Public visits to Paranal Observatory

At 2635 metres above sea level in the Atacama Desert of Chile, ESO’s Paranal Observatory is one of the very best astronomical observing sites in the world. It hosts several world-class telescopes; among them are the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and its Interferometer (VLTI), the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA), and the VLT Survey Telescope (VST). Other scientific and support facilities are also located at Paranal, including several smaller telescopes and for the personnel Residencia. Come and see this spectacular place full of surprises.

Registering for a guided tour

Guided tours for tourists are offered every Saturday of the year.

Arrival at Paranal
Start of tour End of the tour
Saturdays 09:40 10:00 13:00
Saturdays 13:40 14:00 17:00
  • The guided tours are free of charge, but registration is compulsory as capacity is limited. Large groups are recommended to register as far in advance as possible.
  • Visits can be reserved through the online form only. Booking by phone or email is not accepted.
  • You can cancel your reservation online until 10:00 AM on Friday before your visit. If you decide not to come, please be so kind to cancel your reservation as much in advance as possible. In this way, you will allow other people to visit the Observatory.
  • Every visitor to Paranal (or any ESO site) must read and sign the Release Form and a Health declaration.
  • There is no accommodation for visitors in the Residencia.
    • For safety reasons, you cannot drive your vehicle inside the premises. You must park in the designated area and use the tour bus during your visit.
      • People with peacemakers are not allowed inside the telescopes. This is because the electromagnetic fields generated by the instrumentation may interfere with the device.
      • Children under four years old cannot visit the observatory for safety reasons.
      • An adult must accompany minors. Each adult can be responsible for a maximum of 10 minors.
      • Pets are not allowed at the observatory.
      • Please be aware that the tour could be cancelled in the case of severe weather conditions. In this case, you will be notified via phone call or email as soon as possible. 

      Useful information


      • For any other inquiries about the visits, please email . We will answer within 48 business hours.
      • For urgent matters related to your visit, please call +56-9 -98395312.

      Travel & Meals

      Please follow this link for critical information on how to reach ESO Paranal Observatory and security and safety advice.

      • ESO does not offer transport to reach the Paranal Observatory.
      • ESO does not provide car fuel to visitors. Please make sure you have enough to drive to your next destination.
      • There are no facilities on-site that offer meals. You are welcome to bring your light snack or lunch, which shall be consumed outside the premises, before or after the tour. Note that there isn’t a picnic area available.

      Arrival at Paranal

      • You should arrive at the observatory gate 20 minutes before the tour starts.
      • For safety reasons, access to the facilities is not allowed before the tour starts.
      • You will be asked for your ID and QR ticket at the gate.

      The Tour

      1. The tour begins at the Visitor Centre, where you will enjoy a walk through an exhibition about the Observatory and astronomy.

      The Paranal Visitor Centre. Credit: ESO

      2. Then, you will board an ESO bus to the top of Cerro Paranal and enter the dome of one of the 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes of the VLT or VISTA.

      Standing inside one of the four unit telescopes of the VLT. Credit: ESO/S. Goebel

      3. You will enjoy a time of the VLT, including glorious views of the "sea of clouds” that usually covers the Pacific Ocean.

      4. Finally, you will have a look inside the famous Paranal Residencia. The order of the steps described above may vary depending on the number of people on the tour.

      While on Paranal

      • Wear sunglasses, a hat, protective clothing and sunscreen over SPF50.
      • Drink plenty of bottled water.
      • Move around slowly.
      • Take your litter with you.
      • Smoking is not allowed.
      • Illegal drugs and alcohol use are forbidden.
      • The use of drones is not allowed.
      • If you feel unwell, inform your guide immediately!
      • In an emergency, follow the guide and the Emergency Coordinator’s instructions.
      • Follow your guide’s instructions at all times throughout the tour.
      • Please find more information here: Health & Safety advice.
      • Be curious — ask lots of questions!
      • You are welcome to take pictures without previous authorization unless the picture includes a recognizable person. We encourage you to share your images with us by tagging our social media accounts: Instagram (@esoastronomy and @eso.Chile), Facebook (@ESOAstronomy and @ESO.Chile) and Twitter (@ESO and @ESO_Chile)