Where to Paraglide, Worldwide
For thousands of years, man has dreamt of flying…. Have you read that sort of thing a few times before? Well, these days many people are coming very close to that often-expressed yearning by leaning into the wind, taking a few steps and then gently parting company with the ground under their feet. And perhaps, a few minutes later, turning into the rising warm air of a thermal and eventually climbing, until just a speck, high up and far away.
Just pausing here to let you indulge in that incredible daydream for a few more moments…..
Welcome to the exhilarating sport of paragliding, known in many countries as parapente. And some people say parapenting or even hand gliding. The craft itself is a paraglider, most commonly spelled paraglider.
Explore this site, and you will gain an appreciation for exactly where the sport has been going lately. Be amazed at what is achievable in a real aircraft that can be stuffed in a backpack and taken anywhere, anyhow, any time.
Just look at all these people, having the time of their lives in a brisk sea breeze down at the coast!
That is probably the biggest draw of this sport – anyone can own, store and operate their own personal aircraft! A modern, new paraglider costs a fraction as much as a very ordinary family car.
Glider pilots are a special breed, people who learn to love the ‘feel’ of rising air. During their lifetime they are likely to try more than one form of flying without a motor. Indeed, experienced motor-less pilots move easily from one form of flying to another. Sometimes just to try something new, sometimes because of financial constraints or other reasons. Sailplanes, hang-gliders, paragliders. Finding your way to the middle of a thermal and then climbing high in almost total silence is a blast in any of these aircraft! So is getting more than one thermal away from the comfort zone of the local launch site.
Some amazing places to paraglide are described here. Why not browse through them and daydream a bit.
Paraglide in Europe
Let’s have a look at some spectacular sites in the French Alps now, firstly in the North – Parapente Alpes. Just as spectacular with a sunnier climate are the sites when you go paragliding South Alpes, also in France. Frenchmen and Germans are very keen about paragliding, it is so popular in this region of the world, where it all started. It’s known as parapente, and the paragliders themselves are also referred to as parapente.
Going just a little further south, you could try paragliding in Barcelona, which gives opportunities to fly in the foothills of the mighty Pyrenees mountain range.
Across the Channel, you can experience a variety of slope soaring opportunities, or go cross country in moderate thermal conditions. Why not try paragliding in the West Midlands of green, grassy England!
Paragliding goes back a long way in this region, almost back to the birth of the sport. So it’s not surprising that paraglider-spotting is easy in this picturesque Swiss town. Oriented towards tourism, the town is located between lakes Thun and Brienz in the Bernese Oberland region. Being in the Alps, there are magnificent mountains nearby. Pilots launching from these mountains often use a landing area in Interlaken itself. Shoppers walking along the Bahnhofstrassein can watch the brightly colored paraglider canopies arriving and landing gracefully in the nearby park. A lot of paragliding takes place in other parts of the Swiss Alps too.
Paraglide in the USA
Some of the US states in the West have great combinations of the mountain and flatland flying in dry conditions, for example, if you paraglide Utah. And for a bit more emphasis on mountain flying, you could try paragliding in Colorado. Many states in the US offer their own flavor of paragliding action. If you live in this country, you probably aren’t far away from a decent paragliding site.
Torrey Pines, California, U.S.A.
Many members of the public roll up at Torrey Pines Gliderport in Southern California. Here, they can see paragliders and hang gliders launch from the cliffs into the Pacific Ocean breeze. Famous for many years for being a busy hang-gliding site, paragliders have become commonplace too in recent years. Plenty of space to park your car at the edge of the cliffs and watch the soaring action. Occasionally a pelican or 2 will sail past as well!
Paraglide in Australia
A very flat country, Australia. So it’s not uncommon to see paragliders towed into the sky like giant kites. Getting towed has its advantages – all that’s needed is sufficient flat space with no obstacles. It also provides good practice for finding thermals on the way down. No traveling half the morning to a slope site that might disappoint half an hour after arriving. No ‘para-waiting’.
Paragliding in Australia is very active, with a number of notable mountain sites in the Eastern states offering alpine flying. Other lofty launch sites allow good ridge soaring and/or long thermal flights in hotter, dryer conditions. We’ll get to them at a later date, but for right now, let’s go way down, right to the bottom of Australia.
Butting into the Southern Ocean is picturesque Tasmania, an island state of Australia. Paragliding Tasmania you can enjoy light/moderate thermal conditions and ridge soaring in a clean, pollution-free part of the world.
Paraglide in Asia
In this region, there are 2 paragliding countries that happen to be next-door neighbors separated by a strip of water. Check out what it’s like to paraglide in South Korea. And just across the sea of Japan, people sometimes fly from Mt. Fuji the famous volcano, and a few other volcanic sites as well. So let’s check out paragliding in Japan.
Paraglide in South America
Here’s an interesting place to fly. With an unusual climate, a rather public flying near the city, and a whopping great sand dune just out of town, try paragliding in Lima, Peru.
The city of Lima in Peru, South America, extends right down to a series of coastal cliffs. It’s commonplace for the general public to see paragliders quite close-up as they soar along the cliffs. The district of Miraflores, in particular, is a nice area for shopping and dining, in full view of the Pacific Ocean and all the flying action. You can explore the Larcomar mall, perhaps relaxing in a restaurant such as the Mangos or the Vivaldino, with a window seat. Or, just take a stroll along the footpath (sidewalk) atop the cliffs. Either way, you are sure to see paragliders sooner or later, provided weather conditions are favorable. In blustery weather, the seagulls have the air to themselves!
Here are some details on several of the best paragliding instruction centers in the U.S. Some of the best paragliding schools happen to coincide with some of the best flying sites in the world. Funny about that!
After the surge in Europe, paragliding is really starting to expand in the U.S. Just to give you some idea, I saw an online list recently that carried details for more than 90 paragliding schools in the US. And I don’t think many of them were tiny 2-instructor outfits either.
Nearly 20 major schools can be found in frost-bitten Canada, maybe more now.
A couple of good examples of where to get a paragliding lesson in the United States are Parasoft Paragliding and Big Sky Paragliding. Or maybe check out this pretty impressive paragliding training site, called Fly Above All. They operate out of Santa Barbara, California.
There seem to be at least 30 good-quality paraglide instruction centers in South Africa, a land of vast plains and booming thermals.
The same goes for Europe, some of these are really exceptional, operating in the birthplace of paragliding instruction, and boasting some of the most spectacular scenery to be seen anywhere. Moving west a bit, one of the major schools in the U.K. is Beyond Extreme. These guys do the whole range of paragliding activities, check them out to see what I mean.
Australia and New Zealand
About a dozen top paragliding schools exist in Australia and New Zealand combined. Don’t be fooled by the small number, this area of the planet is sparsely populated. There is some world-class flying and paraglide instruction to be had down here.
Even though Australia is very flat in general, people are surprised to find out that during winter it has more snow in the Alps than Switzerland! So you can get paraglide instruction in both alpine and flatland conditions here. The long north-south running mountains of New Zealand are well known and provide for spectacular flying after you have completed the basics.
Also about a dozen good schools for paraglide instruction exist in very different parts of Asia – from Turkey to India to Japan. You can learn to paraglide, no matter where you are.
With some paraglider canopy/harness combinations as light as 12kg (26lbs), it’s not hard to take it with you on a plane flight to any destination you can afford to visit. People love to paraglide in many parts of the world, most notably Europe, Japan, the USA, South Africa, and Australia. So it is not surprising that there is a wide range of experiences to be had. People hop on planes and roll up at popular and busy sites to share the air with the locals.
There is a real feeling of adventure when you read trip reports or flying stories that can be found on the Web. While some of these authors head for well-known and spectacular paragliding sites, others seek out flyable sites not too far from where they happen to be. For example, a couple of free days on a business trip might offer a chance to fly. Here are a few more inspirational pictures.
People participate in the sport on many levels, from the gift-certificate rides into a valley under a tandem paraglider, hitched to an instructor, to very serious competition pilots who fly long distances in strong and bumpy thermal conditions. In between are hordes of learners, weekend flyers and the occasional crazy aerobatics enthusiast. You don’t want to know what that last type do to their wings while in the air…