Spain’s many mountain ranges, particularly the Pyrenees, are excellent venues for aerial sports such as hang-gliding and paragliding, due to the strong air currents that allow pilots to stay aloft for hours. Paragliding, which entails jumping off a steep mountain slope with a parachute, is technically easier than hang-gliding.
The Pyrenees are reckoned to be the best mountains in Europe for hang-gliding and paragliding, with their warm summers and wide valleys. Participants must complete an approved course of instruction, after which they receive a proficiency certificate and are permitted to go solo. Competitions are held throughout the country, often with cash prizes. If you employ an instructor for any aerial sport, ensure that they’re qualified.
A flight in a balloon is a marvellous experience, although there’s no guarantee of distance or duration and trips are dependent on wind conditions and the skill of your pilot. A flight usually costs around €150 (often including food and champagne) and is made at dawn or in the evening when the air is more stable. There are balloon meetings and competitions throughout Spain, particularly in summer. It is, however, an expensive sport and participation is generally limited to the wealthy. A list of ballooning clubs is available from TurEspaña and local tourist offices.
There are flying clubs at most airfields in Spain, where light aircraft and gliders can be rented. Parachuting and free-fall parachuting (sky-diving) flights can also be made from many private airfields. The south of Spain is an excellent place to learn to fly, as it’s rarely interrupted by bad weather. The latest craze to have taken off in Spain is microlight (or ultralight) flying, which is a low-flying go-cart with a hang glider on top and a motorised tricycle below, and one of the cheapest and most enjoyable ways to experience real flying.
For information about aerial sports contact the Real Federación Aeronáutica Española, Carretera de la Fortuna s/n, 28044 Madrid (915-082 950, http://www.rfae.org), whose website has numerous links to aerial associations in Spain. A useful publication about aerial and other so-called ‘active’ sports is Guía de Turismo Activo de España (El País Aguilar), which includes listings of activities and companies around Spain.
Every year several people are killed and numerous injured in Spain as a consequence of taking part in a dangerous sport without adequate training or safety measures. Before taking up any dangerous sport, you’re advised to make sure that you have adequate health, accident and life insurance and that your affairs are in order. You should also check the credentials of the company whose services you use.
This article is an extract from Living and Working in Spain.
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