Island Of The Dolls: A Guide To Mexico’s Creepiest Attraction

The Island of the Dolls has (quite rightly) been named one of the world’s scariest tourist attractions. If you dare to set foot on the island near Mexico City, you will be met with the horrific sight of hundreds of half-decomposed dolls hanging from trees and wooden shacks.

But the story of how they got there is almost as terrifying as the dolls themselves. Read on, if you can handle it, to discover more about Isla de las Muñecas.

The story of Isla de las Muñecas

Credit: Derek Simeone

In the 1950s, a Mexican man named Don Julian Santana Barrera sought solitude on an island in Xochimilco to the south of Mexico City.

One day, while exploring his land, he discovered the body of a young girl who had drowned in the nearby waters. Soon after, a doll — which he assumed was the girl’s — washed up on the shore. Out of respect for the girl, he hung it from a tree.

Soon, however, Don Julian started to feel the presence of a spirit. In an attempt to satisfy it, he started to hang more and more dolls from the trees. His offerings turned into an obsession. For five decades he continued to hang dolls, which he found in the trash or in the canals’ waters, around the island.

Dolls in Isla de las Munecas
Credit: Derek Simeone

In 2001, after a lifetime of dedication to the island and its dolls, Don Julian’s body was reportedly discovered in the same place in which he discovered the young girl.

Since then, more and more tourists have visited the island to see the dolls and hang their own as a sign of respect for the girl and Don Julian himself.

Are there ghosts or spirits there?

Well, science will tell you… no, obviously. But that hasn’t stopped rumors of some pretty spooky events on the Island of the Dolls. Visitors have reported seeing the heads of the dolls turn to follow them as they explored the islands. Others have heard the whispers, footsteps, and even wails of spirits echo around the island.

Where is the Island of the Dolls?

Two of the dolls in the Island of the Dolls
Credit: Esparta Palma

The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, which is around 30km south of Mexico City. After arriving in Xochimilco, you will need to board a trajinera, a colorful gondola-style vessel which is the main form of transportation around the area’s canals.

Take a boat from the Embarcadero Cuemanco dock, making sure to ask which ones will be stopping at Isla de las Muñecas. The journey should take between one to two hours.

Where to stay

If you’re going to visit the horrors of the Island of the Dolls, then you will want somewhere relaxing to stay. Below are three of our favorite luxury getaways in Mexico City:

Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City

Four Seasons Mexico City

Book a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel in Mexico City for a taste of traditional luxury. The rooms circle a gorgeous inner courtyard which boasts its own centerpiece fountain. Rooms come with a plush, yet modern, design, while guests can take advantage of the on-side restaurants, rooftop pool, and gym. With an ideal spot on Reforma Avenue, you are perfectly located to visit the nearby attractions and upscale restaurants.

St. Regis Mexico City

St. Regis Mexico City, Luxury Hotel | Journey Mexico

Stay at the ultra-luxurious St. Regis in Mexico City with its wonderful views over the famous statue of Diana. The rooms, which are designed by Yabu Pushelberg, are stylish, modern, and chic with hues of grays, beiges, and deep purple. The hotel offers top-class amenities, including five excellent restaurants, a spa, beauty salon, and a swimming pool.

Casa Prim

Head to Casa Prim for a boutique stay in a former luxury home. Built in the early 20th century, Casa Prim is a throwback to Mexico’s former mansion homes. Each of the 13 rooms boasts a modern design and the latest luxury amenities. Based in Colonia Juarez, guests can explore the local art galleries, eat at gourmet restaurants, and have a drink at the nearby modern speakeasies.

Explore Xochimilco and the Island of the Dolls

Let us take the difficulty of planning a trip to Xochimilco away from you. Talk to our highly knowledgeable travel planners who can book you an incredible trip to explore its gorgeous waterways.

Combine a trip to Xochimilco with a visit to Mexico City and explore one of the world’s great city destinations.

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