Robinson Crusoe Island

Juan Bautista town in Rrobinson Crusoe Island

Juan Bautista town in Robinson Crusoe Island

Located at 414 miles from the continent, opposite to the city of Valparaíso, the Robinson Crusoe Island (isla Robinson Crusoe) is part of one of the most beautiful natural reserves in the world, the marvelous Juan Fernández Archipelago (Archipiélago Juan Fernández). The archipelago Juan Fernández National Park supervised by CONAF since 1935. It comprises 28,765.5 acres . Only two areas of the Robinson Crusoe Island are excluded from the park (about 978 acres), corresponding to the village and the area of Punta de la Isla, where the runway of 2,788 feet of length is located. In 1977 it was declared Reserve of the Biosphere by UNESCO.

The Robinson Crusoe Island has a population of about 600. They all live in San Juan Bautista, a small town that has a creek with about 80 boats and a modern dock. The places of greatest interest for the tourists are very well indicated by CONAF. Some are remarkable for their exuberant flora beauty and others, for the chance to see species that are unique in the world. Among the activities that can be performed in the island stand out: diving and sport fishing, since the waters offer a real submarine paradise.

History

The Robinson Crusoe Island was created from several volcanic explosions, which then formed the Juan Fernández Archipelago. It was discovered in 1574 by Juan Fernández, a sailor looking for better routes. In 1704 Alejandro Selkirk was stranded in the island, which inspired Daniel Defoe to write one of the classic novels of literature that bears the same name of the island.

The Robinson Crusoe Island is the only island in the archipelago that keeps a permanent population, concentrated in the city of San Juan Bautista and the nearby areas. The local economy is based on fishing lobster, a typical specie famous around the world.

Tourism

The legendary story of the island, transforms it into a mysterious and thrilling place. But its beautiful geography makes it a paradisiacal and unforgettable place.

Its lands still keep the marvelous feature of a land unexploited by men, for which it could be considered to be an almost virgin land. We have many options for accessing the natural beauties offered by the island. Many activities can be performed within the island.

One of the most special and enriching opportunities for enjoying the environment of the island is practicing trekking. There are excursions guided by experts, on bikes or by foot, which offer a more personal and deep encounter with this privileged nature.

Horse riding can become a fascinating occasion for appreciating the diverse geography of the island, traveling along its more significative places of historical interest, along a guide specialized in the history and traditions of the island.

Diving in Robinson Crusoe island waters.

Diving in Robinson Crusoe island waters.

Practicing sports such as diving and submarine hunting are ideal instances for exploring a more hidden place of the natural magic, which cannot be seen at first glance. The island offers instruction services and complete diving equipment. You are invited to submerge in the transparent and warm waters of the island to get the opportunity to see the rich submarine fauna and flora.

The sport fishing is a stimulating sport not only because of the interest found in many of the species in the island (tuna [atún], jack mackerel [jurel], humback smoothhound [tollo], rock salmon [salmón de roca]), but also for the great opportunity the locals give you to come along with a fisherman along his daily tasks which include cooking a lobster in high seas.

The Treasure Island

It’s told that a fabulous booty was hidden in 1714 by the admiral of the royal fleet in Veracruz, México, the Spanish Juan Esteban Ubilla y Etcheverría. The treasure was dug up by English corsairs and again buried due to a riot that ended up with the destruction of the pirate ship. The fortune has been appraised in more than 10 billion dollars, which would correspond to an Aztec tribute of 800 barrels with gold. The North American Bernard Keiser has been looking for the treasure since 1998, and has invested more than 2 million dollars in the expedition.

Among the main trips that can be done around the Robinson Crusoe Island is to travel along the way that takes you to the fort and the Patriots cave. It lasts one hour and 30 minutes.

In town there’s the Santa Bárbara Fort, declared national monument. It was the most important fort for defending the Spanish sovereignty from the pirates’ invasions during the XVIII century. There are still seven of its cannons. In the nearby area you will be able to observe grottos, called Patriot Caves, which served as refuge for the deported in 1814, after the Disaster of Rancagua.

On the north bank there’s the cemetery of the Robinson Crusoe Island, where there are the remains of some sailors of the German ship Dresden that fought here against the English ships Kent, Glasgow and Orama, in 1915, and was finally sank. There’s a memorial plaque with an iron cross. There’s also the tomb of the Swiss Baron Alfred von Rodt, considered the first settler of the island, who in 1877 set up the basis for the actual population and lived in the island until his death.

The trip to the Selkirk viewpoint, is a stretch of 4 hours. Take some snack.

It’s a self-guided trail, opened by CONAF, and it takes you to where Alejandro Selkirk used to wait for a ship that would save him from his isolation.

Robinson Crusoe Island is located in Juan Fernandez National Park

Robinson Crusoe Island is located in Juan Fernandez National Park

The trip begins at the trail that passes by the Santa Bárbara fort and then right after goes inland trough mixed forests. You will go up until arriving to the viewpoint (at 1,853.6 feet of altitude), where it stand out the two plaques in memory of the Selkirk epic: one was put there by officials of the British ship “Topaze”, from His Royal Majesty in the year 1878, and the other, more recent, by its descendants. From the viewpoint you can appreciate a big part of the island grandeur.

The trip to the Robinson cave (cueva de Robinson), will last 3 hours, including 20 minutes on boat.

On the boat trip going North, the first thing that stands out is the grotto of Robinson (gruta de Robinson), at about 164 feet off the shore, where Alejandro Selkirk lived. On the hill of the bay, you can see the cannons of the fort that resisted the British corsairs that used to come here for repairs or resting. The first one among them, Bartolomeo Sharp, stopped here in 1720. That’s why the place is called British Port (Puerto Inglés).

There you will find a beach full of stones and crabs. 164 miles away from the cave, there are the excavations done by the North American historian Bernard Keiser, who’s searching for the treasure, supposedly buried by the pirates in the island.

The trip to the French Port (Puerto Francés) lasts one hour on boat. The high part has restricted visits due to scientific labors.

You will sail South to the Cumberland bay until arriving to a place where the French pirates disembarked, stimulating the construction of a fort, in 1779, on the actual high part of the French Port. In this place you can camp; in order to travel around the French Port it’s recommended to hire the services of accredited guides.

It’s a trip that can be made in one or two days. You must stay over the night with sleeping bags. Take food and water.

This warm beach, the only one in the island, is located in the southeast end of the peninsula, to the south of the runway. Sailing by boat takes two hours and 30 minuets. It’s a beautiful trip through islets, cliffs and sea lions sites, amongst a landscape different to the rest of the island. At the Arenal beach (playa Arenal) you will be able to swim in warm and transparent waters. There are some natural caves. There’s the option to visit the Arenal beach for the day, by hiring the service of a local operator.

Also, in the Robinson Crusoe Island stands out the lobster fishing. The daily work of many locals consists in sailing looking for lobsters, since this crustacean is the economical base of the population. Each fisherman maintains traps around the island. The visitor can accompany one of the locals to see how they extract the lobster. When arranging the trip, request that they prepare you a “Perol” onboard, the typical lobster “cazuela” (casserole). Make sure the boat it’s authorized and has passengers insurance.

To go to the El Yunque Small Square (Plazoleta el Yunque) you access it by a route towards the small square. The area towards El Yunque has limited access to research. Next to it, there’s a self-guided trail with a big amount of ferns and a native forest with endemic species of great beauty.

The small square is at the foot of the El Yunque hill (cerro El Yunque), the tallest of the island with an altitude of 3,001 feet. In this place stayed isolate during twelve years the German sailor Hugo Weber, survivor of the Dresden ship, known later as the “German Robinson”.

On the road that goes for 3.1 miles, you will be able to see diverse varieties of ferns, and also enormous leaves of nalca or pangue (Gunnera peltata), also called “Robinson’s umbrella.” The foundations of the rustic dwelling of Weber still subsist at the small.

The trip to Centinela hill (cerro Centinela). It lasts 2 hours, and it’s accessed by the area of Pangal Bay (Bahía Pangal) and from town. From the hill the entire Cumberland Bay, the English Port and the immensity of the Pacific can be appreciated. At the top there are the ruins of the first Navy Radio station, destroyed by the strong winds in the place.

In the Robinson Crusoe Island you can visit the Villagra y La Punta. It’s an extraordinary trip by a trail that takes you from San Juan Bautista up to the La Punta in 6 hours one way. The total trip can be made in one day. In order to stay at Villagra, it must be done with tents, and it’s allowed to camp in a well defined place and only for one night. Take food, there’s water available.

It’s a splendid excursion that crosses a great part of the island and allows appreciating the diversity of its climate and flora: you go from a subtropical jungle to semi-desert “coironal” steppes (grasses and shrubs). Along the trip, by the trail of 11.1 miles, you will go down from the viewpoint Selkirk towards Villagra. At the end of January, the traditional Villagra Rodeo (Rodeo de Villagra) is held. Towards the runway, you will continue bordering cliffs with beautiful panoramic views. There, take the chance to visit the Arenal beach. Go back using the same road or by boat from the embarking dock of Del Padre Bay (Bahía del Padre) in Punta de Isla.

In the Juan Fernández Archipelago is located the Robinson Crusoe Island Cultural Legacy Route (Ruta Patrimonial Isla Robinson Crusoe), classified as Trail of Chile (Sendero de Chile), with a trail of 9.3 miles.

The stretch of Trail of Chile in the Robinson Crusoe Island is the only one that has a different kind of trailing: submarine activities in the area of El Adriático, an area of 500 m, approximately, located 20 minutes on a motorboat from the village. These are combined with the 9.3 miles of walking between the area of Punta Isla and the town of San Juan Bautista.

Recommendations

The tourism season, in general, begins in October and ends in April, since these are the best months in regards to the climate in the island. Take light clothing and a waterproof jacket apt for a maritime-subtropical with possible rainfall climate. The annual average temperature de 63.5 °F. We also recommend taking a hat, sunglasses, sun block, bathing suit, towel, trekking shoes, and light waterproof jacket for the occasional rainfall and a flashlight for exploring.

There are no banks in the Robinson Crusoe Island, therefore it will better not use checks, only cash. Credit cards are not accepted either. Take telephone cards.

The electrical power used is 220 V.

It’s not recommended for passengers with a delicate health condition or with diseases that may have a crisis while traveling, due to the lack of high tech health facilities.

Services available are: post-office, public telephones, Internet, satellite TV, rural emergency room, police, and harbormaster’s office, besides community organizations such as sports and leisure clubs, and especially during the summer, a pub and disco (La Brújula). You will also find many restaurants, lodging houses and family-owned lodging, all with a homely character, and a House of Culture (Casa de la Cultura) and the Library, called Alfredo de Rodt, with an exhibits room open from Monday to Friday, from 10 am to 12 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm; admission is free.

Two companies fly from Santiago to Robinson Crusoe. The planes can carry five to ten passengers with a baggage limit of 22 lb per person. The flight lasts between 2 hours and 2 hours 30 minutes and arrives to the runway in Punta de Isla. There a motorboat is taken that sails to town in about 1:30 h. There are less possibilities of accessing the island by boat. One of them is a by private ships and the other, on trips that the Navy makes with an irregular frequency. In both the locals have the preference. It’s a trip in high seas, lasting two days and a half with a lot of movement. Bring pills for dizziness.

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