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The Island of the Dolls: How to Visit Mexico’s Haunted Destination

The Island of the Dolls: How to Visit Mexico’s Haunted Destination

Just outside Mexico City, you can find perhaps the most bizarre place you could visit, an island with decaying dolls hanging from the branches of overhead trees.

You may have seen this haunted island on Ghost Adventures or perhaps from a local legend. Either way, this creepy destination had a lot to uncover and a lot of dolls to see.

What is the Island of the Dolls?

Island Of The Dolls

Known to the locals of Mexico City as Isla de las Muñecas, the Island of the Dolls is a mysterious island with a crazy past. The Island of the Dolls is a small island in Mexico City that is said to be haunted by the ghosts of dead children.

The island is covered in dolls, which are said to be possessed by the spirits of the dead children. Visitors to the island have reported hearing strange noises and seeing the dolls move independently.

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 History of the Island of the Dolls

Dead Dolls Hanging on an Island in Mexico City

The story behind the Island of the Dolls is a sad one. The Isla de las Muñecas was never created to become a tourist attraction. It started accumulating dolls only after a girl drowned.

According to the story, the dead body of a young girl was found on this island. The girl drowned under what can only be described as “mysterious circumstances.” The hundreds of dolls that inhabit the island’s trees are said to carry this poor lost soul’s spirit.

The island, however, had a caretaker, Don Julian Santana Barrera. The caretaker lived a solitary life. He was rarely seen by others and rarely even left the island. The story of finding the drowned girl came from Don Julian Santana Barrera, and as he described it, he did his very best to save her life and failed.

Black and White Photo of the Island of Dolls, Mexico

Days later, Don Julián Santana Barrera found a doll that had washed up, so he hung the doll in a tree to respect the little girl’s spirit that he couldn’t save. Thus, the first doll came to be. Many believe that the caretaker made up the little girl’s story because of the insanity that loneliness can cause.

As Don Julián Santana Barrera became haunted by images of the little girl in his dreams, he felt he hadn’t respected her spirit enough. To calm his spirit, he began to hang more dolls in the trees so that he could appease the little girl’s spirit and stop haunting him.

Doll after doll, he would hang, but night after night, the caretaker would be haunted by her image again. Don Julian Santana collected and hung dolls for over 50 years.

Spooky Dollhead at Night from Island of Dolls

In 2001, he was found drowned in the same spot where he claimed that he had found the dead girl. Since then, people have often visited the Isla de la Muñecas to experience the dolls and the girl’s spirit for themselves.

What are the hauntings at the Island of the Dolls?

Credit: Esparta Palma
Credit: Esparta Palma

Many tales are reportedly first-hand accounts of unusual events that have happened to people here. It is routinely said that people can hear the dolls whispering to each other up in the trees.

Sailors have reportedly said they have had unusual yearnings to visit the island while sailing by it. Local legends say that the dolls can move their arms and legs, roll their eyes at people, and even turn their heads to stare blankly at a visitor to the island.

Are all of these stories and legends true? Maybe… or maybe not. No matter what you may believe, there is one simple truth: visiting an island with hundreds of dolls hanging from trees, missing limbs and other body parts can be a bit creepy. Now imagine visiting the Isla de la Munecas at night…

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Where is Isla de las Muñecas?

Aerial View of Xochimilco in Mexico

The Isla de las Muñecas is located in the canals of Xochimilco, about 45 minutes south of Mexico City. This small island is worth a trip.

At a minimum, you must plan for at least a two-hour boat ride to arrive at the Isla de la Muñecas. You can also choose to explore the canals surrounding the area south of Mexico City, which will often double the time it takes to arrive at the island. You will need to take a boat there to see the island. Before you visit the island, you can enjoy a private taco walking tour.

 How to get to the Island of the Dolls

Boats on the Canals of Xochimilco, Mexico

The best way to get to the Island of the Dolls is by taking a tour from one of the many operators offering Xochimilco tours. You get to enjoy the Xochimilco canals (which are beautiful) as you approach this creepy spot. The best way to see the island is to book a private day tour and ask to visit the island. These tours typically include a stop at the doll-filled island.

Note that the major ferry lines in the area do not service the Isla de la Muñecas. You will need to ask boats in the area if they can take you there or have the island on the agenda. Plan for a fee of at least 200 pesos for the trip. 

Many people find they have luck taking a ferry from either Embarcadero Cuemanco or Embarcadero Fernando Celada.

Make sure to ask how long the boat trip to the island will take – some boats require a six-hour journey to get there when it should only take an hour or two from the city center.

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Things to see & do at the Island of Dead Dolls

Island of Dolls (Isla de las Muñecas), Mexico

There is a lot to see at and around the Island of Dead Dolls, which is why it has become a top tourist destination for those visiting Mexico City.

Things to see on the Isla de las Muñecas

The Island of the Dolls is a strange and fascinating place that is definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in Mexico City. Of course, the entire island is filled with dolls. Decapitated dolls, dolls hanging, and floating dolls.

You could spend hours looking at more dolls than you ever thought you’d see in a lifetime. Tourists offer dolls and gifts to the drowned girl and other spirits. Perhaps bring one of your dolls to join the island.

Make sure to see the cabin filled with a doll from every era. A doll with missing eyes, a doll who moves, or a doll who carries another lost soul.

Things to do near the Island of the Dolls

Boats in Xochimilco, Mexico

While the story behind the Island of the Dolls is a sad one, the island itself is actually quite beautiful. The canals of Xochimilco are lined with colorful flowers, and mariachi bands often play music on the boats.

You can take a private tour of the Xochimilco canals and make the experience custom for you. Alternatively, you can hop on a Xochimilco & Colonial Coyoacan small group tour which is a great affordable tourist attraction to take in the views.

The tours also take you to the Frida Kahlo Museum, where you can enjoy a museum tour. Here, you can learn about Frida Kahlo’s life and admire her work. Y

You can also experience the historic center of Coyoacan, which has cool architecture and a colonial vibe.

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Where to stay near la Isla de las Muñecas

Island of Dolls (Isla de las Muñecas) Closeup

The best place to stay when visiting the Island of the Dolls is in Mexico City. The capital of Mexico has the most things to do.

But if you want to stay closer to spend more time on the haunted island, Stay at the Hotel Amala. It is right across from the island, making it an easy trip!


Is Island of the Dolls real?

Yes, it is very real. Dolls hang from around all the trees nearby the same spot where a dead girl and a caretaker were found. You can see a doll floating or a decapitated doll any time of the year.

Can you go to the Island of the Dolls?

Yes. You can take a tour or a private boat to get to la Isla de las Muñecas. When you arrive, you can visit the museum on the island for $2.

How much does it cost to go to the Island of the Dolls?

If you take a tour, going to la Isla de las Muñecas is included. If you want to go onto the island and visit the small museum, it will cost about $2.

What is the story of Island of the Dolls?

The caretaker of the little-known island found a girl who drowned and tried to save her. He could not. He hung a doll to commemorate her spirit and kept hanging more dolls for fifty years. Today, people hear whispers and see dolls move their arms and limbs.

Is the Island of the Dolls scary?

Locals insist that the little girl and her doll haunt the island. And yes, it is eerie. People report an unseen force that whispers through the trees and unsettles nearby water. But, if you go during the day, it just looks creepy. The dolls are nothing more than beautiful protectors. Nothing too scary.

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