Travel to ESO La Silla Observatory
Please note that visitors are received by appointment only.
Further information on public visits to La Silla is available here.
Media visitors please consult this page.
How to reach La Silla
La Silla Observatory is located 600 km north of Santiago and about 160 km north of La Serena at an altitude of 2400 metres, bordering the southern end of the Atacama Desert in Chile. At La Silla ESO operates several of the most productive 4-metre-class telescopes in the world. La Silla has been an ESO stronghold since the 1960s. It is equipped with several medium-sized optical telescopes and is home to the world’s foremost exoplanet hunter: HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher), a spectrograph with unrivalled precision.
Arriving by plane
Please note that airfares to and from Chile can get quite pricey when booking shorter than 3 months in advance. The nearest airport is La Florida at La Serena. There is no public transport to La Silla Observatory, so you will need to rent a car (see below).
Arriving by car
It takes around two hours to drive from the airport to La Silla. Drive west down Av. Colo Colo to reach the Pan-American Highway. Turn right (north) and continue to route C-541. Turn right to take this route and continue to the La Silla main gate.
Driving from the north, the turn is reached after Vallenar; from the south, it is after La Higuera.
Please check the external map. Please note that ESO does not provide fuel to visitors. You must have sufficient fuel in your car to be able to drive to your next destination.
Accommodation and Food at La Silla
Overnight accommodation and meals at La Silla is available for ESO staff only.
For accommodation, you can return to La Serena.
Accommodation and meals are exceptionally provided only for especially authorized media visits. For further information on media visits please check here.
Health & Safety
Weather and Clothing
La Silla is located on a remote site bordering the southern end of the Atacama Desert. You may be exposed to strong winds and high solar radiation. Please wear appropriate clothing such as pants, walking shoes (no sandals), sunglasses, etc. We recommend a jacket or sweater for the enclosures, which are kept at 5 – 11°C. The average humidity on La Silla is between 2 and 10%.
High Altitude Health Issues
If while staying in La Silla you experience any of the following, please report it to a local staff member immediately: acute headache, dizziness, breathing problems, ringing or blocking of ears, heart pains, acute muscular pains, seeing "stars".
- 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.
Experience the ESO La Silla Observatory with ESO's Virtual Tours.