Fans of "astro-tourism" simply have to visit northern Chile, which is home to one third of the planet's telescopes and is an international hotbed for this scientific pursuit. Its unbeatable conditions include the dryness of the air, which produces clean skies – the area enjoys more than 300 cloudless nights a year- and institutional stability.
Armazones de Chile Hill, which sits 3,060 m above sea level and just 20 km from another important astronomy center in Paranal (east of Antofagasta), will serve as the site for the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). This super-sized instrument will allow scientists to search for new planets and stars and capture images that will help determine whether there is life in other parts of the universe. Both observatories are overseen by the ESO (European Southern Observatory), which is currently developing in partnership with North America and East Asia another important project, ALMA, on the outskirts of San Pedro de Atacama at 5,000 meters above sea level.
You don't have to be a scientist to enjoy the clear Chilean skies and contemplate the vastness of the universe. Your trip to Chile can include visits to the touristic astronomical observatories in Valle del Elqui, near La Serena and Ovalle, as well as Mamalluca, Pangue, Cruz del Sur, Cerro Mayu and Collowara (in Andacollo). If you make reservations in advance, you can also visit the area's scientific observatories, Tololo and La Silla, which are among the most prominent in the world, as well as Paranal.