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Pacific Islands
Pacific Islands
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Introduction


The Chilean Pacific Islands are the main, inhabited islands in the Pacific. These are: Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and Robinson Crusoe Island (La Isla de Juan Fernandez) and Chiloe.


Easter Island ("Rapa Nui" as it is called by the locals)


Climate

Summers can be described a sub-tropical, hot with quick rain showers. Winters are generally wet and cool.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean 3,700 km west of mainland Chile is Easter Island - a tiny spec of land amid the vast expanse of the mighty Pacific Ocean measuring only 24 km in diameter and known as the "belly button" of the world. Over half the Island is declared a national park covering 7,130 hectares, and is home to over 600 Moai statues and two sandy beaches. The local population is approximately 3,000 inhabitants. Visitors come to Easter Island to admire the ancient Polonaise culture and ponder how and why the giant Moai statues were made. There are some interesting trekking routes to explore and it is a tranquil place, but a stay of 3 or 4 nights is usually sufficient. There are direct flights from Santiago and the flight time is around 5hrs.


Robinsón Crusoe Island (Parque Nacional Archipiélago Juan Fernández)


Climate

Summers can be described as warm with showers. Winters are generally wet and cold.
Almost opposite the port of Valparaiso at 667km east into the Pacific Ocean is the Juan Fernandez archipelago of three relatively undisturbed volcanic islands, each separated by large areas of sea. The islands are called Santa Clara, Alejandro Selkirk; and Robinson Crusoe (now called Juan Fernandez once again) covering 9,571 hectares and declared a UN World Biosphere Reserve in 1977. It is also the place that inspired the writing of the well known Defoe novel: "Robinson Crusoe". Defoe based his story on the adventures of Scottish sailor Alexander Selkirk who was dumped here in 1704 after falling out with his captain. Selkirk then spent the following years sheltering from the elements in a cave and survived from hunting rabbits and fishing from the sea. However, in the book the island is described as a tropical paradise and Juan Fernandez is not that.

The simple village of San Juan Bautista is the only settlement on Juan Fernandez which is accessible only by a 2hr boat trip from a jetty near to the airport landing strip the other side of the island. Juan Fernandez is the most ideal place to completely relax, seal spot, enjoy lobster, do some scuba diving, go on boat trips and perhaps visit the cave where Alexander Selkirk lived from 1704 to 1709. Accommodation is basic, often on a bed & breakfast basis in people is homes. 
Access is by air from Santiago (2hrs) or ship from Valparaiso (25 to 72 hrs depending on the type of ship).


Chiloe


The island of Chiloe is located a few kilometres off mainland Chile in the south of the country close to Puerto Montt. Access to the island is by ferry crossing and takes about one hour. 

Chiloe is steeped in history. Charles Darwin spent some time here exploring and discovering new species of flora and fauna previously unknown to Western man when his ship, The Beagle, ventured this way in 1839. Today a Darwin research institute on the Island continues to study flora and fauna and there is the Chiloe National Park, a large area of forest bordering the Pacific, preserving the natural flora as it has always been. 

The Island is known for its many wooden churches built by the Jesuits using wood cut into flat tiles to decorate and cover the outer walls and roofs. The way of life is also slow and somewhat "frozen" in time, especially in the rural parts where it is common to see Oxon-drawn carts laden with seaweed - harvested and then dried for export to Japan. 

To get to Chiloe you can either fly to Puerto Montt and then rent a car or drive all the way from Santiago (1,016kms to Puerto Montt). For those who are planning to see the Carretera Austral, a route that passes through Chiloe is a good way to go.