Juan Fernandez Islands

Overview

Introduction

Reached only by air taxis, private yachts, commercial cruises, and occasional government and naval voyages, the Juan Fernandez Islands is a volcanic archipelago about 410 mi/660 km west of Santiago takes its name from its Spanish discoverer. The main island, Isla Robinson Crusoe, derives its name from the legend of the marooned Alexander Selkirk, a real-life model for Daniel Defoe's fictional castaway. Selkirk spent more than four years there, but the island that bears his own name, Isla Alejandro Selkirk, is inaccessible except for visitors with their own yachts or plenty of time and money to hire a charter.

A UNESCO World Biosphere reserve, the Juan Fernandez group is home to large colonies of fur seals and lush endemic forests with a growing network of hiking trails. San Juan Bautista, the only settlement, has decent accommodations and several restaurants that serve local "lobster" (really crayfish) at prices a small fraction of what they cost when they are exported to Santiago. Many of its services, though, were washed away by the tsunami that accompanied the massive Chilean earthquake of February 2010.

Flights are subject to demand and weather—check with Lassa (phone 2-273-5209), which operates out of Santiago's suburban Tobalaba airfield. During the rest of the year, plane and boat rides (from Valparaiso) are irregular at best. Most cruises spend one day at each island.

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