Frequently Asked Questions
1. General information about the activities
Our events run throughout the year and will be shown on the calendar on the website. Private visits can be arranged, dates for private visits will be worked out with the consent of Calar Alto.
It is possible to walk around the site without booking, but you may not enter through the perimeter or enter any buildings.
To make a visit to the site, you must secure a booking through our website. No visits will be allowed without a booking.
Our observatory events cater for all levels of knowledge and for all ages from 8 years old.
Our qualified astronomers will guide you through the visit and will be happy to answer your questions.
The duration of the sessions vary but are specified in the description of the session on the website.
If you wish to book a private event, please email via the contact us page, and we will be able to give you available dates. Private events can be booked in Spanish or in English.
Visitors will be shown the Observatory facilities and the interior of one telescope and an explanation of their working will be given (which telescopes are chosen will depend on their availability). The total visit will last around 90/120 minutes. Transportation within or to the Observatory is not included.
For our astronomy activities (not the one using the 1.23m Calar Alto telescope) you can typically expect telescopes of 8” to 10” aperture, and hopefully soon and 16” aperture telescope too. All of this will be accompanied by planispheres and binoculars.
You must check the information of the session on the website as night session start times will vary throughout the year depending on the time of sunset. During the summer months this can be quite late.
The day visits are limited by the hours we have access to the domes. Calar Alto is a working observatory and we have to respect the hours of use by researchers and the professional astronomers using the site.
Normally the hours of access to the domes are between 11pm and 2pm. There are no night time visits to the domes.
Your guide will be waiting for you at the entrance of the Visits building next to the parking place and meeting point, at the arranged time for your visit/activity.
The visits can be carried out in either Spanish or English, the calendar will show the language of each event. Private events can be carried out in either language but not both at the same time.
Telescopes allocated for visits are subject to availability. This could change at the last moment due to unforeseen circumstances in the operation of the telescopes. Each of the telescopes included on the visits schedule are professional telescopes. Typically the first option will be the 3.5m telescope dome, and after this one the 2.2m telescope.
The minimum age for visits to Observatory is 8 years old. In case of doubt the guide may request proof of age (identity card or passport).
Activities are booked and paid following the instructions provided in the website and are payable by credit/debit cards, Paypal, and in certain cases by bank transfer.
Note that we may have to contact you at the last minute to communicate to you changes occurring to your visit. For this we will use the contact telephone number and / or email you provided us with in your reservation. Travel agencies must provide the telephone number of visitors.
You should be on time at the meeting point. The organization will not wait for late visitors and the guide may deny you access if you are late. Please find out about the journey to the Observatory. Note that the Observatory is located at 2200 meters altitude and the access to it is by a mountain road.
The dates available for visits are on the calendar box. For questions about availability please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your name may be added to a waiting list.
2. At the observatory
The Observatory can be visited all year round. There may be times when the site is inaccessible due to snow but generally the site is open all weathers. Obviously there will be times when weather conditions are less predictable than others but fortunately there are plenty of clear skies during all the seasons.
If you are prepared to dress well for cold conditions you will be able to enjoy your session better.
The parking place is located at the west end of the Observatory next to the Visits building (location map available on the website).
This is as well the meeting point for every activity carried out in the Observatory.
We regret that no dogs apart from guide or special needs dogs are allowed on the observatory site.
The meeting point is the parking place located at the west end of the Observatory (the opposite end to that of where the biggest dome is located).
The observatory is an altitude of nearly 2200 metres. At this altitude the oxygen level decreases and it is not recommended that people with anaemia, babies, people of advanced age or those suffering from heart disease or respiratory problems make the visit without consulting your doctor.
The site is quite remote and if should you require urgent medical attention it could be delayed. There are no medical facilities on site.
When in doubt about making a visit, please first consult your doctor.
If during visits, symptoms of dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, ear popping or headache appears please notify your guide immediately.
Please bring with you your booking reference email printed out or on a smartphone. Although we will still be able to validate your booking on site with your name, email and mobile phone number.
Bring warm clothes. The Observatory is located in a remote part of Almeria and at this altitude it can get quite cold.
Warm clothing, footwear, hats and gloves are a must throughout the whole year. Do not allow a lack in warm clothes to spoil your day. Inside the Observatory domes the temperatures are kept constantly low. Normally you will spend no more than 30 minutes inside the dome.
Suitable torches – Red light or red light filtered torches are useful, for getting around if you are visiting at night.
Remember that any lights up here at night time might be ruining the scientific research carried out from any of the four research telescopes of the Observatory.
You might like to bring a bottle of water and a snack for your visit. We have limited amounts of refreshments available on site.
There is no shop, bar or restaurant on site.
The site has a meeting room which will be used for the initial meeting of all visitors and for presentations. This room will be maintained at a comfortable temperature.
There are toilets close to this meeting room.
There are no bars, shops or restaurant facilities on site.
You are able to take photographs during the event but please be aware that some visitors may not like to have photographs taken and we ask you to respectfully ask permission of others. In other circumstances your guide might ask you not to take photographs inside the dome if very delicate instruments are on site. Where there are children/minors attending, you must obtain permission from parents or guardians.
Regarding photographs of staff and equipment please check with staff on the day of your visit to confirm there are no restrictions.
Yes you can bring non-alcoholic drinks and some snacks. We only ask that you do not drop any litter on the site.
One of the main features of this tourism project from Calar Alto Observatory is that some of the Observatory infrastructures have been made available to the general public. This is the case of the 9 astronomers’ cabins/lodges.
Our staying capacity will be no larger than 15/18 people. The opportunity to stay in Calar Alto overnight will be given to some of those carrying out the visual observation from the 1.23m Calar Alto telescope.
3. How to get to the observatory and surrounding facilities
There are two main ways to get to the Calar Alto Observatory.
If you come from the south you will leave the A-92 and take the exit 362, then carry on uphill along the A-1178. At the top of the hill please follow the signpost “Calar Alto” through the Al-4404. The other alternative coming from the south is taking the exit 360 of the A-92. Follow the A-4404 which will take you to the Observatory.
If you come from the North you will have leave the A-334 and head to Serón (A-1178). Once you get to the top of the hill turn the right at the signpost “Calar Alto” and follow the A-4404.
The Observatory is relatively flat with few steps. Not all the site is suitable for wheelchair access.
The nearest village to the south is Gérgal, and Serón and Bacares to the North. These are small towns but there you will find shops, bars and restaurants.
No transport is provided to the site unless you have specifically booked a tour with a travel agent who has specified your transfer to the site. A private car park on the site is available. There is no public transport to the site.
There are a range of rural hotels and restaurants around the Observatory though within a range of 20 to 30 minutes car trip. Please plan carefully the details of your trip to Calar Alto well ahead, professional Observatories do not like to be close to towns/cities 🙂
4. Weather, refunds and cancellation terms
High mountain weather can get extreme at times and quite changeable in very short periods of time. It is highly recommendable to bring warm clothing even in summer time.
If because of weather and road safety conditions your visit activity have to be cancelled we will notify you as soon as we can. For reservation, cancellation and refund conditions go to this document (document Booking, refund and cancellation terms).
Visits may be cancelled unexpectedly by the Observatory, due to unforeseen circumstances in the operation of the telescopes or occurring adverse weather conditions that may affect safety in the accesses to the Observatory (snow, ice, landslides or weather warnings issued by local government. For reservations, cancelations and refund policy please check this document.