Photo of telescopes HOME Writing Photos La Palma Site Map Links Photo of bush


The Weather Emergencies Visiting the Observatory Public Transport Tsunami Maps Intro Blog


Visiting the Observatory, 2009

GranTeCan, the huge new Spanish telescope

La Palma is home to one of the three most important astronomical observatories in the world. (The other two are Hawaii and the Atacama desert in Chile.) The observatory sits at the top of the island, at the Roque de los Muchachos. It's a fascinating place to visit, but it's not normally open to tourists - they're too busy doing science. You can visit the mountain top and see the buildings from the outside any day of the year. But please note: Since the MAGIC gamma ray telescope doesn't have a building, you get quite a good view from the outside. You can get fairly close by parking on one of the heliports (the bottom left as you go up the hill). From there, a footpath goes closer, and there's a display panel that explains how the telescope works.

If you want to see inside, you need to go on a guided tour. Traditionally, the Roque de los Muchachos observatory has been open to visitors about 4 days per year, with perhaps 6 groups for each day. In 2009 they will hold 28 open days, each with only one group. Each visit starts with a visit to the MAGIC gamma-ray telescope, followed by one other telescope, and lasts about two hours. Visits must be booked in advance, by calling the receptionist at the Institute of Astronomy on (00 34) 922 425 703 And yes, the receptionist speaks English. Book early -- the places go fast.
They also hold private visits, usually for schools or visiting astronomers. You can email your request to I believe the person who reads the email, speaks English. To be honest, they're unlikely to organise a visit for the average tourist, but if there's a visit organised anyway, you might be able to tag along. Cross your fingers!

The MAGIC telescope
The MAGIC gamma-ray telescope

If you have any questions or problems