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 La Silla Start of tour End of the tour
Saturdays 09:45 10:00 13:00
Saturdays 13:45 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 are not accepted.
  • You will be able to 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 give other people the opportunity to visit the Observatory.
  • Every visitor to Paranal (or any ESO site) must read and sign the Release Form and a Health declaration. 
  • For safety reasons, children under 4 years are not allowed to visit the observatory.
  • For safety reasons, minors must be accompanied by an adult. Each adult can be responsible for a maximum of 10 minors.
  • 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

Contact

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

Travel & Meals

Please follow this link for very important information on how to reach ESO Paranal, and security and safety advice.

  • ESO does not offer transport to reach 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 own light snack or lunch, which shall be consumed outside the premises, before or after the tour. Note that there isn’t a pic-nic area available.

Arrival at Paranal

  • You should arrive at the gate of the observatory 15 minutes before the tour start time.
  • For safety reasons, access to the facilities is not allowed before the tour start time.
  • At the gate, you will be asked for your IDs, QR ticket, Chilean mobility pass (or negative PCR test taken within 48 and 24 hours).

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

  • Use of face masks is mandatory. All visitors need to arrive with their own masks. The safety approved masks to use at the observatory are: disposable surgical masks, N95, KN95. Cloth masks are not allowed at the observatory. Facial shields must not be worn without site approved facial masks.
  • 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)