While traveling through San Pedro, Guatemala with a nasty skin infection on my leg, we were looking for some fun things to do that would keep me off my leg. We had heard that you could go paragliding in Lago Atitlan, so that fits the bill!
But we didn’t even really know what paragliding was? Or is it safe? Or what paragliding in Guatemala would be like.
So we began to look into it all in an effort to potentially go paragliding above Lake Atitlan and the volcanoes that surround it.
So what exactly is paragliding? If you’re 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 paragliding as skydiving or base jumping but without any freefall.
We lived to tell this tale and can now let you know that paragliding Lake Atitlan is quite the adventure!
Concerns of Safety Paragliding Lago Atitlan Guatemala
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. That led us to Real World Paragliding.
Before our excursion was confirmed, we needed to wait to see how the weather was on the day of our flight. It turned out conditions were great! So we were excited and set off from San Pedro La Laguna on a launcha (small ferry) across Lake Atitlan to Panajachel (AKA Pana).
Once we got to Real World Paragliding, Heather actually chickened out.
She made clear that there was no way she was going to jump off a mountain to soar around the volcanoes and over Lake Atitlan. She was scared for her safety. It wasn’t happening and I wasn’t going to push her to do it.
Yet upon checking into Real World Paragliding, the owner’s wife slowly tried to convince Heather to join us paragliding Lake Atitlan. She wasn’t pushy in the slightest. Yet just tried to explain how fun even the fearful have when taking the leap to go paragliding over Lake Atitaln.
Heather’s reluctance and the owner’s friendly convincing 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, quickly signed the waiver and we were both off to go paragliding over Lago Atitlan!
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 explained that cloudy conditions give better and longer rides but you can’t see much. Meanwhile clear sunny days, although beautiful, provide very short paragliding rides. The partly cloudy conditions today were apparently just perfect to go paragliding at Lake Atitlan.
Hesitation Upon Liftoff of Paragliding Lake Atitlan
Although the Real World Paragliding crew was excited, we were both a bit nervous about our first time paragliding. At the launch point, we noticed a tombstone off in the distance. I walked towards it to take a closer look.
The tombstone depicted a paraglider on it. It was in remembrance of someone who passed away just a few weeks ago. I was afraid to ask the guide the meaning of this ominous tombstone. But I asked did anyways.
Our lead guide, Christian, explained that an independent paraglider, nicknamed Pancho, had an accident here about three weeks ago which caused his very unfortunate and untimely death.
Okay, this did not make us feel any better. I shouldn’t have asked. Hopefully, we would not share 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.
Heather stood on the launch point. They took a few steps back, then forward.
Then the next thing you know, Heather was paragliding up in the air, soaring high above Lake Atitlan.
I was next. And my paragliding launch went just a quickly and smoothly.
It was nice not to actually have to jump off the side of a cliff. Instead the wind just sort of catches the chute and lifts paragliders right on up into the air.
Paragliding Lake Atitlan: The Experience
The paragliding flight over Lago Atitlan was absolutely magical. We soared passed mountain cliffs, beyond dormant volcanoes, over the village of Pana, atop the lake itself, 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. This paragliding flight above Lake Atitlan was not adrenaline-filled and nerve-wracking, as we had expected. Dare I say, it was almost relaxing. Almost.
But overall, paragliding Lago Atitlan was such a blast!
There were definitely times when my stomach was in knots. But for the most part, paragliding Lake Atitlan was more calming 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 excitement and energy into the otherwise relaxing 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 below to get an idea of what it’s actually like to paraglide Lake Atitlan.
Paragliding Lake Atitlan Safe Landing
When we booked this adventure with Real World Paragliding, they promised at least a ten-minute paragliding ride but went on to explain that if conditions were good enough, we could be up there for as long as forty minutes. Apparently, conditions were good indeed because we were soaring over Lago Atitlan, paragliding for an entire hour!
The Real World Paragliding crew said the conditions were such that we could essentially stay up there indefinitely. But it was finally time to float down.
We paraglided right down through a riverbed before landing in the valley that river had slowly carved out.
Heather had a great ride and was very glad she did not pass up on this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The most apprehension during the whole experience was simply getting ready for the flight.
Once in the air, it was todo bien. All 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 Lago 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 to 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.
This was part 2 of our 3-part post of our Lake Atitlan adventures.
- See Part 1 here: Kayaking around San Pedro La Laguna.
- Read on to Part 3 here: Hiking Volcano San Pedro.
- Or read all of our favorite experiences during our big Central America trip: Best of Central America guide.