Have you ever wanted to fly above the mountains, with the wind in your hair and a smile on your face, looking out into a vast landscape? Everybody dreams of flying at some point in their lives. Everyday we watch birds soar through the sky, without a care in the world, viewing our land and sea from amazing heights. For humans the closest feeling of this bird-like flight is through paragliding.
Paragliding is an adventure sport of flying a paraglider (aka a large wing like parachute) through the sky. A pilot is harnessed into the glider and rapidly runs down a mountain to gain speed, taking off from the ground and beginning his flight through the sky. It’s easy to glide, accessible all around the world, and tons of fun! Internationally qualified tandem instructor pilots will guide you through the entire breathtaking experience, making it a hassle free activity in the Alps.
This day trip from historic Innsbruck is sure to sweep you off your feet, literally! Read more about where to stay, how to plan your paragliding experience, and what it’s like to soar in the mountains.
WHERE TO STAY
If you plan to paraglide in the Austrian Alps I’d recommend staying in Innsbruck, a small Austrian town with an airport only 15 minutes away from the city center. Flights all through Europe run through Kranebitten Airport daily.
Innsbruck is an adventure town, full of skiers and snowboarders in the winter and hikers in the summer. The Innsbruck Olympics were held in 1964 and 1976 and you can see remnants of that all through town. There are beautiful historic sights such as the Innsbrucker Nordkettenbahnen and Dom zu St. Jakob (Cathedral of Saint James) to see during the day. Depending on your adventure level you should plan at least an afternoon to explore the town and a few days to play in the mountains.
HOW TO GET TO THE MOUNTAINS
Reserve at least 3 hours for your paragliding excursion in Neustift. Your hotel can help you make reservations at any of the local companies that run daily excursions into the mountains. We chose Mountain Fly, which operates paragliding excursions from early morning to sunset all year round. They have numerous licensed professionals that have logged upwards of 8,000 paragliding trips through the Alps, making each customer feel safe and secure throughout their ride. If you are paragliding with a large group plan in advance so your entire group can glide together!
Paragliding companies can pick you in at your hotel in Innsbruck for a small fee. You can also take a 50 minute bus ride up to Neustift. The bus station is located in the heart of Innsbruck! The ride gives you a great view of the mountains and surrounding towns on your journey up. Buses run every 30 minutes and bus tickets can be purchased through the driver.
Once you arrive in Neustift you will quickly spot the gondola heading up into the Alps. Walk towards it and you’ll find paragliding companies at the base of the gondola. This is where Mountain Fly and other paragliding companies will be waiting to help you prepare for your trip!
SOARING IN THE MOUNTAINS
After riding the gondola to the top of the mountain you will see plenty of other paragliders preparing their parachutes for flight. In the snowy months you’ll also see lots of skiier and snowboarders flying down the mountain. You will share the drop off point with the other gliders and skiiers. The instructor will help set you up in your gear and teach you about proper protocol, which is simply how to get off the ground and how to sit comfortably in your harness. Soon enough he will have you start running down the mountain until your feet lose the ground and you begin to soar.
Depending on the strength of the wind you will soar through the mountains for 15-30 minutes. Paragliders rely on wind forces and thermals to stay in flight. Skilled paragliders can stay in the air for hours and travel hundreds of kilometers! If you and your instructor are comfortable on the trip, ask to take over navigation and he will show you how to steer the parachute. There is no sensation of freefall, making the experience so easy and that much more pleasurable.
The feeling of soaring through the air is indescribable. It is incredible to have a birds eye view of the town, the meadows, and the mountains, and be held in by nothing more than a harness and parachute. You are simply floating through the air, with no fears and no cares in the world!
It is a once in a lifetime experience, unless you are an adrenaline junkie like me and already researching other paragliding locations!
- You can bring your own camera if it is small and can be attached to you, but the company also has a GoPro and will snap photos and videos of you for 20 euros! Unfortunately there was a problem with my SD card and no photos from my flight were saved, but I highly recommend splurging for some photos and videos of you high in the sky!
- Timing is key for paragliding. Ideally you have a clear day and easy wind conditions for the perfect views and easy sailing. If there is flexibility with your reservation try to have a backup day to paraglide. We were lucky to have such beautiful blue skies, that morning was cloudy and rainy!
- Dress for the weather, it can be quite cold soaring through the mountains. I’d recommend sunglasses, gloves, a hat, and warm socks. The company will provide you with sturdy hiking shoes.
After an amazing day soaring through the Alps treat yourself to a traditional Austrian dinner at Weisses Rossl, located in the ‘old town’ in Innsbruck.
After a sensational day paragliding in the Alps, you will feel so refreshed and renewed. As an adventure junkie I have already begun researching new adrenaline activities, paragliding locations, and additional excursions in the stunning Alps.
Flying, whether it be in a plane or in a parachute, is addicting for travelers, and well worth the afternoon excursion on a sunny day in Innsbruck, Austria!
Have you been Paragliding? If you have any additional tips for our readers or questions please leave these in the comments below.
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