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JUAN FERNANDEZ

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JUAN FERNANDEZ

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Beyond its scenic beauty, Juan Fernandez archipelago has a rich history behind it, well worth knowing. Between the 17th and 18th centuries, these islands were the favorite refuge for pirates and corsairs and, some time later, the remote political prison in which the Spaniards tried to "drown" the longing for independence of the patriots who advocated Chile's independence.

The archipelago was discovered by the seafarer Juan Fernandez. Although the exact date is uncertain, it is said to have be on November 22, 1574. Some time later, in 1704, the Scottish corsair Alexander Selkirk was abandoned on one of the islands. Four years later, he was rescued, and his ordeal became the famous novel Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe.

Another important event was the sinking of the Dresden. This was the last ship of the well-known German squadron commanded by Fleet Admiral Von Spee, sunk by the Glasgow and Kent, English Navy vessels. The German ship is currently at 65 meters depth on the ocean bottom.

Robinson Crusoe island is the biggest in the archipelago, by comparison with the other islands, which are barely visible in an atlas. Despite their smallness, these islets -among which we can mention Marinero Alejandro Selkirk or Santa Clara- are full of attractions and things to see.

Now that you already know the history of Juan Fernandez archipelago, which was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1977, make sure you come to visit the sites that will become your favorite places within this Insular Chile area.
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Robinson Crusoe Island is truly worthy of a novel. It is the biggest isle in the Juan Fernandez archipelago. It is 670 kilometers from the city of Valparaiso and it has a population of over 500 inhabitants, mainly living from fishing.

A tour around Robinson Crusoe Island must include a stop at the Vantage Point, a unique lookout with a magnificent view. This lookout point is said to be the one which Selkirk (who inspired the famous novel) often used to visit in order to search for corsair vessels. Mts Yunque and Tres Puntas are also singularly beautiful.

Other attractions on the island are:
  • The Island Cemetery was the place where seafarers used to bury their fellow travelers. It is located on the shore of Robinson Crusoe Island. Here lie the mortal remains of Baron Alfredo de Rodt, who, in 1877 laid the foundations for the current settlement on the island, and also of the sailors of the Dresden, the last vessel of the German squadron in World War I.


  • Yunque Square was a refuge to the so called "German Robinson", the sailor Hugo Weber, who survived the sinking of the Dresden and lived on the island for 12 years. It is possible to reach the site after a 2-hour walk, during which tourists have the chance to appreciate several varieties of ferns and the huge "nalca" and "pangue" leaves, locally known as "Robinson's umbrella".


  • Robinson's Cave, also known as "Puerto Ingles", since it is still visible at the top of the hill overlooking the bay, contains the huge fort cannons which defended the island from British corsair attacks. It is located 20 minutes away by boat from San Juan Bautista (the inhabited area on Robinson Island).


  • Puerto Frances was the French buccaneers' favorite landing place. It is located south of Cumberland bay, three sailing hours away.


  • Arenal Beach is located at the southwestern tip of the island. After a two-hour sailing journey through unforgettable islets, cliffs and walrus colonies one reaches this area of crystal-clear warm water. A tent, sleeping bags and food are highly recommended items to take on this tour.

Juan Fernandez National Park covers an area of 18,300 hectares (9,300 on Robinson Crusoe Island, 8,500 on Selkirk Island and 500 on Santa Clara island). The site was declared a World Biosphere Reserve in 1977. It is located 674 kilometers from the continent on the Pacific Ocean island.
Seventy per cent of the flowers found in the archipelago, which was declared a National Park in 1935, are native to this place. Among the flora species, it is possible to find indigenous varieties of apple trees, cabbage, cinnamon trees and palm trees, all of them bearing "Juan Fernandez" in their names. Other important species are the "coralillo", the "luma de masafuera", the "Juan Bueno", the "mayu monte", the "olivillo", the "madera dura" and several climbing ferns.
Within the fauna species, are the "double-furred" sea lion, a sea mammal found in the locations of Santa Clara and Tres Puntas, the Green-backed Fire Crest, frequently seen in the interior forests and the "cernicalo". The three latter species bear "Juan Fernandez" in their names.
The animal species introduced by man are: the "Juan Fernandez goat", the rabbit, the coati, the common mouse and the cats, currently roaming wild.

Alejandro Selkirk Island is the highest section of the archipelago, due to the presence of Mt Los Inocentes (1,650 meters). The island has a surface area of 85 sq km and is located 180 kilometers from Robinson Crusoe Island and 834 from Valparaiso.
In this area, it is possible to admire cliffs about a thousand meters in height. The beaches are rocky and have little sand.
The island has a population of only 25 inhabitants (unless someone was born after this page was edited!) living at the Colonia inlet and in the De las Casas gully.

Santa Clara Island is the smallest island in the archipelago, and is currently deserted. It covers an area of 5 sq km and is 1 ½ km from Robinson Crusoe Island



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