SAAO - South African Astronomical Observatory

Visiting SAAO in Sutherland

Booking is essential!
A maximum of 25 people are allowed per tour.

Please be punctual!
Tour guides will meet you at the Visitor Centre at the booked times. If you arrive early please wait at the Visitor Centre for your guide. This is a secure site and all other buildings are off limits to the public. In an emergency you may call 076 900 0308.

Day tours

Day tours can be done as fully guided tours or basic tours.

Fully Guided tours (Guided walk through the Visitor Centre as well as a guided tour of selected research telescopes including SALT)
Monday to Saturday: 10:30 and 14:30
Fee: R40.00 per person

Basic tours (Self-guided tour of Visitor Centre and a basic guided tour of SALT)
Saturdays and Public Holidays: 08h00 to 16h00 (every hour on the hour)
R30.00 per person

Night tours

Night tours include the viewing of interesting objects in the sky through two dedicated visitor telescopes, 16" Meade and 14" Celestron. Note that visitors cannot visit any of the research telescopes at night, not even SALT.

The tour can last about 90 minutes, but can be aborted due to cloud, mist or strong wind. In the case of bad weather the guide will take you to the Visitor Centre for a movie in case it clears up later. DO NOT DRIVE UP THE ROAD LEADING TO THE DOMES. This is a "NO LIGHTS" research area. International and Local Astronomers are at work! The visitors’ dome is very near the Visitor Centre and not up on the hill.

The tours are on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. When booking tours, visitors will be notified of their tour starting time.

Fee: R60.00 per person

Night Tour : Starting Times

























Booking information

Booking is essential!

Tours must be booked well in advance.

Contact SAAO, Sutherland during office hours from Monday to Friday, between 8h00 - 13h00 and 14h00 - 16h00.

Telephone: (023) 571-2436
Fax: (023) 571-1413
Email: suthbookings(at)
Emergency: 076 900-0308

Tour fees go towards the SAAO’s education, public outreach and socio-economic development programmes.

The fees can be paid by cheque or by direct bank transfer into the SAAO bank account. Please fax proof of payment to Bookings at (023) 571-1413. For further payment information, download the Tour Information Sheet (PDF file). Please note, that this fee is a non-refundable donation and the staff in Sutherland will not be able to help you with your payment confirmation.

(Download Adobe Acrobat Reader free in order to view the PDF file.)

School visits

Schools may visit on Tuesdays, Thursdays or every third weekend of the month. Bookings must be made three months in advance.

For bookings and information contact : edubookings(at)

How to get there

Route to Sutherland (click on thumbnail for large version)
Sutherland is situated 360km from Cape Town along the N1 and R354. The Sutherland road (R354) is opposite the Matjiesfontein turnoff (about 235km from Cape Town). This road is long and winding, and takes you right into the town of Sutherland.

The turnoff to the SAAO is halfway into the town on the right (Fraserburg Road). About 14kms from Sutherland you will find our main gate. Pass through the gates and follow the road to the Visitor Centre where you can park and meet the tour guide.

Visiting the town of Sutherland

Contact the Karoo Hoogland Tourism Office on (023) 571 1265 for information about Sutherland accommodation and local tours. More information can be found at and

The tourism office is on the main road of the town. It has information about the area such as the Tuinplaas Church, Verlatenkloof Pass, Ouberg Pass, Old English and Jewish Cemetery, Louw Museum, Dutch Reformed Church, Salpeterkop and much much MORE. Informal tour guides are also available to take you through the area (ask at the tourism office).