Soaring silently through the skies, hair flowing in the wind as the world whirls by, may be humankind’s oldest dream. Travelers, more than most, seem tempted to take the leap.
Invented in the late 1970s, paragliding (or parapente) involves jumping into the wind from a high precipice, and soaring, perhaps for hours, beneath a modified parachute. And you can do it here in Peru, from many of the cliffs and mountains that make up the dramatic landscape.
Most travelers opt to take a short, 10- or 20-minute tandem flight, where you’ll be strapped in with an experienced professional who operates the paragliding foil while you snap photos and gasp. Not enough? Peru is a great place to get certified to paraglide solo. Several schools offer the option, which usually takes a week or 10 day commitment as well as several classes and flights. Either way, enjoy!
If you visit the Miraflores district of Lima, and the misty Costa Verde, you’ll probably see paragliders taking off from the Parapuerto (“Paraport”) at the Parque del Amor. Beginning atop 230-foot (70-meter) cliffs, then soaring even higher on the Barranco and El Miramar thermals, it is a trip you will always remember.
About 25 miles (40 km) south of Lima, at the 1200-year-old ruins of Pachacamac, you can paraglide over the soft sand dunes and sea with several different operators. Surfers headed to Pasamayo, about 37 miles (60 km) north of Lima, could paraglide there in between breaks.
No trip to Peru is complete without a visit to the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, in the high, windswept Andes—perfect for paragliding. You’ll book your birds-eye view over the dramatic scenery in the city, but actually soar over the Sacred Valley, starting at 12,792 feet (3,900 meters) and rising ever higher; if conditions are right, you may land in the ruins of Sacsayhuaman.
Adventurous paragliders can head even farther into Andean Inca territory, to the takeoff at Ancahuasi. You’ll start out at 13,776 feet (4,200 meters), then soar over the vast agricultural valley far below.
Get off the tourist trail in Andean city, a bustling provincial capital that does have limited tourism infrastructure offering guided hikes, indigenous home-stays, Wanka Park, the “highest railway in the world” at 15,993 feet (4,876 meters), whitewater rafting and the opportunity to paraglide. Outfitters aren’t as ubiquitous as in the touristy areas of Cusco and Miraflores, but they are cheaper.
There are two takeoff points overlooking a wide, beautiful valley that generates impressive thermals. Beginners will use the launch at 12,267 feet (3,740 meters), but more experienced pilots have the option of starting at a breathtaking 14,337 feet (4,370m).
The capital of Huamanga Province is best known for its 33 churches (one for every year of Jesus Christ’s life), and the tiny model churches on the roofs of every home. The religious celebrations can also be quite a draw. What few people realize is that this mountain town is also developing into a paragliding center. There are several launch points in the area, all taking advantage of the consistently excellent conditions: Campanallo, a classic Spanish colonial town with a wonderful market; Pampa de Quinoa, for expert flyers only due to shifting wind conditions and Stoneforest, still being developed.
There are several other sites being developed for paragliders in Peru. If you’re an adventurous expert, contact some of the schools and ask them to point you toward the parapente launch less traveled.