Spain's stargazing haven of La Palma reopens its observatory


With little to no light pollution and a clear view of the sky, La Palma markets itself as an ideal destination for stargazers. – Photo: J. Antonio Glez Hdez/Visit La Palma/dpa

La Palma, the Spanish island that has established itself as a major attraction for stargazers in recent years, has fully reopened its observatory to visitors after being shuttered by the pandemic and, previously, a volcanic eruption in 2021.

Ash clouds, streams of lava and evacuation orders brought tourism on this Canary Island to a standstill in late 2021, before it was hit by pandemic restrictions, but Canary Islands tourism officials are now beckoning travellers back to this world-famous astrotourism spot.

Visitors can now once again see the island's space telescopes up close and immerse themselves in the work of astronomers at the Roque de los Muchachos observatory on the volcanic island's highest mountain.

The research centre and its numerous telescopes had been closed under pandemic restrictions. Visitors can now also take guided tours during the day, which last almost two hours and for which you have to register in advance.

The island was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 2012 by UNESCO heritage officials due to its low levels of light pollution and ideal conditions for observing the night sky.

Part of the telescopes of the observatory on Roque de los Muchachos. Astrotourism is becoming more and more popular on the Canary Island. Photo: Carola Frentzen/dpaPart of the telescopes of the observatory on Roque de los Muchachos. Astrotourism is becoming more and more popular on the Canary Island. Photo: Carola Frentzen/dpa

Last year the observatory unveiled a stellar new attraction, the massive Gran Telescopia Canarias - a telescope so big that it even earned itself a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single optical telescope in the world.

The main mirror of the Gran Telescopia Canarias (GranTeCan for short) measures just over 10 metres in diameter and is part of the observatory on La Palma's highest peak, which rises above the clouds at 2,426 metres above sea level.

It's located in what is said to be one of the planet's top spots to view the stars and astrotourists come from all over to see the night sky in ways it can't be seen from cities.

The Roque de los Muchachos observatory on La Palma is well known among dark sky advocates, and regularly invites tourists to see astral spectacles like meteor showers.

Astrotourism is possible not only on La Palma, but also on the Canary island of Tenerife, which is home to a large observatory on the Mount Teide volcano. – dpa

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