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Juan Fernandez Islands

Travel Guide South America Chile Juan Fernandez Islands

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Introduction

The Juan Fernandez Islands are 3 islands, about 700 kilometeres west of the Chilean mainland. The smallest is Isla Santa Clara near the main island of Isla Robinson Crusoe. The third one is a bit more east and is named Isla Alejandro Selkirk, after the Scottish maroon, who spend more than 4 years on Isla Robinson Crusoe. This real life story inspirated Daniel Defoe for writing his bestseller 'Robinsoe Crusoe'. This book was actually set in the Caribbean, but the real Robinson Crusoe story is based on this island, far from any civilisation. Not so many visitors pay a visit to these islands, as prices to get there are high (around 500 US dollar for a round flight) and the islands are very small, so paying a high price will leave you rather bored after a few days. There some great hiking opportunities though, as part of the islands are a World Biosphere Reserve. The geography of the islands is magnificent as, although being small islands, elevation rise to 1,650 metres on Isla Alejandro Selkirk, lower though at Isla Robinson Crusoe. The high summits mean that there are big differences considering rainfall and because of that the vegetation: the southeast is much drier and the wetter northwest.

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Geography

Robinson Crusoe Island (33°38′00″S 78°51′00″W), also known as Isla Más a Tierra, is located closest to the mainland of continental South America, and is surrounded by a number of islets, including Juanango, Viñilla, Los Chamelos, Los Claveles and El Verdugo. Santa Clara (33°42′07″S 79°00′05″W) is lying 1 kilometre southwest of Robinson Crusoe. Alejandro Selkirk Island (33°46′00″S 80°47′00″W), also known as Isla Más Afuera, is located 180 kilometres further west.

Alejandro Selkirk is the largest of the Juan Fernández Islands at 49.5 km2, and its highest peak, De Los Inocentes, is 1,329 metres. The island's population was 57 in 2012. Robinson Crusoe is the second largest island in the archipelago at 47.9 km2; its highest peak, El Yunque, is 915 metres. The population of Robinson Crusoe was 843 in 2012. Santa Clara is 2.2 km2 in area and reaches a height of 375 metres. Santa Clara is uninhabited. The maximum elevations of Juan Fernández, 915 metres for Robinson Crusoe and 1,329 metres (4,360 ft) for Alejandro Selkirk, respectively, are high enough to cause the phenomenon known as a Kármán vortex street, which can be seen from space.

The islands are volcanic in origin, produced by the movement of the Nazca Plate over the Juan Fernández hotspot. As the plate moved eastward over the hot spot, volcanic eruptions formed the Juan Fernández Ridge before being subducted under the South American continent at the Peru–Chile Trench. The islands occur where the peaks of the submarine ridge have protruded above sea level. Radiometric dating indicates that Santa Clara is the oldest of the islands, at 5.8 million years old, followed by Robinson Crusoe, 3.8-4.2 million years old, and Alexander Selkirk, 1.0-2.4 million years old.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

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Events and Festivals

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Weather

The islands have a subtropical Mediterranean climate, moderated by the cold Humboldt Current, which flows northward to the east of the islands, and the southeast trade winds. Temperatures range from 3 °C to 34 °C, with an annual mean of 15.4 °C. Higher elevations are generally cooler, with occasional frosts on Robinson Crusoe.

Average annual precipitation is 1,081 mm, varying from 318 mm to 1,698 mm year to year. Much of the variability in rainfall depends on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Rainfall is higher in the winter months, and varies with elevation and exposure; elevations above 500 metres experience almost daily rainfall, while the western, leeward side of Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara are quite dry.

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Getting There

Apart from getting there by plane, you can also take an irregular sailing or cargo ship which takes about 2 days to get there. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to reach the outer island of Isla Alejandro Selkirk, almost 200 kilometres east from the main island, as there is no regular transport and you might have to spend a long time on the island. But of course, that is what a traveller should really experience to truly understand the Robinson Crusoe effect!

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Getting Around

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Eat/ Drink

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Sleep

PropertyAddressTypePopularity
Hostel Pez VoladorRobinson Crusoe IslandGuesthouse-

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This is version 3. Last edited at 12:56 on Jul 19, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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