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Hang gliding is an adventure sport that’s both recreational and competitive, and it’s a ton of fun! It involves flying a light aircraft commonly crafted with an aluminum, carbon fiber, or stainless steel frame with a sailcloth to create a wing. Hang gliding pilots are harnessed to the frame and control their movements by shifting their body weight and soaring to great heights.
Compared to paragliders, hang gliders are heavier and are able to travel at much faster speeds through the air. It is possible to fly for hours and for long distances while hang gliding, as long as the proper altitude is reached and maintained. According to the U.S. Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association, the world record for hang gliding is 475 miles!
It’s a lifelong sport that is exhilarating and something that everyone should try at least once! Here are 10 of the very best places to go hang gliding in the world. Add them to your adventure travel bucket list!
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Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA
Kitty Hawk is best known for being the home of the Wright brothers’ first flight because the brothers conducted their famous flight experiments here. Today, there’s just something nostalgic and magical about leaping off of the dunes that these legendary brothers did to help establish the era of flight travel we enjoy today. Kitty Hawk Kites is the largest hang gliding school in the world and has taught over 300,000 students how to enjoy the love of flight. The instructors here are so experienced that they are able to accommodate people who are blind, deaf, paraplegic, and have other physical challenges. Beginner, intermediate, and advanced instruction is available, and dune lessons are available to individuals who can run at least 10 yards. Dune gliding starts at $99 and lasts three hours, tandem gliding lasts 10-15 minutes and costs $159, and tandem mile-high rides last 30 minutes and cost $349.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro has some of the most stunning scenery in the world, and this is an epic place to plan a hang gliding trip. Here you’ll find lovely hills, beaches, iconic landmarks, and colorful streets. Many hang gliding flights begin from Pedra Bonita in the Tijuca rainforest. This ride is an awesome way to see famous sights, like Pedra da Gavea, the Rocinha favela, and Christ the Redeemer, in a whole new way. Flights often end on Pepino Beach, which is a great place to celebrate your flight’s success with a beachside cocktail. While in Rio, also make sure to see Sugarloaf Mountain, hike the Morro da Urca, visit the Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, and explore the Jardim Botanico.
Interlaken District, Swizerland
One of the best places to hang glide in Europe is Interlaken, Switzerland. Local guide companies here will tailor the flight to your needs and wishes to make it as calm or extreme as you like. Many of the flights here average 15-26 minutes, depending on the wind conditions. But plan on about two hours for the adventure to include transportation and instruction. Alongside your pilot, you just have to take between four and eight steps for the take-off, and passengers between four and 85 years of age have experienced these tandem rides.
The Hawaiian Islands are an unbelievable place to go hang gliding, no matter what island you’re on! One of the best places to set off from though is Kahului. You’ll see tropical forests, the Pacific Ocean, rugged cliffs, and luscious plains as you rise above the earth and experience this popular tourist spot from above. Hang Gliding Maui is a local outfitter in Kahului that offers 30-minute lessons for $190, 45-minute lessons for $250, and 60-minute lessons for $310. Helicopter and balloon tours are also popular ways to see Kahului from the sky. Don’t miss the Maui Swap meet, a popular street market here as well.
La Jolla, California, USA
There are lots of incredible places to go hang gliding in the state of California, but if you can only pick one, choose La Jolla. This is a beautiful coastal destination that’s north of San Diego, and a hang gliding experience here offers views of the cliffs of Black’s Beach. Torrey Pines Gilderport is a large tandem operation in this area that has very experienced instructors. If you prefer to be a spectator, you can also watch the hang gliders do their thing, along with views of the Pacific Ocean, from the Cliffhanger Café. Fort Funston is another great place in California to go hang gliding because of its idea weather, coastline, and regular updrafts. This destination is outside of San Francisco and known for world-class adventure sports.
Southern Turkey is a wonderful place to take a vacation, especially if you love expansive views and have a sense of adventure. When visiting Ölüdeniz, Fethiye, you can take off from Mount Babadag or the neighboring mountain peaks. After flying over the Ölüdeniz lagoon, you’ll land on an amazing beach that practically begs you to linger and relax. Here you’ll see amazing sites and enjoy a very pleasant climate, as well as professional and experienced flight instructors. The weather is often in the 70s and allows for many flying days per year. It’s so ideal that the annual Ölüdeniz Air Games are held here and feature everything from hang gliding to paragliding, skydiving, base jumping, and aerial acrobatics competitions.
La Torre, Valle de Bravo, Mexico
Valle de Bravo is a town on the shores of Lake Avandaro that provides a great place for hang gliding in Mexico. It’s only about two hours from the capital city and a popular hang gliding destination. You’ll find the best hang gliding spot on the eastern side of the lake. The weather here is mildly humid and in the often in the low 60s. May to October is the rainy season and should be avoided for hang gliding, except for experts. Come here between January and March for the best hang gliding conditions, and then enjoy the picturesque town by the lake. The main launch point is at El Penon, which is about 45 minutes from town. La Torre is another good hang gliding spot and also accessible by car.
Salt Lake City, Utah
There’s much more to Salt Lake City than just skiing and Mormon culture! It might surprise some people to learn that SLC is also considered to be a flight mecca of the Mountain West. There are some very experienced flight schools and adventure outfitters here to help you take to the skies as a beginner or more advanced hang gliding enthusiast. Head just outside of town to Point of the Mountain, Utah for consistent wind conditions and to visit the Flight State Park Recreation Area. This park is devoted to flying, and guides recommend flying in the morning for the smoothest conditions. In this recreation area, you’ll enjoy stunning mountain views and enjoy some shelter provided by the Traverse Range.
Magaliesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Magaliesburg is where the Magalies Gliding Club is located, and these enthusiasts have made the region famous for hang gliding. This is a fun area to visit and take advantage of some of the best thermal soaring conditions in the world. You’ll enjoy views of the Hartbeespoort Dam and may be able to stay airborne for longer periods of time than in other places. Cape Town is also an excellent place to plan a hang gliding or paragliding adventure. Here you’ll get dramatic views of the mountains by launching from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill.
Queenstown, New Zealand
New Zealand, as an entire country, is known as an adventure seeker’s paradise, so it should come as no surprise that it makes the list of best places to hang glide. Queensland is a resort town that is built around Lake Wakatipu and a stunning place to fly through the air under your own power. Both hang gliding and paragliding are offered in Queenstown. Tandem sessions are offered from the highest commercial take-off point, Coronet Peak, from a height of 3,800 feet. Other fun things to do when you visit Queenstown include the scenic drive down Glenorchy-Queenstown Road, the Queenstown Hill and Ben Lomond Track hiking trails, and the Queenstown Garden.