Chile: Push to grow travel industry on original adventure island

The setting of the Robinson Crusoe tale, the Juan Fernández Archipelago is a little-known fascinating destination receiving a boost from Chile’s tourism service.

Off the Chilean mainland and almost 500 miles into the Pacific Ocean lie a small cluster of isolated, volcanic islands — dark green bumps of verdant, mountainous land surrounded by water as far as the eye can see known as the Juan Fernández Archipelago.

The area is best known as the spectacular setting of Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” — the tale of a castaway stranded on a remote island for 28 years. Thought to be inspired by Alexander Selkirk the Scottish sailor who spent four years on the second largest island of the archipelago in the early 18th century, the book made the area famous but other attractions abound in this growing destination for adventurous travelers.

Hoping to boost travel to the sparsely populated region renowned for its unspoilt landscapes and rich natural wildlife, Chile’s tourism service (Sernatur) for the Valparaíso Region and the Juan Fernández municipality have signed an agreement aimed at spreading the word about this unique destination.

Local Mayor Felipe Paredes highlighted some of the benefits he hopes the agreement will bring for the area.

“We’ve been working with Sernatur for a long time now, spreading awareness of the archipelago as a travel destination with plenty to offer so we signed this agreement to participate in tourism fairs and regulate business activity for the sector in Juan Fernández,” he said, adding that a further goal is increasing sustainable tourism on the islands.

The archipelago boasts numerous attractions, among them protected areas considered among the world’s most important due to the quantity of unique, endemic plant and fish species.

Outdoor activities of all stripes are another big draw — particularly the ample trekking and scuba diving available in spades around the islands. Citing the area’s huge potential, Sernatur says tourism will likely develop into the second biggest industry of the area behind lobster fishing.

Flights to the Juan Fernández Archipelago leave the capital twice weekly. Alternatively private companies and the Chilean Navy cover the two day boat trip.