Combined with the contiguous Reserva Las Nalcas to the north, the Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello comprises 25,000 hectares of wild high country that also serves as a key forestry research center.
Higher than nearby Parque Nacional Tolhuaca , Malalcahuello contains an overlapping forest flora of araucarias with deciduous Andean forest with evergreen coigüe and lenga, and araucaria with coigüe mixed with ñire. The fauna resembles Tolhuaca’s, though the Andean condor and the carpintero negro (black woodpecker) are more common here.
Its summit crater filled by a glacier that spills onto the adjoining flanks, symmetrical Volcán Lonquimay is the reserve’s focal point. It dates from the late Pleistocene times but erupted as recently as 1933, almost simultaneously with nearby Volcán Llaima, and lava flows spilled down its northeastern flanks in 1990. Trails to nearby Cerro Cautín (2.5 hours) and Lonquimay’s summit start here.
Malalcahuello also has a sparkling new ski area, the Corralco Centro de Montaña (Badajoz 86, Las Condes, Santiago, tel. 02/2029325, www.corralco.com , US$198/237–250/278 s/d for accommodations), on the site of an older place that was nearly in ruins. Lift tickets cost US$21–27 per day, depending on the date, or about US$480 per person for the entire mid-June–October season.
Swiss-run La Suizandina (tel. 045/1973725 or 099/8849541, fax 045/1973724, www.suizandina.com ) is a combination hostel, cabaña, and sparkling new guesthouse west of town on the north side of the highway. Rates are US$17–34 per person in the centrally heated cabaña, which has four four-bedded rooms, and US$22–46 per person in the comfortable, centrally heated guesthouse.
Multilingual Tom and Eva Buschor include a Swiss-style breakfast (Tom is a professional baker) and also serve Swiss specialties such as fondue and raclette for reasonably priced lunches or dinners, accompanied by fresh desserts and Chilean wines. While they no longer promote Suizandina as a campground, it’s still possible to camp here economically.
The Centro Termal Malalcahuello (Recabarren 03160, Temuco, tel. 045/1963541, www.malalcahuello.cl , US$180–310 s or d for hotel accommodations) is a hot-springs mega-project that fits surprisingly well into its natural setting, about two kilometers south of the highway via a dirt road. With state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor pools, spa treatments, and therapists, it also has a handful of cabañas (US$257 for up to four people, access to baths included) and a restaurant that’s still finding its way. Admission to the pools costs US$19 per adult, US$15 per child aged 3–12, and US$5.50 for those younger than age 3. Additional services include massages, mud baths, steam baths, and the like.
Conaf’s Malalcahuello ranger station is a good source for advice; speakers of English, German, French, and Italian can try the Buschors at La Suizandina.