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Sierra de Los Filabres, 04550 Gergal Spain
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rickg6 wrote a review Sep 2019
Oxfordshire12 contributions8 helpful votes
Magical drive up the mountain with incredible views. Beautiful location. Make an appointment to get a tour, but worth visiting just for the drive and views
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Date of experience: September 2019
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Christine M wrote a review May 2016
Velez Blanco, Spain94 contributions110 helpful votes
Touring around the Almeria region, and weather permitting, we could regularly see way into the distance, the mountains rising high about half way to Granada in the Sierra de Los Filabres and at the very top there is a stark white structure on the highest peak, and so we resolved to find out more about this. The shape of them suggested an observatory, so we looked up on the internet where it was and emailed the people there to ask about driving up to it. Apparently anyone can drive up there, as it's completely public roads all the way up, but the public cannot have access to the actual buildings. We needed no more encouragement to explore, so we grabbed our cameras and binoculars as well as our walking shoes and jackets, as its colder and very stony up there, so remember that it will not be as hot, and take water with you as it's not served by cafes in the winter, although there is a swimming pool and other facilities up there at the top for the summer season. The whole trip took about a half day, so you can tag another visit on the way out or back if you want to make a full day of it. Don't forget to start out early, or you'll get caught out by the siesta, and there won't be any cafes available to you in the way up or down when you want one. Once we left the main roads at Gergal, the smaller roads up to the Observatory wind and snake back and forth for miles and our ears popped regularly as we steadily climbed. I must admit that some of the passes were a little scary, but only a little, so in the main we had a great drive up. You don't find many people coming in the other direction, which was a great comfort! :-). As we got higher, the temperature started to cool: we visited in February, and as 2016 had the mildest winter for some while, we were in shirt and light cardigan mode. Down at ground level the temperature was 17 degrees, and adding the sun, really felt like 23 degrees or so........very warm for winter, but when we got to the top of the mountain the air temperature was only 11 degrees, and the sun factor plus location only made it feel marginally warmer.......so you can imagine my surprise when we found areas of snow here and there! The sun was shining brightly and the wind whipped across the Sierra so we resorted to jackets to keep us warmer, so do please be aware you'll need to be prepared to add a layer even in summer if it's windy. Frankly, if you are in the area in the summer, this is a great place to visit to escape stifling heat, as it's always much cooler in the mountains, and never uncomfortable. When the road eventually levels out at the top, you can see small roads branching off, as there is a hotel and an educational centre for those who work and study up there. Apparently professional astrophysicists arrive from all over the world, so they need accommodation and facilities on site.. There are actually 5 white observatories up there, and the largest that can be seen from the Sierra is really huge, with a telescope lens 3 metres across! The facility is funded by the High Council of Scientifuc Research in the Spanish Government, along with German authorities, and is formally named Calar Alto Institute of Astrophysics of Almeria. We parked alongside a dozen vehicles already up there, and watched children and dogs running around climbing on rocks and exploring. There's a fair amount of land up there so you can walk around and see views from all aspects. One thing you may be interested to note is that this is not a usual tourist spot, and so people who go there for the views and photos tend to be locals or Spanish visitors. There are no facilities there like swings or a park, and in winter the hotel is shut to casual visitors. However, in the summer there is a swimming pool with a bar and ice cream vendors so facilities depend on the time of year. my advice is, and f in doubt, take food and drink with you......it can be a long drive down with thirsty passengers! Descending, we found different little towns and a new way to get back to our apartment, and can really recommend you try this journey out for something different. There are a few trees at the top, but mainly buildings and stretches of land. The trees growing on the hillsides and mountains are planted, not growing naturally. They yield pine cones and some have little acorns that farmers feed to pigs bred for jamon Serrano....apparently they make a big difference in the flavour of the meat. One big safety tip: many of these thousands and thousands of trees seem to have white flower like structures on them and they look similar to cotton bursting out of pods, from afar. I knew it wasn't cotton, but we wanted to find out what these strange things were. So: impress upon everyone that we should NOT touch them, or even walk under them. They are nests of quite nasty large processionary caterpillars that are very dangerous, and you'll end up in the hospital if you just touch them or one falls on you! Really! They are said to be more dangerous than snakes or spiders and can kill pets and small children, who can go into shock with the pain. No, we didn't learn the hard way, thank goodness, but we checked up and I thought I'd pass the info on to you loud and clear! Nasty! They are living in these pine trees and also some cedars all over the region, and also not just at this location, but I'm told as long as we are informed about them and don't touch them for any reason, we will all be perfectly safe. Caterpillars aside, the views from the vantage points up there are stunning in any direction, and you are definitely at the same height as the highest mountain in the region, and on the day we visited, snow was on all the peaks making a beautiful sight, peak after peak, one in fron of the other.......really lovely. We found a great cafe for wine and tapas on the way down, sitting on a patio overlooking another stunning view, and noticed lots of other bars so there's choice in terms of food and drink, even in winter. I can really recommend that you take the time to go off the beaten track and explore your way up to Calar Alto......you won't regret it!
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Date of experience: February 2016
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Ian C wrote a review Mar 2016
Los Carrascos219 contributions47 helpful votes
Today we were the first English speaking group of people to enjoy this wonderful experience of a guided tour of the observatory with illustrated talk and guided tour and entry into the largest telescope.This is a great experience but make sure you have warm clothing as inside the dome where the telescope is located this is refrigerated. Organised tours only. The cost is ten euros and excellent value.
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Date of experience: March 2016
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