What better way to overcome a fear of heights than to have my first paragliding experience in Interlaken?!
Look up from anywhere in Interlaken and you’ll see tiny parachutes drifting in the sky. Located in the Bernese Oberland region of Switzerland, Interlaken is THE place to visit for extreme sports and adventure activities. There are info desks throughout town for skydiving, canyoning, rafting, bungee jumping, kayaking, you name it! Paragliding is the most popular activity for those who want an introduction to the world of extreme sports. It’s so popular in Interlaken that even kids do it!
There are many reputable companies that offer paragliding. Reserving a paragliding session can be done at any info desk in town, online, or through your hostel or hotel. I chose Skywings Adventure based on my hostel’s recommendation and the company’s safety record. The entire trip time was about 75 minutes.
Paragliding in Interlaken Broken Down:
1. Pick-Up and Drop-Off at Beatenberg
Skywings picked us up at our hostel in a 17-seater van before picking up additional passengers and the paragliding pilots. The van doubles as the company’s “office” and has shelves of closed toe shoes for those who need to borrow a pair. On the ride to the take-off point, the pilots give a brief paragliding 101, explaining the process of how the ride works.
En route, you’re also given the chance to choose your pilot. This process seemed a wee bit kooky to me because it came off as being a meat market! I looked around to see if anyone else was on the same page as me, but girls in the backseat started calling out, “I want to pair up with the hottie in shotgun!” What the heck was going on?! If it was based on looks, I didn’t even get a good look at these pilots beforehand! I said diplomatically that I’d be good with anyone and so a few of us ended up drawing straws for our pilot. In hindsight, I should have requested a pilot with the most on-point GoPro-taking skills!
2. Get Suited-Up
At Beatenberg, we walked to the take-off slope to get suited up. It’s basically a giant backpack that you loop your arms into. The pilot fastens a bunch of carabiners to you, similar to zip-lining gear. My small backpack was tucked into a pocket behind me.
It’s strongly advised that you wear a windbreaker, even in the summer. The pilots have extra windbreakers in case you need to borrow one. I paraglided in August and wore a light down jacket, which I was glad to have done!
Beatenberg to Interlaken is the most popular flight route offering a good introduction to tandem paragliding at 1350m/4400ft above sea level. Many different companies take-off from this slope.
Contrary to what I had imagined take-off to be, you, in fact, do NOT run and jump off a cliff! Rather, it’s a very gentle rolling hill, albeit very high up.
Once my pilot clipped on behind me, he said nonchalantly, “We’re going to run in 3, 2, 1 …” and we started running down the hill! Not even 2 seconds into the run, my feet magically lifted off the ground as the parachute caught the wind underneath. It was so effortless! My pilot continued running with his feet on the ground a few more seconds before we were both in the air.
Sturdy, closed toe shoes are required for the take-off since many people end up tripping and losing their shoes.
The most frequently asked question is, Is paragliding scary? All I can say is that I personally have a fear of heights that I’ve been trying to overcome for years. That being said, with paragliding, there was no sensation of falling. You’re essentially sitting on a little seat with a feeling of buoyancy in the air. The wind cushions the parachute so it feels like you’re gliding.
The gentle motion of the ride brought us flying between the shimmering crystal clear waters of Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. It was so peaceful from up high witnessing spectacular views of the majestic Swiss Alps: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau.
The coolest part was when we glided into a cloud! It was like going through a giant fog patch that was super freezing.
5. Landing at Höhematte
We continued gliding past Interlaken’s local mountain, the Harder Kulm. When Höhematte Park was in sight, the pilot asked if I wanted to do “roller coaster” moves involving a series of twists, steep turns, and sudden drops. Too bad I declined, otherwise I would tell you about it here.
The landing was surprisingly gentle. I literally walked off without feeling any impact as my feet met the ground. And that was that!
The bizarre thing about the whole process was that we never signed any waiver forms. As a matter of fact, there was no mention, ever, of waiver forms! This didn’t even cross my mind until I had landed. Checking the company’s website, it says: “Paragliding and Hang-gliding have a special accident insurance with unlimited liability when recovery costs in Switzerland … The participant should have sufficient sickness and accident insurance coverage (including sports accidents).” Other than that slightly major concern, I would highly recommend paragliding in Interlaken!
Höheweg 27, 3800 Interlaken, Switzerland
Paragliding Cost: 170 CHF