Imagine a fabulous city built on an island in the middle of a lake, and edging the island a maze of canals lined by floating gardens. The city was the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, and the gardens provided the local folks with fruits and vegetables for centuries – until the early 1500s, when Hernan Cortes and his conquistadores showed up. The area of the canals was called Xoximilco (pronounced sho-she-mill-ko).
Fast-forward 500 years, and the lake is filled in, Mexico City stands on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, and brightly painted gondola-like barges glide along the old canals of Xoximilco. Steered by guys with long poles, the barges – called trajineras – are often packed with Mexican families who've rented them (and maybe a second barge filled with a Mariachi band) for picnics. They've long been a big hit with tourists, too.
As of today (Dec. 20) you can enjoy a new version of Xoximilco 1,000 or so miles east of Mexico City on the Yucatan Peninsula. You'll find it a few miles away from Cancun International Airport, the busy terminal serving Cancun and the Riviera Maya on the powdery beaches of the Mexican Caribbean.
Called “Xoximilco Cancun,” the new attraction features nearly five miles of canals cutting through 140 acres of the Yucatan jungle. Workers pole the park's 40 trajineras from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. A Cancun spokeswoman said the new Xochimilco (a project of Experiencias Xcaret) “offers tourists a fun and unique way to hang out with friends and family, enjoy delicious local food and listen to live Mariachi music for an authentic Mexican fiesta on the water.”
In other news around the resort area, the Ritz Carlton Cancun just won its 16th AAA Five Diamond Award, reportedly making the luxury property the first to achieve this distinction. Also, the Hotel Flamingo Cancun, which released 28,000 newly hatched sea turtles from 316 nests in 2013 alone, was recognized by local authorities for “25 years of successful conservation and preservation of sea turtles.”
Getting there: Cancun International Airport is served by nonstop hops from major U.S. gateways including Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago-O'Hare, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York-JFK, Phoenix and San Francisco, among others.