..ballooning, parachuting and paragliding in Portugal!
Discover the romance of hot air balloons, or the heart stopping thrills of paragliding in Portugal. For a truly unforgettable experience and a chance to admire some stunning scenery from a whole new angle you can choose between parachuting, microlight flying, hot air ballooning, scenic flights and hang-gliding or paragliding in Portugal.
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Paragliding and hang-gliding
Increasingly popular with Portuguese adrenalin junkies, these sports have to be the most exhilarating way to explore Portugal's coast and countryside! In hang-gliding you lie underneath a rigid frame while para-gliders sit upright in a harness underneath flexible fabric wings. Hang-gliders can go faster (up to 90 mph or 145kmph), go better in stronger winds and for longer distances, while paragliding is easier and quicker to learn, goes better in light winds and the equipment is cheaper.
There are clubs all over Portugal. If you are in central Portugal there are popular sites around the Serra de Montejunto around Alenquer and the Serra do Socorro near Torres Vedras, both just north of Lisbon and the Serra da Arrábida near Setubal. Further north you can take to the skies in Linhares da Beira near Guarda, and the Serra do Marão near Vila Real. On sunny days in the Algarve paragliders can be seen floating gracefully over the sunbathers on Falesia beach near Albufeira and Quarteira or over the hills near Loulé.
In July you can see the experts at play at two open championships for hang-gliding and paragliding in Portugal. Both are in the far north-east of the country. The 2nd Open de Parapente takes place on 5th to 8th July in Mirandela in Trás-os-Montes, while on 27th to 30th July the world's top competitors will be battling it out at the 5th Open Internacional de Parapente do Douro Superior.
Parachuting and Skydiving
If you're over 17 years old, have a head for heights and nerves of steel then I dare you to go skydiving!
You can parachute in Portugal all year around and it is increasingly popular with skydivers from all over Europe who are happy to take advantage of the mild winters. In northern Portugal there are drop sites at, amongst others, the airfields in Braga and Maia, in central Portugal at the airfields of Tancos near Torres Novas and Evora in the Alto Alentejo and in southern Portugal you can have a go at Alvor airfield near Portimao in the Algarve.
Free-fall skydivers jump from 3000 to 4000 metres (9840 to 13,125 feet), reaching terminal velocity at 193 kmph (120 mph)
when the sensation of falling ceases and floating starts and generally opening their parachute at around 750 to 900 metres (2500 to 3000 feet). You can then control the direction and speed of the fall using the steering lines. On some modern parachutes a computer monitors the dive and if the parachute hasn't been opened by 260 metres (850 feet) it'll automatically do so.
If you're a beginner you'll be given a short introductory briefing before steeling yourself for your first tandem jump but don't worry you'll be safely strapped to an experienced instructor who'll take care of everything. If you want to jump solo then you can complete a day's instruction in safety, freefall manoeuvres, parachute operation and landing procedures, then jump in company with two experts.
Microlights offer you the freedom of the skies combining incredible 360º views with the power and ability to go exactly where you want. These open two seater aircraft are nippy and fast but safe. In Portugal when you book a flight with a qualified, experienced pilot just bring a camera for amazing aerial photos. Or, if you are interested in a fun and affordable way of learning to fly, even take microlight lessons. In order to start learning to fly you must be over 14 years old and to get your first license you must pass a theory exam and have at least 15 hours flight instruction.
Hot Air Balloons and Scenic Flights
If you're tempted but daredevil stunts are not really your thing then why not try not take to the skies in a hot air balloon, helicopter, microlight or floatplane?
All you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the breathtaking views. A distinctly civilised thrill it could be the perfect way to impress your business associates, celebrate a family birthday or a hugely romantic surprise! Hot air ballooning is particularly popular in the Alentejo in the South and the Ribatejo (near Lisbon) where you can gently drift over lovely wide open countryside as the wind takes you. Did you know that when ballooning it's traditional to enjoy a champagne toast on landing? Any excuse!
Booking a helicopter or light aircraft tour gives you the freedom to choose exactly where you want to go and then feel like a VIP doing so. If you like trying to catch glimpses of Portugal's countryside from standard plane windows then just imagine the panoramic views you could enjoy from a small aricraft. A must for photographers you'll fnd scenic flights surprisingly affordable. What's more as Portugal is quite a compact country with a bit of careful planning you could enjoy spectacular bird's eye views over the city, countryside and coast all on one trip. After all this is how Portugal's millionaires find the perfect location for their villas!
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ballooning, microlight, parachuting and paragliding in Portugal photos copyright: Antonio Sacchetti, Miguel Menezes, Cezar Perelles