Everyone has a sense of adventure hidden away inside them and those who want to try an exciting sport while at the same time enjoying some of the most beautiful scenery in the world can do no better than head for the Andes around Chile and Peru to give paragliding a go.
What is Paragliding?
Paragliding is a sport which involves flying in a small glider-type lightweight aircraft. The pilot of the glider is seated in a harness, above which is a wing of hollow fabric and which resembles a parachute. There is no engine but a person paragliding is able to spend many hours in the air if they want to although most settle for a flight of one or two hours. One of the advantages of paragliding is that the kit is very portable and it can be packed away into a rucksack – perfect for adventurers.
Paragliders love the sport because of the sense of freedom that it gives them. They also do it because they enjoy a challenge and the sites available in both Chile and Peru will certainly provide a whole range of challenges. Experienced paragliders will be aware of the limitations of their glider and the local conditions and fly accordingly.
Paragliding in the Chilean Andes
Chile is considered to be a great place to head for if you want to do some paragliding. The climate almost guarantees good weather and there are many different sites in the country which are ideal, no matter what your level of expertise. It is a popular pastime in the country and with a variety of paragliding clubs, tourists can be sure of a warm welcome. In the north of the country, the town of Iquique is a good starting point. This is a coastal town but it is not far from the Andes and as it is considered to have only seven days each year which are not suitable for flying, it does not matter when you arrive.
The Andes are located a little further inland and the Atacama Desert is also a popular location for flyers. Thanks to the lack of trees and vegetation it is possible to land almost anywhere beyond the outskirts of the city, so there are numerous sites which are ideal for those who need to make their way back into town.
Trips into the mountains are arranged regularly by flying instructors and clubs. There are numerous sites which are considered to be ideal for the more experienced flyer and which offer more challenging routes. More information on these can be found from the Chilean Free Flight Associaton (A.CH.V.L.). They have a number of fly zones which are officially recognised and recommend that only these are used, for safety reasons. It is recommended that you never take a flight alone and that only the appropriate equipment should be used.
Paragliding in the Peruvian Andes
The site of Campanallo in the Peruvian Andes is one of the most popular among paragliders and is close to the city of Ayacucho. This has only been in use since 2008 and one of the main attractions is the climate, which ensures excellent flying conditions almost all year round. While there is much to see and do around Ayacucho, it has yet to become a busy tourist destination. This is a great place to find out more about the culture of the country as well as spend a few hours seeing it from the air.
Ayacucho is 9000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by the Andean mountains. The launch site is close to the village of Campanallo and this is on the edge of the city. There are several landing zones here too, including one among a series of abandoned buildings. Flyers need to be aware of the power lines close to this area but there are other landing sites that can be used which do not have this hazard, although it is much less convenient for those who want to go back into the town after their flight. Flying here begins at one of the lowest points in the Andes at a mere height of just under 11,000 feet. Flying from here ensures some of the best views in the area.
Ayachucha has a paragliding club, named Pawasunchik. This is a word from quechuan language which translates as ‘let’s fly’. Interestingly, most members of the club are Belgian. Those who want to try some cross-country flying here might find it a little challenging so this particular option is perhaps best suited to the more experienced flyer and those who are flying with others.
The area around Cuzco is considered to be more suitable for beginners and there are clubs and trips which allow beginners to fly with an instructor, both taking off and landing using easy sites. This popular tourist destination has plenty of fly sites of various heights and taking part in this sport in Peru is relatively inexpensive, so those who are looking for adventure on a budget will certainly find it here.
For a site which is a little higher up the Callejon de Huaylas is ideal. The trip here takes seven hours from the Peruvian capital of Lima and takes visitors to a beautiful valley high in the Andes. This is a site which is ideal for the more adventurous flyer and it is essential to allow the right amount of time for acclimatisation so flying in the company of experienced guides is essential.
This is not a sport that should be attempted solo by beginners, no matter where in the world you try it. Both Peru and Chile have clubs which can teach beginners, and making paragliding a part of your holiday in either country is a good option for those who want to do more than soak up the sun on a beach. The natural beauty of both countries is a big attraction and seeing it from the air in this way puts a whole new perspective on sight-seeing.