In the early hours of February 27, 2010, a tsunami triggered by the 8.8 magnitude earthquake on mainland Chile struck the Juan Fernández Archipelago. A wave of around 20m in height swept 300m into Isla Robinson Crusoe, destroying much of San Juan Bautista and killing sixteen people. A mix-up between the Chilean Navy and the tsunami alert services meant that the islanders received no official warning, and the death toll would have been much higher but for a 12-year-old girl: awake at night, Martina Maturana spotted the fishing boats bobbing violently in the harbour, and ran from her home to ring the emergency bell in the town square to warn the island’s six hundred or so inhabitants.

Following the disaster, the island’s population fell by about a third, as many people left for the mainland. Islanders, angry at the lack of official warning, launched a court case against the government. Meanwhile, rebuilding attempts – the tsunami destroyed the island’s library, town hall, civil registry office, museum, cultural centre, naval offices, post office, school and every single shop, as well as many homes and hotels – are ongoing.

To compound matters, on September 2, 2011, 21 passengers were killed after an air force plane crashed into the sea after twice failing to land in windy conditions on the island. Among those killed was TV presenter Felipe Camiroaga, who had been making a film on the reconstruction efforts.

Although the island is still getting back on its feet, it is possible to visit – and the money you spend will certainly help the rebuilding efforts. Most hotels remained closed at the time of research, but many plan to reopen – check the latest situation ahead of your visit.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Chile features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A journey along Chile's Route of Parks

A journey along Chile's Route of Parks

Chile has long lured the intrepid traveller but in 2018 things have stepped up a level. The newly created Route of Parks – a string of Patagonian national par…

12 Feb 2018 • Steph Dyson local_activity Special feature
Why you should visit Chile in 2018

Why you should visit Chile in 2018

A sliver of a country that somehow manages to encompass barren desert, knife-edge mountains and fertile river valleys, Chile has long attracted intrepid travell…

08 Jan 2018 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
Video: the 1 minute guide to Chile

Video: the 1 minute guide to Chile

Chile is an outdoor adventurer's paradise. From the parched peaks of the north's Atacama Desert to the storied wilderness of Patagonia in the south, the nature…

30 Nov 2017 • Colt St. George videocam Video
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs