Before you ask the question, I'll own up immediately and say that I've never tried paragliding anywhere, let alone in La Palma. I've always fancied it, but I've never quite summoned the courage to give it a go. However, I've met quite a few people on La Palma who had gone to the island specifically for that reason and watched them with admiration, jealousy and a twitching bum. If it's okay with you, if paragliding is your thing, I'll leave you to get on with it and stick to watching from the safety of terra firma!
But why include paragliding here? It's hardly a populist activity, at least not compared to hiking and mountain biking, but it turns out that La Palma is well suited to the sport and is one of the best venues in the Canary Islands for paragliding. The scenery is of course spectacular, but also the local climate allows flying during most months of the year. I'm told by people who know their stuff that in La Palma, paragliding is possible on more than 300 days a year, though it's best between the end of September and May,, and the special thermals and trade winds make extremely long flights possible.
There are several launch and landing sites on La Palma, including Puerto Naos, Jedey, Campanorios, Torre del Time, Tel Time, Birogoyo and El Gallo in the west, plus Conception and Fuencaliente on the eastern side, so this means you can more or less follow the weather. The most popular landing point is at Puerto Naos, and paragliding pilots and organizers have a meeting point here. I'm told you are not allowed to fly over the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, and at Cumbre Vieja you must use the official launching sites.
The launch site at Puerto Naos on the west coast of La Palma is probably the most popular, situated on the edge of the hillside overlooking the beach of Puerto Naos. It's easy to get to and in normal weather conditions its thermals make an ascent of over 1,000 metres possible, taking off at 230 metres and is suitable for experts and beginners alike.
The changeable weather conditions mean that pilots need to take extra precautions when flying in La Palma, and experience is essential. The advice for inexperienced pilots is to always use a reputable paragliding school. Experienced or not, you should consider booking a local ParaGuide Service.
La Palma hosts paragliding championship competitions for pilots in all categories. The best known of these competitions is the “Desafio”, with some pretty attractive prize money on offer. Visit www.idafe.com for more information.
For more information on flying in La Palma, as well as information on guide services and tandem flights, have a look at the PalmaClub website. The club, operates the launching site above Puerto Naos and also offers tandem paragliding flights, allowing inexperienced paragliders and even brave tourists the opportunity to enjoy paragliding above La Palma. See below for the link to PalmaClub's website.