"Radal Protection Area: Middle Earth in the Andes" Molina by Glospi

Molina Travel Guide: 24 reviews and 37 photos

Radal: hidden valleys, lagoons and crystal streams

Located 65 kilometres southeast of Curicó, and 50 from Molina, the Area de Protección Radal (Radal Natural Protection Area) is a very beautiful natural area that encompasses private, public and environmentally protected lands in a mix of private ecoturism and adventure services, campings for every budget and taste, and more than just a few attractions, either natural or man-made.
So, these pages are not about Molina itself, but the Protection Area that lies to the east of it.

Radal is instantly associated with Siete Tazas (Seven Cups), a natural rock formation that is actually a series of seven natural pools fed by Radal river, forming turquoise natural swimming pools and that are recently being used by whitewater kayakers.
Despite being somewhat remote, it is a main summer destination for Curico-Molina locals, as well as for many santiaguinos too.
It is better reached from Molina rather than from Talca, as the buses that ply the direct route depart from that town, which is served hourly from Santiago.

The whole Radal protected area is spread on 5147 hectares of land, in a discontinuous way; this is, parts of the Protection Area are separated from the main area -where the ranger office is- by strips of private land and non-protected public land too.
Contrary to the general belief, this protected area does not reach to the international border with Argentina, and even some interesting zones for hiking and exploring (amid them, two "hidden" lagoons and a quite recent airwreck) are outside the park's boundaries
This information refers mainly to the easternmost, wildest part of the park, known as Parque Inglés, that is more interesting to mountaineers and trekkers, and campers as well, although good camping, trekking and a good feel of wilderness is found at lower reaches too.
Kayaking and canopy attractions are found at these latter areas.
The ranger office is 150 metres west of the final bus stop, in Parque Inglés; do not confuse the ranger's office with the ticket selling office for the camping across the dirt road, in front of the bus stop: backtrack those metres, find the entrance to the visitor's centre covered with round logs and lots of green (sometimes, a local wild marsupial rat can be seen hiding there), and register there if you want to camp or hike into the park.
The daily per-person fee is of $ 1500/$ 500 (US$ 3/US$ 1) for Chilean adults/children, or double that for foreigners.
UIAA/FEACH (mountaineering associations) card holders can enter the park free of charge for as long as they want.
The rangers may not allow utterly ill-equipped visitors to camp or venture for more than a day into the park, requiring them to stay at the camping and do daytrips only.
Its coordinates are: S 35º26'58,5"/W 70º59'27,9" - Altitude 1071

The picture: a steep peak some 8 kilometres east from Valle del Indio, the base camp for our week-long stay in Radal.
Taken on Feb. 22, 2006 at sunset, with a Nikon D100, Sigma 600 mm. mirror telephoto, f. 9, 1/160 seg., ISO 200, 3008x2000 pix. resolution

Like in all the rest of my pages, all co-ordinates are in WGS 84 datum, in degrees-minutes-seconds-tenths of second format.
Altitudes are expressed in metres (1 metre= 3,28 ft.)

I will be updating these pages during this week, as I am just coming out from a little surgery, and will need to do something to have fun meanwhile.
I will add more on 'Off the beaten path' tips, and technical information about each picture, whenever possible
Check them again around August 22, 2006.

Life in Radal's Middle Earth

Life is here a mix of activities, ranging from organised family camping and partygoing, to wild camping, rugged trekking and mountaineering.
Depending on where you chose to stay, you can have access to either a rustic but organised camping, partying, boozin' round the clock (only in summer: be warned), simple trekking and walking, or camping in a natural, peaceful bush where there's a noise curfew at 11 PM, away from the other campers, or to camp in a rustic but organised campground full of people and next to the river, 15 kilometres before Parque Ingles, in Radal itself.
Summertime (mid-December to mid-March) is high season, with peaks of visitors and a very noisy scene, at least in Radal and Parque Inglés, while fall is extremely colorful and scenic, and in winter it turns into a completely different world, all white, frozen and silent, with the crowds away in the cities.
Nevertheless, in winter it could be almost impossible to get there, unless one has a 4WD truck -and even so- snowshoes and/or X-country skis.
There is a year-round ranger crew at the visitor's centre, which would allow visitors arriving too late or in poor weather, to stay at the ranger's residence and to use their facilities until they leave for the park, or find transportation back to civilisation, as everything else is shut down till late springtime.
This said, the best time to go to this park, are at the beginning and the end of the season, this is, from late October until late December, and then March.
But, if your idea is hiking deep into the park, any season is good... even the peak season.
The last time we went there, we stayed for a week in the easternmost area of the park, explored a "hanging" lagoon and had a great time away from the world. We even "rescued" a couple of girls whose tent was flooded by rain and then half-froze, as can normally happen in summer.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful, isolated, wild nature, landscapes out of-this world, crystalline rivers
  • Cons:Crowded arrival in summer, noisy in populated areas, expensive supplies
  • In a nutshell:If you walk east, you enter a natural paradise. Try to stay for a week or so
  • Last visit to Molina: Feb 2006
  • Intro Updated Aug 20, 2006
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  • Aug 24, 2010 at 6:54 AM

    Excellent pages on the area! Thanks for putting it together. I see that the train is now going to Molina after 23 years.

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