If Your Friends Jump Off a Cliff, Yes, You Should Too

To find out just how amazing paragliding feels, we tried it out, loved it, and then rounded up 5 of the best spots to try it in Asia. Here’s what to know.

Hanoi Paragliding

Courtesy of Hanoi Paragliding

By Neil Armstrong

May 9, 2022

PARAGLIDING SEES YOU floating through the sky, relaxing in a comfy cloth chair, suspended by a thousand slender strings under a billowing parachute, while watching the best views of the world (or, for this writer, Asia) unfold below you from a blissful, stress-free perspective. 

At least that’s what I told myself while strapped into a harness, perched on a cliff, and looking to a lush green valley far, far below. A long way down I could see the landing area. At least the grass looks soft, I thought. Looking to my relentlessly grinning instructor, he gave the ‘go’ signal and we started running towards the cliff edge. I mean we were locked into a harness together, it’s not like I could back-peddle—believe me, I tried. His enthusiastic bounds easily outpaced my scrabbling moonwalking.

But after literally jumping off a cliff, and finding I wasn’t in fact plunging to my death, a mixture of excitement, calm, and the sheer thrill of living in the moment (let’s call it adrenalizen) swept over me.

Yes, the grass landing was soft. But I didn’t care. I just wanted to do it all over again.

Courtesy of Hongkong Hike ‘N’ Fly (2)

If that sounds like something you’d like to experience, do remember that there’s no escaping the reality that, to get there, you have to run into the void off a high platform or cliff. This is where an encouraging instructor, and your tandem partner, are worth their weight in gold. Well, OK. Maybe half their weight. In feathers.

Thanks to a large, lightweight, and highly maneuverable paraglider wing—think of it as a cross between a parachute and a flexible wing—plus a comfortable padded harness, a hammock-chair in which to recline, the sky is your canvas. Chasing thermals to gain altitude, you can soar, swoop and bring out your inner eagle.

It’s true that some of the most beautiful places in Asia are among the best to paraglide, but also remember that from that height and with that level of adrenalizen coursing through your system, paragliding makes everything beautiful. Here are 5 of the best places for paragliding tandem tours and lessons across Asia.

Bir Billing, India

Paragliding Billing
Courtesy of Paragliding Billing

In the very north of India, between where the fertile farmland ends and the grand Dhauladhar Mountain Range (a gateway to the Himalayas) begins, you’ll find the picturesque area of Bir Billing. Known for its numerous hiking routes and unique birdlife, it’s considered one of the best spots not just in Asia but also the world for serious paragliding, due to its thermals and its wide variety of flying areas. Bir Billing hosted the Paragliding World Cup in 2015, with the 140 international pilots in attendance further cementing its reputation.

The massive mountain range and the Kangra valley below with its panoramic views offer opportunities for both high altitude and long-distance flying, with journeys of 200 kilometers recorded. September to November is prime time for paragliding here.

Tandem trips from Rs2,000; courses from Rs30,000.

Bali, Indonesia

Courtesy of Bali Paragliding Tours (2)

While the majority of visitors to Bali throng the popular beaches and warungs, relatively few have ever viewed the majestic cliffs, temples and reefs of the popular south coast while aloft, floating on the breeze.

Taking off from a licensed flying site, located at the cliffside of Kutuh Village in the southern part of Nusa Dua will see you launching from a cliff area with ample dramatic ocean views.

There are two landing options, with the sand being preferable, since we’re sure you’ll want to spot and secure a beachside masseuse to cap off the experience. May to December is the best time, as this is during the dry season.

Tandem flights from US$55.

Doi Bu, Vietnam

Hanoi Paragliding
Courtesy of Hanoi Paragliding

If ever a whole country could be crafted to suit paragliding, Vietnam would be it. There are more than 50 active sites throughout this long, skinny country and there’s always somewhere suitable to fly year-round.

Doi Bu, 45 minutes from Hanoi, is one of the best places to start your paragliding tour of Asia. It certainly is one of the busiest sites in the region, with people flying almost every day. But you’ll hardly notice anyone else around, with the security of a host of passionate and experienced pilots on hand, and stunning emerald-green valley views below.

The Northern monsoon season, November to April, sees suitable winds and pleasant weather in this part of Vietnam.

Tandem flights US$60.
Also, check for all things paragliding in Vietnam.

Hong Kong 

Hongkong Hike 'N' Fly
Courtesy of Hongkong Hike ‘N’ Fly

The words silence and serene don’t get used very often when referring to anything to do with Hong Kong. But getting to glide above some of the most scenic parts shows that this city-state is a vast nature reserve, and the scenery is magnificent.

“Hong Kong is great for paragliding because of the easy access to some seriously big and scenic mountains—such as Dragon’s Back, or Sunset Peak on Lantau, both of which are only about 15 minutes from the MTR stations,” says Emil Kaminski, owner and pilot of Hong Kong Hike & Fly, “as well as year-round flying conditions.”

Hongkong Hike 'N' Fly
Courtesy of Hongkong Hike ‘N’ Fly

As to which location you’ll fly, be it Sunset Peak, Ma On Shan, or Dragon’s Back, it all depends on the weather forecast. Instructors will let you know where to head a few days before your flight. Conveniently there are no age restrictions, and generally speaking, the lighter you are, the longer your flight time. 

Bonus points: You’ll end your flight by landing on the beach. Hard to find a better place in Hong Kong for a touchdown. “Passengers only need to bring excitement, patience, and a positive attitude!” grins Emil.

Tandem flights HK$2,500, including in-flight video.

Phuket, Thailand

Paragliding Phuket
Courtesy of Paragliding Phuket

With numerous elevated rocky outcrops dotting Phuket’s coastline, everywhere seems like a perfect location for launching into the sky. But it takes an expert to find the most suitable spots—you know, to ensure you float over the water instead of plunging straight into it. 

Enter Oliver Thurmann, owner, head instructor, and pilot of Paragliding Phuket, who’s combed the island and found the premium places to take flight.

“At the moment we’re flying from two different locations,” Oliver says, “depending on wind directions on the day. Black Rock offers a well-elevated take-off, and our other site is the Windmill viewpoint, a lower take-off, ideal for west winds, and known for its beautiful sunsets.”

The best time of year for paragliding in Phuket is February to November.

Tandem flights Bt3,500; Introduction Day, which includes the first steps with an instructor towards learning to fly by yourself as well as a tandem flight, Bt4,900.

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