This is part 2 of our 3-part post of our Lake Atitlan adventures. See Part 1 here.
So what else can we do around San Pedro yet still give my leg a rest due to my nasty skin infection? We had read something about paragliding Lago Atitlan. Well, I figured that should keep me off my feet. But what is paragliding? If you are familiar with hang gliding, it is similar to that. You are essentially hooked into a parachute that you use to fly and float around. Think of it as skydiving or base jumping but without any freefall. It is quite the adventure!
Concerns of Safety Paragliding Lago Atitlan Guatemala
So we did our research to find a properly trained & licensed paragliding outfitter with a clean record of no major injuries. We wanted to ensure our paragliding Lago Atitlan flight was safe. Before our excursion was confirmed, we needed to wait to see how the weather was on the day of our flight. Turns out conditions were great, so we were excited and set off from San Pedro La Laguna on a launcha (small ferry) across the lake to Panajachel (AKA Pana). Once we got there, Heather chickened out. There was no way she was going to jump off a mountain and soar around the volcanoes and over the lake. She was scared for her safety. It wasn’t happening and I wasn’t going to push her to do it. Upon checking in, the owner slowly tried to convince her to join without being pushy. This went on for more than a half hour, but it wasn’t happening, so I just watched the botched attempts from the sidelines. Then finally when our transportation arrived to take us up the mountain, Heather did an about-face, signed the waiver and we were both off to go paragliding! I didn’t ask questions.
After a thirty-minute ride up a mountain in the back of a pickup truck, we reached the launch point. The guides, who would be taking each of us on our tandem glides, were super stoked about the weather conditions for the day. They say that cloudy conditions give better and longer rides but you unfortunately can’t see much. Meanwhile clear sunny days, although beautiful, provides a very short ride. The partly cloudy conditions today were apparently just perfect.
Hesitation Upon Liftoff
Although the crew was excited, we were both a bit nervous to go paragliding. At the launch point, we noticed a tombstone off in the distance. I walked towards it to take a closer look. It had a paraglider depicted on it and was in remembrance of someone who passed away just a few weeks ago. I was afraid to ask the guide the meaning of the tombstone but did anyways. The guide explained that an independent paraglider, nicknamed Pancho, had an accident here about three weeks ago which caused his unfortunate and untimely death. Okay, this did not make us feel any better. I shouldn’t have asked. Hopefully we would not have the same fate as Pancho.
So now with the fear of death going through our heads, we suited up and our guides got us securely fastened to their harnesses. Heather was first. The parachute was out. She stood on the launch point. They took a few steps back, then forward. Next thing you know, she was flying up in the air. It was nice that you don’t actually jump off the side of a cliff. Instead the wind just sort of catches the chute and lifts you right on up into the air.
Paragliding Lake Atitlan
The flight was absolutely magical. We soared passed mountain cliffs, beyond dormant volcanoes, over the village of Pana, atop the lake, and all around the mountainside that surrounded.
Instead of cruising downward, the warm thermals (hot air) would lift us up higher and higher over the land below.
It was such an awesome ride! We both agreed that once you were up there, it was somehow very calm and peaceful, rather than adrenaline filled and nerve wracking. Paragliding Lago Atitlan was such a blast!
Yet there were definitely times when my stomach was a bit in knots, but for the most part it was somehow more relaxing than thrilling. We would soar in and out of clouds as if it were the Care Bear land. After getting comfortable we did some acrobatics and maneuvering. This definitely jolted some excitement and energy to ride. (During the dizzying turns at 2:49 in the video, I almost lost my lunch.)
Paragliding Lago Atitlan Guatemala Video
I mounted a GoPro to my helmet during our flight so you can check out the video I captured:
Paragliding Lake Atitlan Safe Landing
When we booked this adventure, they promised at least a ten minute paraglide ride but said if conditions were good enough, we could be up there for as long as forty minutes. Apparently conditions were good because we were over Lago Atitlan paragliding for an entire hour! They said the conditions were such that we could essentially stay up there indefinitely. But it was finally time to go down.
We glided right down through a riverbed and landed in the valley it had carved.
Heather had a great ride and was very glad she did not pass up on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The most apprehension was getting ready for the flight. Once in the air, all was good. Paragliding Lago Atitlan was such a blast and I can’t imagine a much more perfect place to soar around than around the beautiful shores around the lake. This Lake Atitlan paragliding experience remains as a major highlight of our trip that we included in our Best of Central America guide.
If You Go: Paragliding Lago Atitlan Guatemala
If you go: we used RealWorld Paragliding and would highly recommend enthusiastic Christian to take you up for a fun filled flight! They have a track record of safety and we felt completely safe the entire time. Plus, Christian is just an awesomely eccentric guy you have got meet.
We really enjoyed San Pedro La Laguna overall and the entire Lake Atitlan area. There’s good restaurants, fun bars, a ton of recreation, and everything is of incredible value for the money! Its just one of those places where you can easily get comfortable and inadvertently extend your stay. We didn’t want to leave. San Pedro La Laguna remains as one of our top destinations throughout all of Central America and we highly recommend it.
Read on to Part 3 here: Hiking Volcano San Pedro.