Paragliding in Manali; My Terrifying Experience! EVERYTHING You Need to Know
I.N.D.I.A. = I’ll Never Do It Again. How many time have I’ve heard it? How many times I’ve said it? Yet, here I am, back again! I’ve been 4 times now and no doubt the fifth is in the offing. Sure, visiting the Taj Mahal in India, or celebrating Holi Festival in India are the big-ticket items. But in every corner of India, there is a bucket list activity waiting to be checked. Next up? Paragliding in Manali, in the Indian Himalayas.
Where Is Manali?
The last time I was here I headed north to Manali. Manali is in in the north of India, in Himachal Pradesh, amidst the Himalayas. Manali is about a 12 hours bus ride north of Delhi in a very rickety local bus. You end up near the border to Kashmir and to China.
Manali is a gem. Tibetan culture, epic views and chill vibes. Such an amazing destination. It’s a bit of a backpacker hub so there’s plenty of stuff to see and do. Lots of cheap accommodation and delicious Indian food. All on a tight budget.
Things to do in Manali
I was loving the respite from the Indian sun, it was 40 degrees in Delhi and ‘only’ about 25 in Manali which was just perfect. I saw a few temples, got my pic taken with a snake charmer (I know, such a tourist) but the main draw for me was paragliding in Manali. This was bucket list stuff for me, paragliding in the Himalayas!
- Rohtang Pass. At 3979m altitude, it’s a beautfiul Himalayan pass with lakes, views and plenty of snow!
- Hot springs: Both Kalath and Vashist are 5km or so from the the town centre.
- Manali Waterfalls. Jogini Falls popular waterfall spot near Vashisth temple. Further out are Rahala. Even more impressive.
- Trekking: Single-day or multi-day options available. Friendship Peak Trek and Hampta Pass Trek are the most popular.
- Tibetan Temples & Monasteries: There are plenty, you don’t need to plan!
- Paragliding in Manali; Probably the most popular activity in Manali!
Paragliding in Manali; How It Works & How Much it Costs:
Organising paragliding in Manali is pretty straight forward. It’s the main activity in the region. Just walking down the main streets, you’ll be pestered multiple times about paragliding! Almost all the paragliding companies will take off from nearby Solang Valley.
WARNING: People have died doing this. The hospital is littered with broken bones, and various injuries. Legally people need licenses to be paragliding-tandem instructors. But no-one checks. Don’t go for the cheapest option!
So is it safe to go paragliding in Manali?
Safe in a western-world sense? No. Should you probably be ok? Yes. Let’s leave it there.
Most travel insurance companies won’t insure this. Check these guys though, they cover almost everything ($10 a week). I use them for my digital nomad health insurance and they’ve always paid out.
How much does it cost to paragliding in Manali, India?
So unbelievably cheap. Basically, it varies from about 500 ($7) to 2500Rs ($45). The $7 package is a fun glide for around a minute or so. For 5-10 minutes it’s around $20. For $45 it’s a whole hour! I choose the middle option and it was perfect.
Paragliding in Manali; My Terrifying Experience:
I had just come off a 14-hour bus from Delhi. We found a cheap guesthouse, checked in and headed for the bar to meet some people. One beer turned to 5 and I ended up chatting with a guy called Gurdeep. He seemed like a nice guy and mentioned that tomorrow he’d be going paragliding. Why not I thought?
The next morning, a little hungover, I went to Solang Valley with my man Gurdeep. He now told me he actually ran the paragliding ‘centre’ so I had nothing to worry about. Ok. But when we got up the valley it turned out his ‘Manali Paragliding centre’ constituted 3 friends, a batter old van and some pretty worn looking gear. What can you expect for $20, right? Let’s do it.
“Oh yes Johnny sir, I crashed last time”
We hiked up one of the nearby mountains to get to our paragliding spot. It wasn’t too strenuous a climb, but Gurdeep was struggling. He had to stop every 5 minutes or so. And what I had noticed to be a slight limp seemed a lot worse now. “Everything alright Gurdeep?” “Oh yes Johnny sir, I crashed last time I paraglided I crashed with the American girl, broke my leg sir, but don’t worry my friend is taking you today, not me”.
Wonderful. Filled with confidence I nervously laughed, sweated a little more and carried on.
“shouldn’t this be strapped up?”
My two friends and I got to the top of the mountain, and we got strapped in. I, fortunately (unfortunately?) got strapped in tandem to the Indian paragliding champion apparently (I’m still dubious). But here I was with my harness hanging off looking very unsecured. The guy started walking towards the mountain edge. Ready to hop off. One of my buddies shouts ‘Woah, woah, shouldn’t this be strapped up?!”, “Oh yes sir, very good, it should be strapping, hehe”. And he strapped it. WTF.
Whatever. Let’s just do this. He told me to start running as soon as he started running. Ok. And off we went, sprinting to the cliff-top. The take-off is the best part, you start sprinting down the mountain, you and your tandem guide until ‘whooosh’ he gets the right angle and you jet off the mountain top. Off we went, my two friends, following in close pursuit behind. I was darting through the Indian Himalayas, hundreds of feet in the air and I really felt like I was living my life, terrified but ecstatic.
The views from so high up were amazing, and as my champion tandem partner begin chatting with me, he let the others pass quietly, gently, slowly until he told me he’d like to practice a few moves? Wtf? Before I had the chance to reject this stellar idea, I was bowling from side to side, spinning in sharp circles, about to lose my lunch. I could see the other guys serenely taking in the views. Quiet, graceful arcs in their harnesses! My guy thought this was hilarious. We were hurtling towards the ground, overtaking everyone. From behind, we went into full sprint post. Darting through gaps, he landed smooth as silk with a little jog down the downward landing slope.
Throwing up on Landing
10 minutes or so in the air. More than enough thank you very much! Soon after my (hungover) friend landed, only to dart behind a tree with both a dose of Delhi-belly and air sickness, quite the sight and smell, much to the amusement of your paragliding guides! Oh and at the end, there’s even zorbing ($3) to get you back down the hill!
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