A guide to paragliding in Bir-Billing is all that you need if you have an adventurer’s spirit and are not afraid of soaring high. Think carefully because we are talking of highs that are as high as the Himalayas; yes we are talking about going paragliding in Bir-Billing. With the autumn here, and the promise of a good winter, Bir-Billing is all set for this year’s paragliding season.
India does offer a lot of thrills, but when I write that there is no thrill as thrilling as swooping over the Himalayan winds, believe it. Paragliding in Bir-Billing is a once in a lifetime experience, though I can put some money on the chances that once there, you will go back again and again. Yes, that is how alluring the prospect is.
As for the experience, Bir-Billing is ranked as Asia’s best and the third best site for paragliding in the world. With highly favourable wind conditions and thermal, a good day can let you have a flight of at least 10 minutes. So much so that the place also hosted the World Paragliding Championship, and might become one of the permanent hosts. Some more luck and if you manage to convince your pilot, throw in another 5-10 minutes and those might just be the most adventurous moments of this life for you.
Credit: ThinkStock PhotosThe takeoff site at Billing offers 360 degrees fascinating views of the Dhualadhar mountainrange; its first look will take your breath away. Once at Bir, the pilots and trainers will drive you uphill to Billing, followed by instructions on your first flight ever! They’ll harness you, and as long as you are flying in tandem (not solo), you can rest assured of their expertise.
While the place sees a number of foreigners with prior experience bringing in their own gear and flying solo, I will suggest you fly tandem, with a trained pilot to ensure a hassle-free and safe flight. Once you are some two minutes into the flight, you will be over the initial fear of not having earth under your feet! Pre-takeoff, you would be required to do a short yet fast run over the cliff, which will eventually have you riding the wind. Ask me, and I would deem it as the scariest part, not much considering the experience that awaits.
The best time for paragliding is all around the year, except for monsoons, when the activity is put on hold till heavy rains recede.
Credit: ThinkStock PhotosOnce you have taken off, do not forget to open your eyes, calm your heartbeats and soak in the views. Believe me, there is nothing as calming as the sight of the Himalayas around you. Look closer, or ask the pilot to guide you, and you will be able to see a meandering river and the community settlements at Bir. When in a great mood, the pilots will point to their own houses from mid-air (true story)! Soak it all in, feel the wind ruffle you over, listen to the Himalayan rush, wave to the others paragliding around, or just meditate if you are able to find some zen!
A single paragliding fight, usually of around 10 minutes, will cost you around INR 1500 per person. Throw in another INR 500 if you wish to have the pilot show you some cool maneuvring tips, including one that will have you freefalling in a spin! Mind you, I am not a huge fan of this.
How to reach?
Bir-Billing is connected to all major cities in North India via buses. You can hop on to an AC bus from Delhi to Dharamsala, and then take a cab to Bir-Billing. It’ll cost you around INR 1000 for a cab ride from Dharamsala. Regular Himachal Transport buses also ply at regular intervals between the two places and will cost you a lot lesser.
Those who wish to take a flight can book one to the Kangra Airport in Gaggal; once there, it is a 2-hour car ride to Bir-Billing, shared cabs can also be sought to save some bucks here.
The nearest railway station to Bir-Billing is at Pathankot. It is at a distance of some 150 km; you can again get private or shared taxis from there. The best way to reach Bir-Billing for paragliding is to first get to Dharamsala or Mcleodganj, and then take a cab. Tour organisers at Mcleodganj can also get your paragliding experience pre-booked.