If you’re looking to get high, we’ve got just the sport for you. Presenting a beginner’s guide to the country’s best paragliding experiences.
Few adventure sports top the thrill of paragliding. The sense of freedom you feel while soaring like an eagle, hundreds of kilometres high, is incomparable. The Indian paragliding scene took off in the early Nineties, which saw world-class competitive pilots flocking to the mighty Himalayas. Today the sport continues to gain popularity as both, a recreational activity and competitive sport across the country. Testament to this, is India’s participation in the 2018 Asian Games paragliding category, which incidentally was added in this edition. If you are relatively fit and willing to indulge the daredevil within, India’s diverse terrain presents varied paragliding experiences.
Where To Train
While training schools and flight operators are available by the dozen, it is important to do your research. Ideally, pick a school that is registered with Federation Aeronautic International (FAI) or Association of Professional Pilots & Instructors, Switzerland (APPI International). Ask about instructor qualifications – an international pilot license issued by APPI International or FAI and ample experience is what you’re looking for.
Training, licenses and equipment are a relatively big investment. Before you commit, try a tandem flight, with a professional operator, to make sure you’ve got the stomach for this sport. Don’t take your briefing session lightly. You may not be the one in complete control, but your presence is equally important to a safe, enjoyable flight. Training to be a licensed APPI pilot can be undertaken in a series of short-term (3-4 days) certificate sessions or as a comprehensive 7 to 20-day certificate course. The advantage of the latter being continuous training, along with a greater number of flying hours. While investing in equipment, get your instructors’ advice – in addition to research.
While prices vary between operators and regions, tandem flights are usually around INR 3500-4000 for 12-20 minutes. Introductory certification courses start at around INR 18,000 for 3-4 days.
A complete kit can set you back by about INR 2-2.5 lakh. If you’re considering a pre-loved one, check for a recent service record.
Paragliding season varies in different parts of the country. Remember: Safe paragliding requires clear skies with a wind speed of not more than 20km/h.
10 Places to Paraglide in India
Now that you’ve got your wings, go on… fly away birdie! From inland sites with sometimes bumpy thermals to coastal ones with relaxed laminar currents, we present the best places to paraglide in India.
1. Bir-Billing, Himachal Pradesh
Often referred to as the Paragliding Capital of India, Bir lies at an elevation of 1,400m in Joginder Nagar Valley, Himachal Pradesh. Drive 14km uphill and you arrive at Billing – the base of some of the world’s best paragliding circuits. Collectively known as Bir-Billing, the region hosts major competitive flying events in the months of October and November. Of note is the AAI Paragliding World Cup 2015. Check http://himachaltourism.gov.in/ Himachal Pradesh’s official site for details on related training programmes and events.
Getting there: Dharamshala airport is the closest to Bir and well connected with New Delhi. Taxi and bus services are easily available from there on. Ahju (3km) is the nearest railway station with train routes from Delhi. By road, Bir is a 10-hour drive from the Capital.
Other attractions: Tibetan Colony – Sherabling Monastery walk, Bara Bhangal trek, Uhl Valley hike
2. Kalimpong, West Bengal
At an elevation of 1,247m, Kalimpong sits along a mountain ridge overlooking River Teesta with the mighty Khangchendzonga in the background. Need we say more about why you should paraglide here! Besides stunning Himalayan views, you can spot colonial architecture and Buddhist monasteries. The sleepy town remains one of East India’s lesser commercialized hill stations. Taking off from Dello Hills, the duration of a flight varies from 15 to 30 minutes, depending on weather conditions.
Getting there: Bagdogra airport is the nearest airport to Kalimpong. New Jalpaiguri railway station is the nearest train is 77 km from Kalimpong. State and private buses connect Kalimpong to places like Gangtok (75 km), Darjeeling (50 km), Bagdogra (79 km).
Other attractions: Village walks, Pine View Nursery tour, 20th Mile hike, Teesta white water rafting, Neora National Park.
3. Shillong, Meghalaya
At an elevation of 1,525m above sea level, Shillong is the capital of Meghalaya. Known as the Scotland of India, the city boasts pine-topped hillscapes that are best enjoyed from above. While the destination is relatively new to the sport, the Meghalaya Paragliding Association, founded by Captain Nikolai Singh, is a good place to start yourgroundwork. Incidentally, Nikolai is the only paraglider pilot recognised by the DGCA.
Getting there: The closest railway station, Guwahati, is well connected to all major metros. State buses and private taxi services are available from thereon.
Other attractions: Walks at Lady Hydari Park and Ward’s Lake, Elephant Falls daytrip
4. Pavagadh Hill, Gujarat
Pavagadh’s claim to fame is the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site that sprawls all the way down and around the historical town of Champaner, Gujarat. Legend says that Pavagadh is the portion of the Himalayas that Lord Hanuman carried to Lanka. The hill, part of the Aravalli range, rises in five successive plateaus with interconnected reservoirs. Private vehicles are not allowed uphill. Government vehicles drop you off to a point from where you can either walk or take the ropeway to the summit (762m). Subject to wind conditions, a flight usually last around 20 minutes and offers views of dense forests and copper-hued rhyolite boulders.
Getting there: Vadodara is the nearest airport and railhead that’s well connected to all major metros. Pavagadh village is an hour’s drive from there; bus and taxi services are easily available.
Other attractions: The biodiverse hill offers plenty of opportunities for treks, picnics and leisurely nature trails.
5. Kamshet, Maharashtra
A couple of hours away from Mumbai and Pune, the hill station of Kamshet is located 670m above sea level. Over the years the village has gained popularity within the Indian and international adventure sports community for its ideal paragliding setting. Varying between 8-20 minutes, a flight here presents lush views of the Sahyadri Hills (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Pavana Lake. A number of paragliding schools offer courses and/or equipment.
Getting there: Kamshet is easily accessible via road and rail from Pune (45km) and Mumbai (210km).
Other attractions: Picnic at Pavana Lake, Bhairi Caves and Kondeshwar Temple treks
6. Panchgani, Maharashtra
Deriving its name from the five hills around it, Panchgani is one of the most popular hill stations in Maharashtra’s Satara district. At 1,293m above sea level, it offers spectacular views of the Sahyadri hills, Lake Dhom (dam on RiverKrishna) and Table Land – Asia’s second highest volcanic plateau. The weather is pleasant all year round with favourable paragliding conditions around winter. Mark your calendar for the Panchgani Paragliding Open held every February.
Getting there: Panchgani is well connected by road to Mumbai and Pune via bus and taxi services. The nearest railhead is Pune.
Other attractions: Walks and picnics at Sydney Point, hikes and caving at Table Land, Strawberry picking at Mapro Garden.
7. Arambol, Goa
Arambol in North Goa is the ideal paragliding destination for those looking to conquer their acrophobia. We’re talking baby steps here. The headland above Kalcha Beach (Sweetwater Lake) is the ideal spot to take flight without drifting more than a few 100 feet. Being a coastal site, flights rely on gentle onshore breeze that has you cruising for about 10 minutes or more. Tandem flight operators are plenty; just check with the local beach shacks.
Getting there: Arambol is a two-hour drive from Goa’s Dabolim Airport, which is well connected to all major metros. Local buses, though available, aren’t that frequent.
Other attractions: Yoga retreats, surfing and kitesurfing.
8. Vagamon, Kerala
Vagamon in Idukki, Kerala, is one of the Western Ghats’ most idyllic hill stations. Its fertile landscape comprises tea plantations, rolling hills and pine forests. At a height of 1,100m above sea level, the region offers optimal humidity conditions with a light wind that’s apt for leisurely, safe paragliding. Keep an eye out for the International Paragliding Fest, Vagamon, that’s usually held at the end of January every year.
Getting there: Kochi (150km) is the nearest airport with pan-India connectivity. Kottayam (75km) is the nearest railhead.
Other attractions: Treks to Kurishmala, Murugan Mala and Thangal Hill
9. Yelagiri, Tamil Nadu
Among Tamil Nadu’s hill stations, Yelagiri (1,111m) is the least commercialized. Spread across 14 hamlets, the area is marked by pristine rose gardens, fruit orchards and untouched valleys. In 2009 the region made its debut on the global scene when it hosted South India’s first international paragliding festival. Paragliding packages here are relatively inexpensive. The hotspots here have been neglected in recent times. Although the government has stated that it will change that soon.
Getting there: Jolarpettai railway station is the nearest railway, you can take a cab from there to reach Yelagiri.
Other attractions: Swami Malai Hills and Jalagamparai Falls treks, Nature Park walk and picnic, Government Herbal Farm visit, YMCA camps.
10. Pushkar, Rajasthan
If you’re not looking to get serious, head to Pushkar for a dose of culture and the outdoors. Tandem flights are on offer as part of the thrills of the annual Pushkar Mela. The city’s touristy and traditional sides are best observed from an aerial vantage point. Held between October and November, the Mela is one of the world’s largest camel and cattle fairs. Event entertainment includes: camel races, handicrafts stalls, hot-air balloon rides and more.
When to go: October to November
Getting there: The nearest airport is Jaipur (127km). Ajmer is the nearest railhead and is about hour from Pushkar by road. From Delhi, it is a 14-hour bus ride.
Other attractions: Hot-air balloon rides, overnight camel desert safaris, heritage walks, glamping.
For further information you can connect with one of the private/government organisations mentioned here: