Media Visits

Guidelines for media visits to the ESO observatories

ESO welcomes journalists, science writers and producers interested in visits to sites in Chile for production of news stories, documentaries, photo books and other projects. As these visits represent a significant investment of resources from ESO, the ESO education and Public Outreach Department reserves the right to choose the projects that have the largest return-on-investment (for instance visibility of ESO and astronomy in general).
Media visitors should contact ESO at least 4 weeks in advance, detailing:

  • Media where the story will be published / broadcasted
  • The observatory he/she would like to visit (Paranal, La Silla, APEX or ALMA)
  • Objective of the visit. When possible, synopsis of the story to be produced.
  • Suggested date(s)
  • Specific requirements, if any (people to be interviewed, special locations, etc)

Please send your request to

Accommodation & transportation

ESO usually grants 2 days / 1 night for media visits at La Sillla and Paranal. Under justified circumstances, longer periods can be provided. Weekdays are strongly preferred.

Accommodation at the La Silla Hotel and Paranal Residence are sponsored by ESO for accredited media representatives.

The rental of a standard pick-up vehicle (called “truck”) is required to get to La Silla or Paranal due to the uneven dirt roads on parts of the route. For visits to APEX telescope or ALMA site, a 4WD pick-up truck is compulsory.

As ALMA is a project under construction, it is not possible to offer accommodation on site. A list of hotels at San Pedro de Atacama ~40 minutes away from the ALMA base camp can be found at:

Safety constraints

A member of ePOD will be on site to accompany media visitor(s), acting as liaison with the astronomers / engineers and getting access to telescopes and other facilities. Visitors must follow his/her instruction on site.

No outdoor light is allowed for exterior shots after sunset at La Silla and Paranal.

The high site of ALMA (Chajnantor, 5,000m) has some significant safety constrints. Visitors are required to participate in a paramedic medical check-up (blood pressure, blood oxygen level) at the OSF (Operations Support Facilities, 2,900m). Those who do not pass the test will not be allowed to continue to Chajnantor. Additionally, visitors must sign an acknowledgement and release form before being escorted to Chajnantor. Detailed information about high altitude health issues can be found at:

Paranal main filming locations

  • The Atacama Desert
  • The Residencia (the VLT hotel)
  • Telescopes (interior / exterior): the interior of telescopes are accessible during the day most of the time, previous authorization of telescope manager. However, they cannot be opened. The opening process starts around 60 minutes before sunset. After sunset, access to the telescopes is prohibited.
  • Control room, where engineers and astronomers operate the telescopes by night. Interviews and interaction with the staff is possible, taking into account their regular duties during the night.
  • Access to interferometric delay lines is restricted. If there is a particular interest and justification for filming this, it has to be discussed well in advance, but we cannot guarantee access.

APEX / ALMA main filming locations

  • Operations Support Facility (OSF), 2,900m, where the ALMA antennas are being assembled by ESO, NRAO and NAOJ. Access to assembly sites is possible, but it should be requested in advance.
  • ALMA site museum, on the way to Chajnantor.
  • Technical building at Chajnantor, which houses the ALMA correlator super computers.
  • APEX antenna at 5,100 m at Chajnantor. Access to the antenna is possible, but it should be requested in advance. The APEX antenna cannot point directly to the sun and will be “parked” in the hours around noon, thus early in the morning or the afternoon are preferred to see the antenna in science observations during daylight.
  • Cerro Chico, adjacent to Chajnantor plateau but higher up, for general vistas of the fascinating altiplano landscape.