I took the opportunity last weekend to spend four blissful days in one of Chile’s most beautiful locations – Radal Siete Tazas, a national park near Molina about 200km south of Santiago. If you like camping, hiking, swimming or climbing, then this place is perfect for you. Whether you just want to camp for a weekend, or take an extended 7 day hike over mountains, rivers and forests in the national park, Parque nacional Radal Siete Tazas is a fantastic destination.
This area is not very well-known amongst non-spanish speaking tourists, mostly because it isn’t obvious how to get there. Luckily my Chilena girlfriend found out about it by word of mouth, and today I’m going to share with you the low-down on how to get there, where to stay and what to do.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to the park from Santiago is by bus. You’ll need to take the metro red line to Universidad de Santiago and take a bus to Molina from the bus terminal there. There are regular hourly buses between 7am and 9pm, and the journey costs $4.500. The journey takes about 2-3 hours, and I suggest leaving early in the morning. We left Santiago at 9am and arrived to Molina at about midday.
When you arrive at Molina, you will need to change and take another bus to Parque Inglés. You can take a bus from the same station you arrive at, there is also another station about 10 minutes walk away that has buses at different times. If you are in doubt, just ask someone where the buses leave from to get to Parque Inglés – it’s not a large town and everyone will know.
These buses do not run so regularly. As an example, Buses Hernandez offer the following services to Parque Inglés from the main terminal in Molina:
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This journey costs $2.500 per person and takes about another 2-3 hours. Be prepared for a bumpy, dusty ride!
Where to stay
On the way to Parque Ingles you will pass an entrance to the Siete Tazas with a big sign showing costs to Chilenos of $2.000 and extranjeros of $4.000. Don’t enter the park here though, there is a secret back entrance where you can see more of the Siete Tazas and there is no entrance fee.
Stay on the bus until you reach the end stop at Parque Inglés. There are some campsites and shops here, if you need food this is the place to buy it. The little shop sells fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. The prices are a bit higher than the city but not too outrageous. I recommend stocking up on some fresh carne or salchichas here and perhaps some choclo, along with a bag of charcoal so you can enjoy an asado outside in the cool evening after putting up your tent.
I do not recommend camping at the sites here. Instead, the best place to stay if you are visiting the Siete Tazas is a campsite called Valle las Catas. It’s slightly more expensive than the other options but includes free entry to the park and some hidden ‘pozas’ (water pools) that people don’t usually get to see. It’s also much quieter and has less noisy locals. This is also the same route to take for the ‘secret’ free entry to the park.
Walk across the bridge and to the right, then follow the track. You will see a signpost pointing to Valle las Catas, 1.5km. Actually 1.5km is very optimistic, I estimate it to be at least 3-4km but the walk isn’t that bad. Just be sure to take sunscreen and water if it’s sunny.
At the Valle las Catas campsite, you can bring your own tent and rent a space (potable water, bbq grill, toilets and hot showers included) or you can rent one of the cabins. Camping costs $6.000 per person per night. Be warned, even though it might be very hot and dry during the day, it can get cold at night, so bring a warm jacket and a thick sleeping bag.
Las Pozas and the Siete Tazas
The Valle las Catas staff are happy to provide maps of the area, and it’s an easy 30-60 minute walk to all the major sights at Siete Tazas. Click here to see a map of the Siete Tazas.
Sendero Los Cipreses is a quiet track through the forest that will lead you first to the two pozas. The pozas are natural pools which the river flows through, perfect for swimming and with rocks you can climb up before jumping into the river. The water’s refreshing but cold!
If you continue on the path you will arrive at the main attraction – the park’s namesake, Las Siete Tazas.
The tazas (literally: teacups) themselves are seven pools of water, each separated by a waterfall. Apparently at certain times of year kayakers come here to navigate the pools, although we didn’t see any while we were there.
There is also a waterfall called Salto de la Leona but it’s currently the height of summer here, and when we went it didn’t have any water.
Trekking in Parque Inglés
The other major attraction near the Siete Tazas is Parque Inglés. This is a huge national park, with multiple trekking routes that cover forests, mountains and rivers.
It’s quiet and peaceful, and the scenery is truly spectacular. To enter the park, you must go through a small checkpoint where you have to pay an entrance fee. The fee is nominally $4.000 for extranjeros and $2.000 for locals (although if your Spanish is good they probably won’t ask questions – I only paid $2.000).
There are plenty of trekking options here, as well as places to pitch a tent. There are lots of rivers with drinkable water, although you’d almost certainly have to carry your own food with you.
I’d love to come back here one day for a full seven days of camping and trekking – sadly this time around, I only was able to spend one day here. The best place to go for a day trip is Ruta Mala Cara (bad face way).
It’s about a two hour gentle uphill walk that passes some spectacular scenery and ends at a beautiful pool with waterfalls and crystal clear turqoise water. Diving 5 metres into a deep pool is one way to refresh yourself after a sweaty hike!
To summarise, if you want to see some of the more beautiful rural areas of Chile, Siete Tazas is a fantastic option. Go for a two-day weekend getaway, or for the adventurous a whole seven days of trekking.