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Travel To/From/On Site

Important information

Travel to and from the observatory site and accommodation at sea-level can be arranged through the ING booking form. It is the observers' own responsibility to arrange the travel to La Palma.

During the winter months of November to April, we recommend arriving on La Palma at least one day before the start of the run.

(Santa Cruz de) La Palma has airport code SPC, and should not be confused with either Las Palmas (de Gran Canaria - on another Canary Island), Palma (de Mallorca - on the Baleares in the Mediterranean) or Santa Cruz (de Tenerife - on another Canary Island, and possibly more than one in the Americas). See this map showing the main airport codes of the Canary Islands.

La Palma is a holiday destination so please book your air flights well in advance, especially during peak periods such as Carnival, Easter and Christmas when flights are heavily booked, and in July in years ending in 0 or 5 (when the Bajada de La Virgen, a big festival, takes place in Santa Cruz de La Palma). You can get the dates of the La Palma public holidays from the ING schedules (shown in green).

Flights from continental Europe

Scheduled flights. Apart from a number of interisland flights there is a return flight La Palma - Madrid. You can usually connect to this flight from Europe and other continents. There are also a number of seasonal flights that connect La Palma directly to other cities in Spanish mainland. A flight from Madrid to La Palma usually takes 2 hours and 30 minutes approximately.

Charter flights. There are a number of charter flights direct to La Palma from several cities in Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Some of these flights can be booked as scheduled flights, in connection with intercontinental flights.

Inter-island flights and ferries

There are frequent inter-island flights from Tenerife (north airport, code TFN) to Santa Cruz de La Palma, and at least twice a day from Gran Canaria (code LPA). Flights to La Palma should be booked in advance as seats are not always available in these small planes unless booked early. Flights take about 20 minutes from Tenerife and 50 minutes from Gran Canaria.

There are many scheduled and charter flights to Tenerife and Gran Canaria as the final destination. Most charter flights to Tenerife operate from the south airport (code TFS) and a transfer to the north airport will take at least one hour driving time, so at least about 3 hours must be accounted for connecting flights from one airport to the other. You can travel between airports by taxi, by bus (direct or via Santa Cruz de Tenerife) or by rental car (ask for one-way to the north airport, there are often cars available at a cheap rate).

A ferry service is also operated daily between Santa Cruz de La Palma and Los Cristianos in the touristic south of Tenerife. Depending on the type of boat the trip can take from 2.5 hours to 4 hours.

Travel to and from the Observatory site

Observers will usually travel to the observatory by the taxi booked by the ING. Please fill out the ING booking form for visiting observers for making the appropriate arrangements. Book the taxi to and from the top well in advance. The cost of the taxi from sea level to site is about 45 euros one way. The journey takes about one hour and 15 minutes from the airport, and one hour from Santa Cruz de La Palma.

Please bear in mind that bad weather can restrict the access to the observatory. In these conditions ING activates the bad weather procedure which means that the taxi can't get to the IAC's Residencia before 09:15, and the way down must be done in daylight. Due to these restrictions, or if the observatory is unreachable, then you might have to stay longer at the IAC's Residencia.

ING strongly recommends that you do not travel to the mountain-top in anything other than the official ING transport or an ING-booked taxi. The roads can be impassable or dangerous at any time of the year, with the worst months being November through April. In any case, please never book a taxi or drive a car without providing ING a contact mobile phone number, your planned itinerary (departure and arrival times and places), informing of any accompanying people, and contacting the IAC residencia or your Support Astronomer for the latest update on driving conditions for both the way up and down . See maps and photos on How to Get to the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory from Sea Level.

Travel on site

Observing teams on each of the telescopes will be issued with an ING vehicle for travel on site, between the telescope buildings and the IAC's Residencia. The vehicle should not be taken off site. Drivers must have an EU or international current, full driving licence for at least two years, and take it when using one of the ING cars.

The WHT Observing Support Assistant (OSA) can provide transport to and from the telescopes before sunset and after sunrise for non-driving observers. Arrange this with your Support Astronomer.

For insurance reasons, ING administration is required to check the validity of the driving licences of any observers planning to drive ING cars on the mountaintop. Your Support Astronomer will therefore be asking you to email, and at least 10 days before the first night of the observing run:

  1. scanned copies of the key pages from your driving licence and passport;
  2. a completed copy of the data-protection form;
  3. the exact date of your arrival;
  4. the name/s of the telescope/s at which you'll be working (usually WHT and/or INT).
This information is needed for each observer who will be driving.

The copies of the licence and the passport will be treated by ING as confidential, and will be seen only by authorised ING administration staff.

Once the administration staff have checked the validity of the driving licence, they will authorise release of the car keys to the observers when they arrive at the residencia. Only with this authorisation will observers be allowed to drive an ING car. ING greatly regrets the additional work involved for observers.

Keys for the vehicles may be obtained from the reception desk at the IAC's Residencia the day of your first observing night. In case the keys are not encountered, please contact your Support Astronomer.

Visiting observers will be asked to sign a form, before using these vehicles. Information on the use of the vehicles is available inside the vehicles. Please report any problem you find with the car via the ING fault database and remember the speed limit on site is 40 km/h and we drive on the right. Watch out for people walking on the road or crossing animals. ING cars must not leave site.

Car and keys should be returned at the IAC's Residencia immediately following the last observing night. See below the current allocations:

ING CarAssigned to
Blue SEAT IBIZA 1679DCBWHT observer
White SEAT IBIZA 1650DCBINT observer

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Contact:  (Phone: +34 922 425 410)
Last modified: 22 April 2023