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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!