The creepy Mexico City destination features thousands of mutilated dolls given as offerings to the spirit of a drowned girl by a local recluse
Would you dare to visit the spine-tingling Island of the Dolls?
The creepy location is based in Mexico City on an old chinampa.
A chinampa is an old Aztec method of agriculture where small sections of land are used to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.
The artificial islands are usually surrounded by water, but are easily accessible by boat.
As you would expect from the name, this particular island is full of dolls.
They were placed there but the chinampa’s former owner Julián Santana Barrera for a very specific reason.
It began in the 1950s, when Julián decided to leave his wife and family behind, move onto the island and live as a recluse.
He claims that the island was haunted by a young girl who had drowned in a nearby canal.
According to legends, Julián decided to appease the girl’s spirit by collecting dolls that he found floating in the canals and in rubbish heaps near by.
He also swapped the produce he grew on the chinampa with locals in exchange for their dolls.
Then, he would hang them in the trees of the island as a sign of respect for the girl’s spirit.
Now, there is an alternative theory behind this story which doesn’t include the supernatural.
Some locals theorise that a girl was drowned in the canal and that Julián found the body – he was so traumatised that he lost his mind.
Others believe the entire tale to be a fiction of the man’s active imagination.
Whatever the truth, the island makes for a creepy attraction.
One of the reasons is that Julián never made any effort to clean up the dolls or repair them.
He hung them as he found them, meaning many are damaged, missing their heads or limbs and the weather had further disfigured the items.
Over time, the island became a tourist attraction and Julián would take visitors on guided tours.
He was not afraid of the dolls as he views them as his protectors, though others believe they’re possessed by spirits and come to life at night.
Julián died in 2001 – and while some believe he suffered a heart attack, others insist he drowned in the area where he believed the girl had died.
Even though the location is associated with dark legends, guests continue to flock there.
This is probably because the dark tourism market is “booming”, according to a study by Kathleen Alton.
Researchers say this “niche Market includes the Island of Dolls, known as ‘La Isla de las Muñecas’ to locals”.
The terrifying destination was dubbed “creepy as f***” by one reviewer on TripAdvisor.
The holidaymaker, from Hong Kong, went on to add: “The trip to the dolls was equally as fun as reaching there.
“The island itself was a bit eerie and great for photos, keeping in mind it’s become a tourist attraction. It’s about 3-4 hours trip and leaving from Embercado Cuemenco.”
Another said that the trip was a “highlight” for them.
The Canadian reviewer said that the boat ride is a two hour trip, one way, but that the travel is beautiful and so felt shorter.
She added: “This is not a nice place for young children! This is a spooky place, with a sad history.”
Unfortunately, it seems that one couple didn’t listen to her advice though.
The British mother wrote: “Absolutely terrible and horrifying! I took my four-year-old daughter here thinking it was a land of doll houses and happiness, but it was more like a horror maze of dead peoples lost toys.
“They should advertise it as what it is and not what they want people to think it is! Not the happy fairy tale I was hoping for.”
Other reviewers advise that you know what you are looking for and that you are wary of being scammed.
One traveller claimed that she was taken to a false island with just five dolls “rather than thousands”.
So, if the Island of the Dolls sounds up your street you should expect to pay around 2,000 pesos per boat and then an additional 40 pesos entrance fee.
That’s around £82 and £1.65 respectively.
You may be asked to pay 400 pesos to take photographs – that’s £16.
To get there you must go to the Embarcadero Cuemanco entrance in Mexico City and negotiate with the tour guides.
if you’re looking to stay close to the entrance then the Hotel Novo Coapa is nearby and costs around £55 per night.
Alternatively, the Hotel Amala costs between £30 and £60 per night, dependant on the dates you travel, and is categorised as a four-star hotel.
If you don’t mind a bit of distance, then our top hotel recommendation would be the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, a stunning five-star hotel around two hours away from the dock by bus.