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The Juan Fernández Archipelago

Just 670 kilometers off the coast of Valparaíso lies three tiny inactive volcanic islands that make up the Archipelago Juan Fernández in the Pacific Ocean. These islands are a fairly well-kept secret, not nearly as famous as Chile's Easter Island, but the government is still pushing to increase visitor numbers after renaming two of the islands in the 1960s to draw tourists.


The largest island, Masatierra, became Isla Robinson Crusoe, and Isla Masafuera is now known as Alejandro Selkirk in honor of the archipelago's interesting history: In 1704, Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk was marooned on one of islands for four years, and his story became the basis for Daniel Defoe's 1917 classic novel, Robinson Crusoe. The smallest island, just over 500 hectares, kept it's name of Isla Santa Clara. The only inhabited island in the Archipelago is Robinson Crusoe. This is where most visitors stay too, and you could sit for hours watching the fishermen go about their daily lives.


With the exception of the small airfield and the 600-person fishing village of San Juan Bautista on Isla Robinson Crusoe, the three islands are almost completely national park land and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve due to the quantity of endemic flora and fauna. The maritime climate and high humidity creates a unique ecosystem, and the warm, clear waters are full of big, delicious lobsters, which attracts seafood lovers.


The islands offer great birdwatching, fishing, hiking, as well as some of the best scuba diving in the country.  From the village, you can walk up to the Mirador Alejandro Selkirk, the lookout point from where Selkirk scoured the horizon for ships. It's a nice 3 km hike through forest, which takes around an hour and a half in total.  Playa Arenal is the island's only sandy beach, and a lovely place to hang out for a couple of days. It is surrounded by crystal-clear waters, which are great for swimming.


However, due to the limited number of tourists, tourist infrastructure is minimal, and it's important to know that there are no banks or ATMS anywhere on the archipelago, so be sure to bring sufficient cash for your visit.

By Karen Nagy
Karen Nagy is a staff editor/writer at V!VA. She studied travel writing and learned the joys of Mediterranean island-hopping in Greece, and went on...
01 Oct 2009

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