Did You Know Dark Tourism Exists in Mexico? Here’s What You Need to Know about the Island of the Dolls 

Did You Know Dark Tourism Exists in Mexico? Here’s What You Need to Know about the Island of the Dolls 
By Esparta Palma

Nestled in the canals of Xochimilco, about 17 miles south of Mexico City, lies the mysterious Isla de las Muñecas, or Island of the Dolls. This haunting destination captivates the imagination and evokes mystery and curiosity, drawing tourists from all over the world intrigued by its dark history and eerie ambiance. 

The Island of the Dolls, known locally as Isla de las Muñecas Encantadas or Isla de las Muñecas Malditas, stands out due to the more than 2,500 dolls of all shapes and sizes hanging from the trees and structures. According to Architect Digest, most of these dolls are old, naked, broken, or have missing eyes and hair, giving them a disturbingly creepy appearance. The sight of these dilapidated toys evokes a sense of the supernatural, though they are merely aged playthings. 

The Origins of the Island of the Dolls

Behind this chilling spectacle lies a fascinating story deeply intertwined with local culture and the supernatural. The legend tells of a young girl who drowned in the canals, her body discovered by the island’s former owner, Don Julián Santana. She was found clutching a doll, and after removing the toy, Don Julián claimed to be haunted by the girl’s spirit. To appease her, he began hanging dolls around the island, believing they would protect him from her ghost. 

Despite his efforts, the dolls often ended up in the canal or trash, leading Don Julián to believe the girl’s spirit was displeased. Nevertheless, he continued to collect and hang dolls, a ritual he maintained until his death in 2001. Today, it is said that both his spirit and the girl linger on the island, surrounded by the eerie dolls. 

Dark Tourism in Mexico

Over the years, the Island of the Dolls has become a popular tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the world who are intrigued by its haunting aura. In 2012, the island even caught the interest of famed director Tim Burton, known for his fascination with the macabre. 


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Visiting the island requires a bit of planning. Travelers can take a trajinera, a traditional flat-bottomed boat, from the Embarcadero Cuemanco or Embarcadero Fernando Celada. The trip can vary in duration, typically taking around two hours if going directly to the island, but longer if exploring the scenic canals. Boat trips generally cost around 200 Mexican pesos, and it’s advisable to confirm the journey’s duration in advance to avoid any surprises. 

The Xochimilco canals are remnants of the extensive lake system that once surrounded Mexico City. Historically, this area was dotted with lakes and islands, including Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City) and the city of Xochimilco. The canals offer a tranquil escape, especially during weekdays, and are worth a visit on their own. 

For those interested in dark tourism, the Island of the Dolls presents a unique and chilling experience. It’s essential, however, to approach the visit with respect for the history and the eerie ambiance of the site, remembering that it all stems from the tragic story of a young girl’s untimely death. 

Would you visit the Island of the Dolls?

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