Flying High: My Experience of Paragliding in Bir Billing, North India
“Don’t stop, don’t sit, don’t jump – just run…” he shouted after me as I did what I was told and ran headlong off the mountains at the foot of the mighty Himayalan range until gradually I felt lighter, I could no longer run but instead allowed myself to be swept up into the air.
Like many others visiting Bir Billing, an off beat gem in Himachal Pradesh, North India, I had come here to make my dreams of flying come true. I was staying at the new Zostel Hostel who made arranging paragliding really easy. It was my first experience of paragliding in Bir Billing and as I ran for the take off and felt that weightless feeling of being suspended in the air for the first time I was feeling both excited and a bit nervous.
Paragliding in Bir Billing – Video
The scariest part about paragliding is the take off, there’s no easy way to do it – you just have to literally jump off the mountain, make a great leap into the unknown and launch yourself off the mountain and into the air.
The rest is plain sailing (or flying) and as I settled into the sensations of flying and felt safe that my pilot knew what he was doing I started to relax and enjoy the scenery around me. And what magnificent scenery it was, it was late May so the air temperature was warm yet refreshing but in the distance I could see the snow capped peaks of the Dhauladhar mountain range, part of the greatest mountain range in the world – the Himalayas. Below me my legs dangled a little precariously over the densely forested slopes.
Paragliding in Bir Billing – the 2nd best place to paraglide in the world!
I’d picked the perfect place to try paragliding for the first time as this small, quite unassuming and blissfully offbeat town of Bir in Himachal Pradesh is reputed to be the second best place for paragliding in the whole world (second only to Lake Como in Italy but a hell of a lot cheaper!)
For 30 mins we soared gently high in the sky above the mountains until the roads and rooftops of the village came into view and I started to make out the stupas of the colourful Tibetan monasteries that dotted the landscape around Bir and I couldn’t help but think it was like looking down on a miniature world.
As we floated down and the miniature world started to look more realistic as I started to make out cars, scooters and then people. Then, I started to wonder how we would get down, I hadn’t thought about this as I had been too preoccupied with the prospect of running off the mountain at the start! Luckily my pilot was well experienced with this and the landing was just as smooth as the take off and it was almost graceful how we slid along the grass unharmed.
Ticking paragliding off the bucket list
Back at Zostel, the recently opened funky new hostel that I was staying in, I swapped notes with the other backpackers about our experiences paragliding in Bir Billing and reassured the people who were doing it the next day before wandering through the village in time for the perfect sunset.
From the same spot that I had landed from the paragliding earlier, I watched as saffron robed monks and local families picnicked in the fields while the last of the days paragliders gracefully floated back down to earth against the stunning backdrop of the bright orange sunset over the terraced rice fields and mountains beyond, glad that I had conquered my doubts and ticked off this amazing experience from my bucket list.
My first experience of paragliding was magical, the only problem is now that I felt what it’s like to be flying, and I know that it’s more wonderful than scary, I can’t wait to do it again!
Thanks to Zostel Bir – the world’s first paragliding hostel for a wonderful stay and for making my dreams of paragliding come true.
How to go paragliding in Bir Billing
Bir is located between the popular destinations of Dharamshala and Parvati Valley/ Manali and is a perfect stop along the way. It’s only 2 hours taxi or drive from Dharamshala to Bir or you can get the local bus which will take about 4/5 hours.
Bir Billing is best known for paragliding but this off beat gem nestled in the foot of the Himalayas has so much more to offer including many stunning and colourful Tibetan monasteries, meditation courses and outdoor activities so, despite it hardly gets a mention in some guidebooks, I’m sure you won’t regret adding Bir to your itinerary when backpacking in Himachal Pradesh.
I stayed at Zostel Hostel who arranged the paragliding in Bir Billing for me with their trusted partners. The cost for paragliding is approx. 2,000 – 2,500 Rupees for a tandem flight (which anyone can do with any training) that lasts about 20- 30 mins.
The best time to come paragliding in Bir Billing is from mid September to March but it’s possible almost all year round depending upon the weather apart from during monsoon. I visited in May and had a warm, clear, calm and sunny day perfect for paragliding.
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