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Until just over a century ago Mexico City was surrounded by lakes that were all connected by canals. Produce grown in the south was taken by this system to the north of the city and vice versa. Starting in the late nineteenth century, various drainage schemes were introduced, and today only the Xochimilco system in still intact.
Getting there is easy - just take metro Line Two to Taxqueña and then the light railway out to Xochimilco. From there you can walk to the various landing stages where the punts are moored. Their prices are fixed and the rates are clearly posted. Basically, the bigger the punt, the more it costs to hire. The puntsman will take you on a one hour trip around a section of the canals that includes a stop to let him rest and allows you to buy souvenirs at one of the artisan markets.
At weekends, Xochimilco is so crowded that you may have to wait for a punt to be free. If crowds are not to your liking, you can visit a mini Xochimilco at the Lago de los Reyes Aztecas. This Aztec Kings' Lake was originally a part of the main canal system, but it then it deteriorated into a swamp. In the early 1990s the water was allowed back and it was opened up as a tourist attraction. The plan is that eventually the link to Xochimilco will be reopened, but at the time of writing all that exists is the massive lake and two channels that stil don't connect to anything. Hardly any tourists ever visit, and it does not feature in the guidebooks, but if you want to avoid the other foreigners, this is the place to go.
Getting there... You are going to love this: take Metro Line Two to Taxqueña and leave the station by the paradero norte exit. Walk along the lines of peseros until you get to the last one. These buses go to Tulyhualco and the journey out to the lake will take about an hour. You will see it on your right hand side, just before the bus makes its final stop in Tulyhualco. (And now you know why nobody visits the place.)