The Best Seat In The House: Paragliding Iceland

The Best Seat In The House: Paragliding Iceland

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Art Bicnick

If there is one natural resource Iceland will always have in abundance, it’s wind. While the country continues to inch its way towards wind power, one company has already harnessed it for the purposes of improving our quality of life: Happyworld, which is one of a few companies in Iceland offering paragliding.

Paragliding is the perfect balance between enjoying the thrill of flying without an airplane and not needing any particular amount of training (if you’re taking the tour, that is; the actual paragliding crew have hundreds of flights under their belts). So it was with keen excitement that we drove out to Bláfjöll, a mountain just east of Reykjavík better known for its ski slopes, on a sunny, breezy day to give it a try.

I’m not going to have to jump out of a plane, am I?

We arrived at the marked spot—really just a flag planted by the side of a two-lane road off Route—and waited for our guides to arrive, along with two girls from Slovakia and Spain. We watched gliders banking and rolling over us, and I started to wonder if I’d misunderstood this thing and was going to have to drop out of a plane or something.

You don’t really appreciate just how tiny and fragile the Reykjavík peninsula is until you’ve seen it from a whole kilometre above the ground.”

This was not to be the case. Within a couple minutes, a pair of jeeps arrived, and shortly thereafter, we watched a pair of paragliders descend. Upon landing, the “passenger,” as it were, whooped with delight. An elderly man from Seattle, he thanked his guide profusely, saying it was one of the best experiences he’d had in the country thus far.

My guide was Guillaume, a French paraglider who took on my lack of experience with grace and aplomb. I was fitted with a helmet and then strapped against this man, my back to his front. A long cord was attached to a winch on the back of one of the jeeps. The chute already unfurled and lying on the ground behind us, Guillaume advised to “just start jogging” when he radioed the jeep driver to hit the road.

Up and away

Within seconds, I was rapidly aloft, and the jeep’s cord soon detached from my harness. We rose to almost a thousand metres into the air. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as cold up there as I thought it would be. Maybe because the view was so spectacular. You don’t really appreciate just how tiny and fragile the Reykjavík peninsula is until you’ve seen it a whole kilometre above the ground.

Guillaume tried out a couple of banks which, while not particularly fast, did exert a powerful centrifugal force on me that is comparable to a rollercoaster; at once terrifying and exhilarating, because you know you’re going to be safe.

After several minutes, we descended. The landing couldn’t have been gentler if I had hopped down from an ottoman. I immediately wanted to be back up in the air again. We headed back into town again, but I expect to return to Happy World some time very soon.

Distance from Reykjavík: 34km

How to get there: Route One South, Route 417

Trip provided by:

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