Important Information for Visitors

Travel to La Silla

The La Silla Observatory is ESO’s first astronomical site in Chile. Its construction started in 1965 and its official inauguration was celebrated on 25 March 1969, with the presence of the President of the Republic of Chile, Eduardo Frei Montalva.

The La Silla Observatory is located at the outskirts of the Chilean Atacama Desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres. It is reachable by taking road C-541 from the intersection located at km 594 of Ruta 5 Norte (Chilean Pan-American Highway).

More detailed information about how to reach La Silla Observatory is available here.

Trailer and some images of La Silla

Credit: ESO

This image shows the dense skyline of telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory in the Atacama Desert. La Silla is the home to many ESO telescopes as well as other national telescopes that have been labelled in this image. Credit: Iztok Bončina/ESO

La Silla, in the southern part of the Atacama desert, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile and at an altitude of 2400 metres is the home of ESO's original observing site. Credit: ESO/M. Tewes

This photo is the viewpoint at ESO's La Silla Observatory for 2019 total solar eclipse event hosted by ESO. Credit: P. Horálek/ESO

Credit: ESO/F. Kamphues, ESO/H.H. Heyer, ESO/P. Horálek, ESO/B. Tafreshi (, ESO/Y. Beletsky

The Weather

The probability of a totally clear sky at La Silla during July is 40%. There is a 55% chance that the sky will be partially clear. There is a probability of more than 30% that there will be thick cloud cover. The likelihood of a clear sky at La Silla is much higher than in most other regions that will also experience the eclipse and slightly better than in the nearby Elqui Valley.

Viewing of the total solar eclipse is weather dependent and ESO does not make a guarantee that the eclipse will be viewable. ESO will organise alternative activities at the La Silla Observatory in case of cloudy weather. Please note that tickets will be refunded only in case the event has to be cancelled because of adverse meteorological conditions, natural disasters or any other event which may compromise people’s safety. More information is available here.

Average July afternoon fractional cloudiness along the eclipse track over South America. Data are extracted from 14 years (2002-15) of observations from the Aqua satellite.
Data: J. Anderson/NASA

Weather and Clothing

The July is winter in the Southern hemisphere so it will be cold! The mean temperatures in beginning of July, between 12:00 and 18:00 at La Silla (2400 metres altitude) is 13ºC. However, there is a 6% chance of temperature going below 0ºC. Wind speed will be the main determining factor for the perceived temperature.

Moreover, the “mirador” (viewing location) has a fantastic view but no shelter. Therefore, it is recommended that visitors come equipped with warm and comfortable clothes and shoes, as well as a windbreaker.

General Health & Safety information for visitors is available here.

Rules for Visitors

La Silla is a working observatory in operation 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. One of ESO’s first priorities is ensuring the undisturbed and continued operation of the observatory. Active telescopes at La Silla work in visible and near infrared light during the night while daytime is used by engineers and technicians for maintaining and preparing telescopes and instruments for the upcoming night. For the integrity of observations, artificial lights are not allowed outside of building as at the observing site after sunset.

This imposes few restrictions to visitors and to the programme of the event:

  • Every visitor to La Silla (or any ESO site) must read and sign the Release Form in English or Spanish. The printed signed form must be delivered on arrival at the observatory gate. Unfortunately, we cannot accept electronic copies of the form.
  • For safety reasons, children under 4 years are not allowed.
  • For safety reasons, minors have to be accompanied by an adult, who can be responsible of 10 young people at maximum.
  • Transportation inside the observatory:
    • No private vehicles will be allowed on the mountain. All private vehicles will be parked at the Main Gate area (Camp Pelícano). Visitors will be transported from the gate to the mountain top (round trip) by ESO minibuses.
    • All the visitors must have left the observatory (mountain top) by sunset (18:04). This means boarding onto ESO minibuses will start soon after the end of totality at 17:00. The boarding order will be decided on the basis of logistical needs.
  • Visitors’ Area:
    • Visitors are not allowed to walk around alone outside the designated areas, which will be clearly marked.
    • Tours at the observatory and access to the telescopes is allowed only in guided groups.
    • Visitors’ Area will be provided with toilets, chairs and garbage containers.
  • Visitors must be respectful of the environment, the site itself and the people working there.
  • ESO guides will be there to welcome you and assist you during your visit. Visitors must listen to their ESO guides and event staff while attending the event for safety of themselves and the site.

Planned Schedule

The general schedule of the day is as follows:

Local Time 
07:00–10:00Visitors arrive at La Silla Observatory Main Gate (Camp Pelícano).
09:00–12:00All visitors are transported to La Silla Observatory by ESO minibuses
10:00–14:00 Tours of the observatory and additional programming
15:23Partial eclipse begins
16:39Start of totality
16:40Maximum totality
16:41End of totality
17:00–18:00Visitors leave La Silla Observatory in small ESO busses for Camp Pelícano

Please consider that, due to safety and operational constraints, all the visitors must leave the observatory before sunset (18:04).

Chairs, toilets and garbage containers will be available at the site. The observatory will also have a Safety Brigade and Paramedics available for emergency situations.

The La Silla Solar Total Eclipse ticket does not include:

  • Transportation to the main gate of La Silla Observatory (Camp Pelícano). Public visitors must arrive at Camp Pelícano on time and by their own means. Parking will be available at Camp Pelícano. Please note that private vehicles will not be allowed beyond this point on.
  • Accommodation. It is recommended that visitors arrange accommodation as early as possible.
  • Food and drinks. As this will be an all-day event, it is also recommended that visitors plan to bring lunch and snacks. A limited amount of water will be provided, but visitors should also plan to bring their own water and non-alcoholic drinks for the day.

This simulation timeline shows the phases of the total solar eclipse 2019 at La Silla. Credit: ESO / P. Horálek, M. Druckmüller, P. Aniol, Z. Hoder, S. Habbal.

Virtual Tour on La Silla

By taking a virtual tour on La Silla you can have a preview of the surrounding landscape and facilities.