Travel to ESO Paranal
Please note that visitors are received by appointment only.
Information for weekend visits is available here.
Media visitors please consult this page.
Paranal is the home of the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), located 120 km south of the city of Antofagasta and 110 km north of Taltal, in the Atacama desert.
How to reach ESO Paranal Observatory
Arriving by plane
Please note that airfares to and from Chile can get quite expensive when booking less than three months in advance. The nearest airport is Andrés Sabella Gálvez, about 25 km away from Antofagasta. There is no public transport to Paranal Observatory, so you will need to rent a car (see below).
Arriving by car
The only way to reach Paranal Observatory from Antofagasta airport is with your own transport.
Please note that there is no petrol station at the observatory. You must have sufficient fuel in your car to be able to drive to your next destination.
Paranal is approximately a two-hour drive from the airport and the average daily cost of a rented car is about CLP 50 000 (about EUR 70). Car rental firms located at Andrés Sabella Gálvez Airport include Econorent, Alamo, Budget and Hertz.
To reach Paranal, drive to Antofagasta, following the Costanera road, until you reach the southern exit for Antofagasta, called La Negra. Take this to join the Pan-American Highway. To the south, after about 20 minutes take the exit to the B-70 to the right and then the B-710. Take this road and keep driving for about one hour until you see the sign for ESO on the right. There is an internal map for your reference and also an external one.
ESO Facilities in Paranal
Accommodation and Food
The ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal, La Residencia, provides accommodation and meals for ESO staff only. It is not possible for public visitors to stay overnight in Paranal.
Accommodation and meals are provided in La Residencia only in the exceptional case of specially authorised media visits. For further information on media visits please check here.
Internet cable connection is available in the rooms. Wi-Fi Internet connection is available at the lobby of the Residencia.
Phones are available in the rooms; the cost of any calls made is charged to the visitor. Mobile phone signal tends to be weak or non-existent in the observatory area.
Health & Safety
Weather and Clothing
Paranal is located on a remote site in the middle of the driest desert in the world. You may be exposed to strong winds and construction/maintenance areas. Please wear appropriate clothing such as trousers, walking shoes (no sandals), sunglasses, etc. We recommend a jacket/sweater for the VLT enclosures, which are kept at 5–11°C. The average humidity on Paranal is only between 2–10%.
High Altitude Health Issues
If while staying in Paranal 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 juice. Do not drink water from the faucets.
- Alcohol is forbidden at all ESO high altitude sites, not only because of its inebriating properties, but also because 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: wear a hat and clothing that covers arms and legs; 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: wear UV-protection sunglasses of a wrap-around design, and a wide-brimmed sun hat.
For accommodation and meals you can either go to Taltal — located about 110 kilometres from Paranal to the south or go back to Antofagasta.
For further information on Taltal, please check its official site.
Experience the ESO Paranal Observatory with ESO's Virtual Tours.