The Islands of Insular Chile

Moai statues carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island.
Moai statues carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island.

Insular Chile refers to a dispersed group of oceanic islands in the Chilean Sea. Created by volcanic activity, these islands are located relatively far from mainland Chile. The four islands that make up Insular Chile are listed below.

Juan Fernández Islands

The Juan Fernández Islands are located in the South Pacific Ocean approximately 670 km from the coast of mainland Chile. The three main volcanic islands of this group are Robinson Crusoe, Santa Clara, and Alejandro Selkirk. Robinson Crusoe Island is the only inhabited island. Fishing and tourism are the two most important economic activities in the archipelago. Robinson Crusoe Island has earned fame due to Alexander Selkirk, a marooned sailor, who spent four years on the island in isolation from the rest of the world. The group of islands has been named after explorer Juan Fernandez who discovered the islands in the 1570s.

The Desventuradas Islands

The Desventuradas Islands is a group of four small islands located in the Pacific Ocean about 850 km off the coast of mainland Chile. Due to the remote location, no permanent human settlements have been established on the islands. There is, however, a Chilean Navy detachment stationed on one of the islands. There is little animal life on the Desventuradas Islands, and the only vertebrates include 10 species of migratory birds and one resident bird species. These islands also lack a permanent source of fresh water. Vegetation cover on the islands includes different types of trees and shrubs.

Easter Island

Easter Island is one of the world’s most remote inhabited locations and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, the island sits in the south-easternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle. The island was possibly inhabited by the Polynesian people between 700 and 1100 CE. Easter Island’s most notable feature is the group of 887 extant massive statues created by the indigenous Rapa Nui people. The cultural heritage of the island is protected within the limits of Rapa Nui National Park.

Isla Salas y Gómez

Isla Salas y Gómez is a small uninhabited island that forms the easternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle. The island is located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 3,220 km west of mainland Chile. The island and its surrounding coastal waters are part of a Chilean Marine Protected Area. The closest landmass to the island is Easter Island. Isla Salas y Gómez actually consists of two rocks of different sizes that are connected by a narrow isthmus about 30 m wide. The total area of the island is only 0.15 square km. Landing on the island is dangerous at most times due to the presence of cliffs along the shoreline. There are no permanent freshwater sources on the island. However, a transient rainwater pool is present in a rock depression that supports the island's seabird population. The island has been declared a nature sanctuary. A tsunami warning system has been installed on the island by the Chilean Navy.


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