Unusual Place of the Month: The Island of Dolls

dolls on the island of dolls in mexico

Known as “La Isla de la Muñecas” in Spanish, the “Island of the Dolls” is one of the creepiest tourist attractions in the world. You half expect Chucky to come out and slash you. It reminds me of those horror movies like The Hills Have Eyes, where someone searches inside the house and it looks like no one has been there for years and there are lots of ruined dolls on the floor. Yes, this is a creepy place filled with superstition.

Located in Xochimilco near Mexico City, the story of this place begins when a hermit named Don Julian Santana moved here. For some unknown reason, he had left his wife and decided to spend the last 50 years of his life living alone. I suspect it’s because his wife had kept stealing the covers while they were sleeping.

dolls on the island of dolls in mexico

The “haunted” aspect of this story begins when supposedly three girls once visited the island. While playing in the water, one of the girls drowned. As a result, her restless spirit haunted the island. Don Julian Santana initially put up one doll to ward off this paranormal menace and help put the girl’s soul to rest so she could pass on to the next life (some versions say a doll washed up where the girl drowned and that’s what started the doll collection).

However, the “activity” of the ghost only increased, and more and more dolls were placed in the trees in an attempt to appease the girl’s spirit. The only time Julian left the island was to get more dolls. He even used to trade food for dolls. It is also said that each doll holds a portion of the girl’s spirit.

Sadly, Don Julian Santana was found dead in 2001 in the same canal where he said the little girl drowned. (Freaky, huh?) The island was on the Syfy Channel show Destination Truth, where a paranormal investigation team spent the night. They apparently saw apparitions and heard voices.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, this is a strange tourist attraction, up there with creepy attractions like the Bone Church near Prague and the Catacombs in Paris.

Many visitors are overwhelmed by the creepy, ruined faces of dolls that appear to haunt this place. It feels as though they are following you as you wander around, checking you out. It is as though they are what haunts this island, not the spirit of the little girl…
 

How to Visit the Island of the Dolls

dolls on the island of dolls in mexico
This super eerie tourist attraction is located south of Mexico City. It’s on private property, but the nephew now runs tours there, so it’s easy to get to (though it will take time; plan to spend a full day getting here from Mexico City).

You’ll first head to Xochimilco from Mexico City. From there, you can book a trajinera (a wooden boat similar to a gondola) to tour around the canals and visit the island. Boats are booked by the hour, not by the amount of people, so it’s cheaper if you travel as a group.

Expect to spend around $75-100 USD for a four-hour boat ride. Also, be aware that there is now a “fake” island that is used to rip off tourists, so make sure you tell your boat driver to take you to the real island.

The canals can be crowded on weekends, so try to visit during the week if you can.
 

Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.

Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:

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Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip?
Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.

Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.