The Observatory was inaugurated in 1985 and is managed by the Canary Astrophysical Institute (IAC). Atop the island at over 2400m above sea level, it is visited daily by those wishing to enjoy the spectacular view over La Palma and, on especially clear days, of the neighbouring islands of Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro.
Besides being ideal for nocturnal observation, it is equally important for Solar Physics and also attracts High Energy Astrophysics.
In addition to scientific activities, the IAC tries to spread some knowledge of astronomy to a wider public; with this aim, visits by colleges or groups can be arranged on request. There is even a hall of residence with facilities (dormitories, kitchen, dining room, reception, living room and games room, etc.) designed to offer the scientific and technical staff working at the Observatory all the services they need.
The wide variety of telescopes defines the importance, and they are identified by the size of the primary mirror, as most of them work in a range from the optical to the infrared wavelenghts. Thus, the Gran Telescopio de Canarias is the biggest in the world in this range and one of the most advanced. The instrumentation für the support in the correct data collection is also fundamental and so are the measures for minimizing the interferences and turbulences around it. There are also other telescopes very unusual like the eye-catching MAGICs used for the study of energies (gamma rays) or the SuperWASP searching new extrasolar planets in a subtle way. According to the International Agreements, Spain has the 20 % of the observing time at its disposal for providing the site of the ORM.