When it comes to adventure travel in India, the country is slowly but steadily rising its game. From paragliding in Bir-Billing to mountain biking in West Bengal; bungee jumping in Rishikesh to caving in Meghalaya; scuba diving in Andamans to trekking in the Himalayas; India is becoming a favourite playground for adventure enthusiasts from all around the world. Here’s my experience of Paragliding in the second highest paragliding destination in the world – Bir-Billing.
Showing is better than telling.We all have grown up hearing this quote and I truly believe in it. So, when Panasonic Lumix Cameras India team reached out to join their Adventure excursion to the world’s second highest paragliding destination, Bir-Billing, and experience their mirrorless cameras range, I jumped at the offer. I mean can you say no to two things you love the most – adventure and photography? I bet not. The trip to the Paragliding capital of India was very well organised and packed everything I love – paragliding, hiking, waterfall chasing, camping, visiting monasteries, enjoying local food and, of course, relishing the crisp and fresh Himalayan air. Paragliding is a thrilling sport and gives adrenaline rush like no other. Here’s a detailed breakdown of my three-day adventure travel to one of the best Paragliding destinations not just in India but in the world – Bir-Billing
Day 1: Travel from Delhi to Bir-BillingThe first day was majorly spent in flying down from Delhi to Dharamshala and then traveling by road to Bir-Billing. We made several pit-stops for lunch and tea en route to our destination – the Sky Village, which is the only campsite at Billing and is right next to the take-off point. As soon as we reached the campsite, we rushed to capture the spectacular sunset which was encircling the whole valley in its golden glow. After taking a heart full of golden and blue hour pictures, we all gathered for an evening filled with folk music, laughter, food, and drinks. It was here I first time experienced the new range of Panasonic Lumix Cameras. I was surprised by their low-light shooting capabilities and compact design, which is perfect for campsite professional like me who is always on the move.
Day 2: Adventure in Bir-BillingThe second day of the trip was the most action-packed day filled with adventures and uncertainties.
1. ParaglidingAs luck would have it, even though we were at one of the best places in the world for paragliding, the flying conditions weren’t looking good. The winds were turbulent and kept changing. My slot to fly was 7:30 am but in mountains the last word always belongs to nature. Despite bad weather, our pilots were eager to make us fly. Finally, after three hours, we were given a green signal to take-off. The wind was strong and the sky was overcast. I was sure this wasn’t going to be one of the most elegant flights I have ever taken. Nevertheless, we got ready to face whatever comes our way. After harnessing and several security checks, I along with my pilot, started running to the edge of the mountain and suddenly the winds took hold and we were airborne. My heart was in my mouth as the ground disappeared below. I had always enjoyed my window seat view from an airplane but paragliding is an altogether different and seems magical as there’s nothing between you and the sky. It wasn’t my first-time paragliding. I had done it several times before but the experience was still exhilarating. The majestic views of sky-piercing Dhauladar range, spindly green treetops, and lustrous pagodas reminded me why I never get tired of visiting the Himalayas. After flying for 20 minutes, we safely landed at the landing site in Bir where I spent several hours clicking hundreds of parachutes landing. They came at a blink-and-you-miss speed, so I had to be really swift in capturing them. Panasonic Lumix Cameras have fast and accurate autofocus, which let me take crisp and clear pictures. One feature I really loved was the Dual-Image Stabilization and Post Focus of Lumix GH85 that enabled me to choose which object I wanted to focus after taking a picture.
2. Tibetan culture immersionBesides being an adventure playground, Bir is an important place to learn about Tibetan culture as it is a home to a large Tibetan exile community. The lower half of the village is known as Tibetan Colony and there are several Buddhist monasteries, Gompas, and institutes like Deer Park Institute in and around Bir, where you can spend from few hours to several months. The must visit monasteries are Sherabling and Chokling. Monastary at Bir-Billing, Himachal, Incredible India
3. Hiking and waterfall chasingJust an hour away from the main town of Bir lies the Chobin waterfall. If you are a nature lover, you’ll love hiking down to the waterfall and taking a dip into the refreshing sapphire green waters of the lake. But make sure to return before the sunset as the area is not lighted enough and the track gets slippery with the dew and falling leaves.
Day 3: Travel from Bir-Billing to DelhiLike the first day, the last day was majorly spent in traveling from Bir-Billing to first Dharamshala and then to Delhi. As always, I was a little sad leaving behind my favourite abode – Himalayas.
How Panasonic Lumix Cameras enhanced my experienceI used Lumix GH5, GH5S, G7, and GH85 in all my adventure excursions in Bir-Billing and found them extremely user-friendly and easy to carry. With features like 6K Photo I could capture moments which could be missed in a blink like paraglide landing and birds flying. I often struggle with low-light conditions and Lumix GH5S worked brilliantly. Also, since I am a solo traveller, the compact and lightweight design of Panasonic Cameras turned out to be a sure shot winner for me. The lenses were half the size of my current camera – Canon. Most importantly, when I compared the price of Panasonic Lumix mirrorless cameras with other brands in the market, I found them extremely cost-effective. One feature that I thought was missing from the range was full frame. But I am sure Lumix will soon come out with a camera that is mirrorless as well as full frame. I am seriously thinking to upgrade to Panasonic Lumix Cameras. Related: Do check out the best camera for travel photography
Practical travel tips for paragliding in Bir-BillingHow to reach You can either fly from Delhi to the nearest airport at Dharamshala or take a direct bus to Bir. Best Time to Visit The best time to visit is March-June and October-December when there are no rains and the weather is pleasant. Approximate Cost INR 3500- INR 5500 (approx)
Things to keep in mind while trying adventure travel in India
- Fly with an experienced pilot only. Check their flying experience before flying
- Do not wear open shoes/sandals/ flip flops
- Make sure you are harnessed well and wearing a sturdy helmet
- Do not take off, if the winds are too harsh or too mellow
- Do not take a hearty meal before flying. You could feel nauseatic
- Make sure you are not suffering from any chronic disease, if you are, please inform your pilot
- Follow the guidelines of your pilot and don’t argue with them. They know their job more than you do
- Smile towards the camera. You don’t want to look grumpy in your flying video
- Don’t wear jewellery or carry expensive gadgets
- Run as fast as you can towards the edge. Don’t worry about falling. The winds will take you off before you fall
Other Paragliding sites in IndiaWhile Bir–Billing is the best location for amateur or professional paragliding, there are a lot of other sites spread across India, where you can enjoy flying with the birds:
- Manali: Paragliding sites are peppered around Manali like Solang Valley, Fatru Mountain, Gulaba, and Nagger Road
- Bilaspur: Offers good wind stability and gliding across the Gobind Sagar Lake
- Sanasar: Located at 19 km from Patnitop in Jammu district, Sanasar offers vistas of the snow-capped Himalayas and conifer trees
- Nainital: Take a flight from the Naukuchiyatal and soar over the beautiful hills of Naina, Deopatha and Ayarpatha
- Ranikhet: Approximately 12 km away from the main town, on the road to Goluchina area, Ranikhet is ideal for beginners
- Pithoragarh: Set in the Kumaon district of Uttarakhand Pithoragarh is an ideal for people wanting to do 5-7 days paragliding courses.
- Aravali Hills: Set against the rugged and picturesque backdrop of Aravali hills in Rajasthan, you can take off from several locations like Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, and Kota
- Panchgani: Located in the Satara district of Maharashtra, Panchgani has some popular paragliding sites like Bhilar, Tapola, and Khingar
- Kamshet: Located 45 km from Pune, Kamshet is a popular paragliding site in the Western Ghats
- Nandi Hills: Located at a small distance from Bangalore in Karnataka, the beautiful hill station surely works as a soothing balm for the tired eyes
- Arambol: One of the famous beach areas of Goa is also the best launching point for paragliding above the Kalacha Lake
- Yelagiri: Located about 3 hours away from Chennai in Tamil Nadu, Yelagiri is ideal for weekend adventure
- Vagamon: Located in the Idukki district of Kerala, the beautiful hill station is a dream for adventure enthusiasts who can’t travel up North
- Shillong: A perfect way to soak in the scintillating greenery of the Scotland of the East in Meghalaya
- Gangtok, Sikkim: Home to excellent launching ridges and sites, Sikkim is turning out to be a favourite among amateur paragliders