls which is surrounded by a bamboo fencing. It should take between 1:30 and 2:00 hours to get to the island. Any shorter, and it is likely you are at a fake.

Fake Island of the dolls.
Passing by a fake doll island.

Useful Spanish Phrases to get to The Island Of The Dolls

We would like to go to the Island Of The Dolls.
Nos gustaría ir a la isla de las muñecas.

We want to go to the correct island, not the imitation island.
Queremos ir a la isla correcta, no a la isla de imitación.

This is not the correct island.
Esta no es la isla correcta.

How much will it cost?
¿cuanto costara?

Island Of The Dolls Haunted.
Inside hut on Island Of The Dolls,

Don’t forget to pay your respects to Julian and the little girl he found in the water at the island’s shrine and take lots of photos. Isla De Las Muñecas is a must see for fans of the macabre, horror and the paranormal.

Shrine on Island Of The Dolls.
Paying my respects at the Island Of The Dolls.

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to check out other unique places of death, have a read about this creepy pet cemetery in San Francisco.

Thanks for reading!

xoxo





11 comments

  • Posted by Sonia waine on April 9, 2018

    Another great blog Amy, good tips and good information, well donexx

      Posted by Amy on April 9, 2018

      Thanks for reading Sonia. Glad you found the information useful. Not knowing any Spanish makes it even harder but it was totally worth it.

  • Posted by peter on October 20, 2018

    Just watched the video on youtube, leading me to this article great reading Amy

      Posted by Amy on October 20, 2018

      Thank you so much Peter. Glad you found my article. I write one of these for every place I visit 😊

  • Posted by peter on October 21, 2018

    You´re very welcome Amy its very good nice i´ll have to read them some day maybe after watching all your videos 😉

  • Posted by K R on November 19, 2018

    Thanks for the tips. We want to go sometime next year and what little information I’ve see is from a few years ago, so yours being so recent is a lot of help.

      Posted by Amy on November 19, 2018

      Hi KR. Feel free to reach out to me on here or via email if you need ANY suggestions or help. There is a map in my Youtube video on this page which may also be useful to you. If you are able to have internet/GPS on your phone at the time, it may help to ensure you go to the right island. Here is a link to the exact location of the REAL doll island.

  • Posted by Diane on January 13, 2019

    Hey Amy!! Does anyone know who the little girl was?? I don’t recall ever hearing anything about her, her name, etc. Obviously she’s a big part of the mystic of the story and the island. The shows I’ve seen (Ghost Adventures, Strange Places,etc) focus on the island itself and little bit about Julian but never her.

      Posted by Amy on January 13, 2019

      Hi Diane. Thanks for reading. As far as I know, the little girl is unknown. Sometimes with ghost stories it can be hard to trace back to the original source as they are normally undocumented, word of mouth etc. In saying that though, although not much is known about the girl, she does play a big role in the story because supposedly it was because of her spirit that Julian began collecting the dolls in the first place.

  • Posted by KR on March 5, 2019

    Hello, we are actually planning on visiting the island in about 2 weeks. I’ve been meaning to ask, does the boat wait for you while you’re on the island or do they come back to pick up at a later time? Was it hard to get someone to agree to take you there? Also, were there other people on the island or boat with you?

    Thanks!

    -KR

      Posted by Amy on March 6, 2019

      Hi KR. Thank you so much for reading my post and leaving a comment. That is awesome that you are planning a trip there, you will have such a great time. The boat will indeed wait for you while you are on the island. If you want to spend a set amount of time on the island, I would recommend just letting your boat person know just incase. We did not find it overly hard to get a boat to take us (though we went on a weekday so it was much quieter – I heard the canals can get really busy during the weekend). In addition, we had a boat to ourselves but you can talk to other tourists heading to the island and see if they would like to share a boat to save money. The price is per boat (not per person), and it was around 500 pesos per hour for the boat. The round trip to and from doll island is 4 hours so you can expect to pay a max of 2000 pesos ($100USD). I have heard you can negotiate a cheaper price, and of course it is even cheaper if you share a boat with others. There were other people on the Island who had taken separate boats, as well as some locals that appeared to live on the Island. Good luck and let me know how your trip goes.

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