Travel to ESO Paranal
Paranal Observatory, 130 km south of Antofagasta in Chile and at an altitude of 2600 metres, is the home of the Very Large Telescope, an array of four 8.2-metre telescopes that can observe together or individually, plus four moveable auxiliary telescopes dedicated to interferometry, making it the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory. Paranal also hosts VISTA, working at near-infrared wavelengths and the world’s largest survey telescope.
How to reach ESO Paranal
Paranal is the home of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), located 120 km south of the city of Antofagasta and 110 km north of Taltal, in the Atacama desert.
Arriving by plane
Please note that airfares to and from Chile can get quite pricey when booking shorter than 3 months in advance. The only way to reach Paranal Observatory from Antofagasta airport is with your own transport.
Paranal is around two hours driving from the airport and the average daily cost of a rented car is about CLP 50 000 (about EUR 70). Car rental firms located at Cerro Moreno Airport include Econorent, Alamo, Budget and Hertz.
To reach Paranal, drive to Antofagasta, following the Costanera road, until you reach the southern exit for Antofagasta, called La Negra. Take this to join the Pan-American Highway. To the south, after around 20 minutes take the exit to the B-70 to the right and then the B-710. Take this road and keep driving for about one hour until you see the sign for ESO on the right. There is an internal map for your reference and also an external one.
Arriving by car
The easiest way to access Paranal by car is via the Pan-American Highway. Around 30 km south of the La Negra exit to Antofagasta you will find the exit for the B-70. Take the B-70 until you reach the B-710. Take the B-710 and keep driving for about an hour until you see the ESO sign at the right side of the road. There is an internal map and external map for your reference. Please note that there is no gasoline station at the Observatory. You must have sufficient fuel in your car to be able to drive to your next destination.
ESO Facilities in Paranal
Accommodation and Food
ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal, or La Residencia, is located in the middle of the Atacama Desert. It provides accommodation and meals for ESO staff only. It is not possible to stay overnight in Paranal. Accommodation and meals are exceptionally provided in La Residencia only for especially authorized media visits. For further information on media visits please check here.
Internet cable connection is available in the rooms. Wi-Fi Internet connection is available at the lobby of the Residencia.
Phones are available in the rooms; the cost of the calls is charged to the visitor. Cell-phone signal tends to be weak or inexistent in the Observatory's area.
Experience the ESO Headquarters in Garching with ESO's Virtual Tours.
For accommodation and meals you can either go to Taltal — located about 110 kilometres from Paranal to the south or go back to Antofagasta.
For further information on Taltal, please check its official site.
Guided Public Tours
Guided tours for tourists and the general public are offered on every Saturday. Further information on public visits to Paranal is available here.
Health & Safety
Weather and Clothing
Paranal is located on a remote site in the middle of the driest desert in the world. You may be exposed to strong winds and construction/maintenance areas. Please wear appropriate clothing such as pants, walking shoes (no sandals), sunglasses, etc. We recommend a jacket/sweater for the VLT enclosures, which are kept at 5 - 11°C. The average humidity on Paranal is only between 2 - 10%.
- Drink extra water or juices. Do not drink water from the faucets.
- Alcohol is forbidden at all ESO high altitude sites, not only because of its inebriating properties, but it can increase the risk of dehydration.
- Eat light, high-carbohydrate meals.
- Avoid sedatives and similar medication.
- Never use medicinal treatment instead of descending, without consulting an ESO physician or paramedic at the site.
- Use skin protection: for example, wear clothing that covers arms and legs, and a hat; apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of sun protection factor 15+ liberally on areas of the body not protected by clothing, and reapply it frequently
- Use eye protection: for example, wear UV-protection sunglasses of a wrap-around design, and a wide-brimmed sun hat.