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Paragliding in Sopot

The European paragliding industry is undergoing tremendous growth - and more paragliding enthusiasts are flocking to Bulgaria to explore the full potential of the country's air-sports scene. A paraglider is a free-flying, non-mechanical aircraft, which is launched by the pilot taking a ‘running jump'. The pilot sits in a harness, which is connected below the large fabric canopy that billows out and catches the wind.

The pilot holds controls called ‘brakes' in each hand which help adjust speed, steer a course or position oneself correctly, during landing - known as ‘flaring'. In addition to this there is a foot control, which adjusts the ‘angle of attack' on the canopy and therefore increases the speed or travel.

For those that are new to paragliding, several stages of training must be undertaken before it is possible to fully take to the skies.

Training sessions

Training sessions are offered by all reputable paragliding training schools and associations, and result in a certificate being issued at the end. These various stages combine practical ground work including practice take offs and control of the canopy and written exams where safety and technical know-how is put to the test. After this, the learner flyer can then practise handling the wing by going on short flights at low altitudes in small, hilly areas.

As the learner progresses to higher altitudes, they will then learn how to turn the wing at varying degrees, control speed, and handle different landing situations. After the practical training has been done, it is necessary to learn the key components of aviation law and general flying etiquette, as well as understanding weather conditions, in order to help provide insight into dealing with unexpected flying situations.

The thrill of paragliding in Bulgaria

Bulgaria's south-eastern climate gives the country four distinct seasons. Each season provides different weather conditions to make for good, exciting paragliding. The Bulgarian long, hot summers push the cloud base higher, enabling the paraglider to reach greater altitude with good visibility below. Northerly winds make the thermals stronger, which help to give the paraglider lift and take the flyer through the air on a whirling, sight-seeing adventure from a birds' eye perspective.

Sky Nomad, located in Sopot - an ideal paragliding destination - is one such organisation able to prepare budding paragliders for a safe ascent into the Balkan skies. If you feel like you were born to fly, then you can take part in their six day beginners' course, which covers the basics of free-flying aviation. On the first day, you will learn the basic theory of aerodynamics, practise parachute landing falls and be introduced to paragliding equipment and safety checks. By the end of your first day's instruction, you will take your maiden flight from the training hill. The second and third days will involve more work with the equipment as you learn how to control the glider, manoeuvre it for controlled landings and a theoretical introduction to micro-meteorology and the rules of aviation.

Day four is when the real fun begins, as you take your first big solo flight and develop your sense of height, speed and distance, plus practice turns and landing approaches. By the sixth day, you will be flying off a higher mountain, learning more about safe landings, and collapses: recognition and recovery. After this intensive introductory course, you will be able to explore different flying sites and conditions with the help of a qualified instructor, which is guaranteed to build your confidence further. After the preliminary training, you can then undertake various cross-country paragliding experiences under the radio instruction of ‘ground pilots'.

Sopot - the perfect place

The region of Sopot is where the majority of Sky Nomad's air tours take place. It has a diverse selection of high launch spots and spans more than 500km along the base of Bulgaria's popular Stara Planina mountain range. The changes in this terrain make paragliding here even more adventurous, as the cold north face of the mountain contrasts with the hot and sunny south side, providing powerful air circulation. The shaded east and west sides of the mountain provide numerous thermals, all adding to a more exciting and challenging ride. You can climb to your desired launch summit, or alternatively take a ride on the cable lift a further 850m higher for an even more daring jump. The cable lift operates from 8.30 to 6.00 pm closing at 4.00 pm in winter. It costs 3.00 euros for a one-way trip upward, but it needs at least 8 people to cover the cost for a return journey. Sky Nomad also provides a 4x4 that can carry up to six pilots with their gliders up to the summit.They are equipped with a winch (where more than one kilometre of rope is attached to a car on the ground and a paraglider at the other end) which gives you a nice flying experience even in bad weather in the mountains.There is also a new club house with air-conditioned rooms.

The Sopot region has been popular with air-sports enthusiasts for over 20 years. The nearby towns and cities of Kalofer, Karlovo, Klisura, Plovdiv and, of course, Sofia all have good transport links enabling easy travel via bus, coach, train, or by car. The best season for paragliding over Sopot runs from April to September, where the thermals are useable from 11.00 am to 6.00 pm. Accommodation is easy to find; the nearest hotels to the centre are Shterev and LukOil hotels, which charge around 15 to 20 euro per bed, per night. There is more traditional accommodation in the form of family-run B&Bs, which cost 10 to 15 euro per night. The area benefits from a tourist information centre, various local food shops, small markets and plenty of restaurants to keep you occupied for when you come back down to earth.

Other good paragliding destinations in Bulgaria near to Sopot include, Zlatitza, Kom, Vratza, Buzludzha, Sliven, Vitosha, Rila, Koniavo and Pirin, which reach altitudes of 2,925 m. Away from Sopot, other hilly destinations good for cross country flying are Madara, Shumen, Montana, Pernik and Topolitza. Across the Black Sea coast, there are set-off points in Albena, Topola, Varna, and Bourgas.


If flying high in Bulgaria is something that rouses your interest then go to www.skynomad.com for more details.