[UPDATED 21 Mar 2020]
Since the COVID-19 outbreak
earlier this year, many of us have had to cancel our travel plans due to travel restrictions
and measures put in place by authorities to slow down the spread of the virus. Since travel isn't on the cards for now, that doesn't mean we can't think about travelling or dream about our next trip
. If anything, this is a great opportunity for us to look back on our travel experiences and continue fuelling our wanderlust. So, in this article, I'd like to share about one of my most amazing travel experiences ever - paragliding in Switzerland. When travel restrictions are lifted and it's okay to explore the world again, I hope my experience will inspire you and be useful for your travels! 🤗
Paragliding was always on my bucket list but I just didn't know where I wanted to do it and when. My idea of paragliding was always over the sea (probably somewhere in Phuket!) because I saw really lovely photos of paragliders at Phuket's Promthep Cape.
Credit: Azizan Mohd Noor on Facebook Yup, in my head - paragliding looked something like this 😅 For the uninitiated, paragliding refers to flying
with the help of a parachute-like inflatable wing using natural conditions like air currents and body weight. How this works is that you'll wear a harness and the parachute will be hooked to your harness. Many travel sites describe it as the purest form of flying - it's the closest you can get to having wings and flying (more on this later!)
Though it was on my bucket list, I didn't actively look out for places to paraglide or made concrete plans for it. So never in my wildest dreams did I expect to do it in Switzerland during my trip there in September 2019. P.S. Planning for a summer vacay in Switzerland? Check out our 7D6N Muslim-friendly Swiss itinerary!
The view outside my Airbnb at Lauterbrunnen Prior to my trip to Switzerland, my friends and I had paragliding on our list somewhere but we were never decided whether we should do it. We wanted to do it in the town of Lauterbrunnen (a town in a gorgeous valley of the Swiss Alps, more than 800-metres above sea level) but we weren’t sure about the cost and whether the experience would be worth it for such a high price. And there
were many factors to think about like weather, visibility, acclimatising to the high altitude and so on. Perhaps it was also because we were in the planning and thinking phase and that led us to think too much. So we agreed to put the plan on hold, and if it happens, it happens. P.S. Travel around Switzerland and save some money with these amazing budget hacks!
The picturesque views in Switzerland, which we were blessed with every day
Fast forward to the trip and everything blew us away. Switzerland's magnificent natural scenery was a sight to behold. I've heard stories about its beauty and seen countless photos but never did I expect to be in awe. The grass was greener than green, the mountains were magical and so on. The scenic nature got me in my holiday mood - if this was going to be my only trip to Switzerland for many years to come, why not just try everything? This was when I decided that I was going to try paragliding in Switzerland, by hook or by crook. After all, I wouldn't know when I’ll come back to Switzerland and I’d hate myself for not trying. Call it
#fomo (fear of missing out) but experiences like this last a lifetime and I wasn't going to miss out on this!
But even up till the day we were travelling to Lauterbrunnen (from Lucerne), we weren’t really sure if we were going to paraglide as there were just too many activities to do there! So, we were trying very hard to slot it into our itinerary. We were on the train and tried emailing the paragliding company, Airtime Paragliding
to see if they could accommodate us later that afternoon but they were full. So, we contemplated doing it elsewhere in Switzerland, such as in Zermatt (which we were going to go to later on our trip).
As if by a twist of fate, we were casually walking down the streets of Lauterbrunnen, and we spotted a little souvenir shop with an advertisement stating that we could sign up for Airtime Paragliding
there. So we took the chance. We chose Airtime Paragliding because we read great reviews about it and their website promised a great view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley with a view of waterfalls, mountain towns, Schilthorn (the famous James Bond mountain) and the Jungfrau mountain range. Plus, it was a well-established
company and we were all first-timers so this was very assuring 🤗 We picked the package called "The Wall" which cost CHF180 (about SGD250/RM756/Rp. 2.5 million) and would last 15-20 minutes. The pilots would also bring along a GoPro during your flight and you can purchase the footage for an extra CHF40 (SGD55/RM168/Rp. 568.5k).
And so the day came. To be honest, we were all really tired as we did a hike and a bunch of adventure activities that morning like ziplining and mountain carting. (Yes, we were #fomo like that 😂) Safe to say, we had our adrenaline fix for the day covered and I was a little dazed to feel excited.
The great thing about Airtime Paragliding
was that they picked us up at our accommodation and drove us to the Stechelberg cable car station where we had to go up to the town of Murren (1638 metres above sea level) for our paragliding flight. If you have the Swiss Travel Pass (like we did), then your trip on the cable car will be all covered.
We met our pilots at the station and they were carrying these huge bags of parachutes and other gear. They were very friendly and tried
to make us feel at ease by cracking jokes. As we went further and further up, only then did the feeling of nervousness and excitement hit me. It hit me that I was really going to do this and I didn't know what to expect. I'm not afraid of heights but I don’t like the feeling of free fall and later I learnt that paragliding doesn't involve much free-fall.
Once we reached Murren, we had to walk quite a bit to the take-off site and even climbed a few slopes with the pilots. Before the main highlight, I was already sweating buckets! I remember the pilots saying that the hardest part of it was over (the climbing 😂) Thankfully, we got to rest and catch our breath as we had to wait for the pilots to set up their parachutes.
Then, we had to pick our pilots and I picked Wouter who is from the Netherlands. It really doesn't matter who you pick as every one of them would have at least 8 years of experience. There are a few flights each day and ours was the final flight of the day. Wouter told me that it was his fifth
time flying that day! Soon after, he put me in a harness and strapped me to the parachute and to himself. He explained that I had to do just some light running before being lifted off the ground and told me that we had to wait for the wind to be in a favourable direction before we could fly. And in case you're wondering, no we didn't have to jump off any cliff 😂
Then the moment came.
I started moving my legs as fast as I could and within seconds, we were off the ground. I started raising my hands and screaming for joy and when I looked down, it was the most surreal view ever. It took me a while before it finally sank in that I was flying. Call me dramatic but I almost shed a tear because the view was so incredible 😍 The only word I managed to utter was “Wow” and I remember repeating to Wouter how beautiful it was.
I finally experienced the feeling of flying and I couldn't help but wonder, "Is this how birds feel like when they are flying?" We glided further and further up the mountains and I relished every
moment of it 😊
Before this, I didn't know that it was possible to go higher with the glider but Wouter explained that it was due to the hot air from the walls of the mountains and that's why we had to stay close to the rocks.
Most of the time when we were cruising in the air, the pace was comfortable and it was the most enchanting view ever. Seeing a bird's eye view of the valley and the mountain towns in miniature was unbelievable. Wouter told me that Lauterbrunnen was one of his favourite places for paragliding and it wasn't hard to see why.
The exciting part was when we made turns to go up or down. One moment, Wouter asked me, "Do you love roller coasters?" and I said, "Yes, I don't mind it."
He passed me the GoPro and before I knew it, I was spinning around in the air. I started screaming as the adrenaline rushed through my veins. Needless to say, it was an exhilarating experience!
#HHWT Tip: Do note that you can say no to this if you're uncomfortable with roller coasters. Even if you said yes but you suddenly don't feel
well, you have to let the pilot know and he/she will stop.
As part of the experience, Wouter also gave me a chance to control the glider.
It wasn't that hard to control - I pulled the left string to turn right and pulled the right string to turn left. Even though it was just about two minutes or so, I just couldn't believe that I was controlling it!
Time flew by and just like that, our time in the air was up. It was supposed to be a 15-20 minutes flight but it felt like we were in the air for around 30 minutes. Wouter did mention that we had great weather up there and hence, it was perfect for staying up a little longer. Of course, we weren't going to land without a bang. So, once more, Wouter passed me the GoPro and did a final "roller coaster" before our descent. The landing was easier than the take-off. Our feets steadily touched the ground and with a heavy heart, I had to say goodbye to the amazing experience 😢
After we landed, I had such a rush and I just wanted to tell the whole world how
wonderful the experience was. I snapped a photo with Wouter, and I knew I had to purchase the set of photos and videos from him before bidding him goodbye.
I could understand why some people would describe paragliding as the purest form of flying as it was true! Even though the experience cost a bomb, I had absolutely no regrets. I finally understood what people meant when they say a travel experience is worth much more than money. I may not have tried skydiving or bungee jumping but this for me, was the best thing I've ever done in my life so far 😊
Useful tips if you're paragliding in Switzerland:
If you're trying paragliding for the first time in Switzerland, here are some useful tips to help you prepare for your flight:
1. Do your research on where and when you want to paraglide The location and season play a huge part in your paragliding experience. Are you expecting to see snow? Or do you prefer greenery or autumn foliage? If you're expecting a sea of white as you're gliding through the air, then winter is your best bet. When my friends and I were doing our research, we found that the scenery in Zermatt had more
rocks and snow while the scenery in Lauterbrunnen had a good balance of valleys, trees, waterfalls and snow-capped mountains. So, it's up to you to decide what views you'd like to see. Some other popular places in Switzerland for paragliding are Interlaken, Grindelwald and Lucerne/Engelberg. 2. Check the weather in advance
If you've already decided on a season and place, then you'd want to check the weather just a few days before your flight so you can adjust your itinerary. Let's say you're doing a few activities in the same city or region, you'd want to plan them such that your paragliding session is on a day with clear weather. You won't want to book a slot only to find out that it's a rainy or overcast day!
3. Dress appropriately
Do wear layered clothing to keep you warm, especially if it's not summertime. The temperature and wind speed up there might differ from on-ground conditions and it might get a little cold. So, wear a jacket to protect yourself! If you're paragliding in winter, you should wear even more layers. Don't forget to wear proper covered shoes too!
4. Don't paraglide with a full stomach While paragliding isn't as
extreme as skydiving or bungee jumping, it's still better to have your meal at least 3-4 hours before your flight. As I mentioned earlier, there were instances where we spun around as if we were on a roller coaster so if you'd like to experience this, you can't have a full tummy! For those of you who tend to have motion sickness, do take some motion sickness pills before paragliding. 5. Always communicate with your pilot
That said, don't hesitate to communicate with your pilot if you're feeling unwell or uncomfortable. If you feel like you want to end the flight, they will accommodate you. They are usually very friendly so don't be afraid to talk to them.
6. Don't bring a huge bag Throughout the whole flight, you will have to bring along your belongings with you so I'd advise you not to bring a large bag. Although you can leave it with a ground staff or pay a few bucks to transport your bag down via the cable car, you won't need to go through any hassle if your bag is compact-sized in the first place. Your pilot will be able to store your bag with them if
it isn't too large. 7. You can take your own photos and videos
If you want to take your own photos and videos, you can bring a compact camera or GoPro as long as your devices are properly secured. Otherwise, you can always purchase the footage from them (at a fee). No matter which option you choose, don't leave without any photos or videos of your paragliding experience!
8. Have fun!
Last but not least, have fun and brace yourself for a whale of a time! You might feel a little nervous or scared and that's normal but once you see the gorgeous view from up there, trust me, it'll all be worth it 😍
So, would you try paragliding in Switzerland? Let us know in the comments section! If you've ever tried paragliding, do share with us your stories too.
P.S. Switzerland is the perfect winter destination too! If it's always on your bucket list, do check out these 8 things to do in Switzerland in winter!
Please note that this article reflects the personal opinion of the writer and is not a representative view of Have Halal, Will Travel.