“The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who… looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space… on the infinite highway of the air” – Wilbur Wright
Flight has long been one of mankind’s oldest and most consistent dreams, and we are lucky enough to live in a world where the opportunities to experience a form of flight are greater than ever before. I have flown in jumbo jets, gliders, helicopters and tiny 6-seater planes over the jungle, but until very recently I had never truly experienced the sensation of flying with the wind in my face, being able to feel the air and see the ground clearly below me. That experience finally happened whilst traveling around Colombia’s Santander department, famous throughout the country for it’s unparalleled paragliding conditions. To say it was a revelation is an understatement; I loved the experience so much I did it twice, and am already saving up to go back and have another go. I would highly recommend anyone traveling in Colombia to do the same.
I paraglided in both Bucaramanga and San Gil, with Colombia Paragliding in the former, and through Sam’s VIP Hostel in the latter. Both experiences were very different, but equally enjoyable. Paragliding in Bucaramanga involved a leisurely flight over the city, with stunning aerial views of the capital of Santander. In San Gil it was a bit more extreme; the flight featured a remarkable panoramic view of the Chicamocha Canyon in the distance, and involved a lot more corkscrew spinning, flipping and general aerobatics which had my eyes rejoicing and my stomach recriminating.
The experience was incredible; one of the best things I have done in Colombia during my travels. First of all, the scenery of Santander is remarkable, and to be able to see it from a bird’s eye view was a unique opportunity. Secondly, the feeling of flying so effortlessly was an amazing, if slightly strange one. It took a few minutes to get used to, but after that it was a revelation. The highlight was my pilot following vultures to soar on the same thermals they use to fly so effortlessly, and having them spin around us, eyeing our wings with something approaching suspicion (although there was a part of me that liked to think it was admiration…). Put simply, for a relatively low cost, paragliding in Colombia is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
It costs between 50.000 and 90.000 pesos for a 10-20 minute flight in both locations, and the chances of a good day to fly are very good, with conditions perfect for the majority of the year. These flights take place in the afternoon, usually from about 2 o’clock, so just book in the morning and you’ll be notified beforehand by telephone if conditions are right.
All in all, paragliding in Santander is a great experience on your travels in Colombia; one I would highly recommend (and I secretly kind of hate anything really extreme, so I must be telling the truth…)