Nevado de Toluca and Island of the Dead Dolls in Mexico

Nevado de Toluca Stratovolcano

At 120 km from Mexico City over the valley of the river, Lerma rises a huge dormant volcano Nevado de Toluca, which became in the 1930s the center of the national park of the same name. Giant mountain, composed of multiple layers of lava and ash, was formed about 100 thousand years ago, and there have been no strong eruptions for more than three centuries. Glaciers once covered the slopes of the Toluca Mountains, but they have not survived, and only on the coldest days does snow fall on the ridges. However, there are other interesting places in Mexico.

It is not difficult to get to the national park: the highway runs directly through the Paso Quetzales range, at 4,150 m high, with 5 trekking routes of varying difficulty, and one trail leads directly into the crater of the volcano.

The highest point of the volcano is Pica del Fraile. This peak rises to 4,680 m above sea level.

At the foot of Nevado de Toluca stretches low-growing jungle, with forests growing on the mountain slopes:

  • oak forests,
  • pine,
  • spruce forests.

At an altitude of 4,000 m, there are colorful subalpine meadows, and even higher there are only bare rocks and stones covered with moss.

The crater fills two glacial reservoirs, Lake of the Sun and Lake of the Moon, separated by the volcanic dome of Ombligo. Their crystal-clear waters reflect clouds, sheer stone walls, and pointed peaks.

Practical Information

Address: State of Mexico City, Volcan Nevado de Toluca. GPS coordinates: 19.1080753, -99.7698659.

How to get there: take a bus from Mexico City’s West Bus Station to the village of Raíces, then catch a cab (90 MXN). It will take about 2 hours to drive through Mexico 15D. There is a fee to enter the national park, 50 MXN. Prices on this page are for May 2021.

Island of the Dead Dolls

Hidden in one of the canals of the “place of flowers” of Socimilco, filled with the guitar chime and sweet voices of the mariachis, is the gloomy Island of the Dead Dolls. It is said that a little girl, the daughter of the fisherman Julián Barrera, the only man living on the island in the early 50s, once drowned here.

The unfortunate father, who found the child’s toy, thought his daughter’s spirit had taken up residence in the doll and tied it to a tree. And then he collected discarded toys from all around and hung them on branches. The recluse died, and his abode was discovered by accident in 1991 while clearing canals of accumulated trash. Today the “scary island” has become a popular tourist attraction.

What to See

Most of the trees here are dried out, with at least a thousand mutilated dolls with no arms, legs, or heads hanging from the black limbs. The toys are covered with dirt and mold, with insects crawling all over them. In the pavilion, instead of the hut where the fisherman lived, there is a bed, and on it a doll the size of a 6-year-old girl. Antonio Barrera, the island’s current caretaker, and the hermit’s nephew, did a great job. It has already become a custom to bring here the toys of dead children, their shadows seem to hover between the trees, the atmosphere is very oppressive and sad.

To get to the island you have to be by water, but not all boatmen agree to sail to it. Arrangements must be made before departure, so as not to get on the standard circular route on Xochimilco. With the return trip, the trip takes about 4 hours. It is customary to leave sweets and cookies on the shore. You should not take children here.

Practical Information

Address: Mexico City, Xochimilco Nativitas. Web site: GPS coordinates: 19.290148, -99.096549.

Getting there: take the Metro to Terminal Xochimilco or Terminal Bosque De Nativitas, then take a hired boat. The price of the tour varies from 1500 to 4500 MXN.