Flight Centre’s Karly Cook travelled to Austria with Contiki holidays and experienced an adventure unlike any other; soaring over the countryside like a bird while paragliding in Hopfgarten.
Driving into Hopfgarten, Austria was beautiful. The mountainous scenery in that region was something I will not forget. We arrived early in the day and were astonished by the fabulous weather. It was hot! We had two excursions to choose from: a bike riding tour or paragliding. I chose the latter. We were taken to a field at the base of a mountain. You could still see the ski runs from the winter season. There were three paraguides who took a group of us up the mountain to prep for our flight. The winding road up the hill was like no other. It was an extremely narrow single lane and seemed to go on forever.
You had to stay focused on the road ahead to prevent yourself from feeling too car sick! Once we arrived at the top the view was incredible. I looked out and could see all of the sleepy town of Hopfgarten. The snow capped mountains, cute little houses, river running through the town…so picturesque. You almost forget what you are doing way up there! We were given a waiver to sign and some basic instruction from our guides. A safety helmet was strapped on our heads and we were hooked into a giant backpack which housed the parachute. The guide somehow strapped himself to the back of me as this of course was a tandem ride. The guides meticulously checked the winds and once it was safe to go, I was told to stay low, start running and to not stop until we were in the air!
I started running down the hill and was stopped in my tracks by the wind trying to pull me backwards. I kept at in, stumbled once and then all of a sudden, I was airborne! WOW. I was laughing and smiling and in total adrenaline bliss.
The bird’s eye view was so amazing. You could see everything from up there! A few minutes into the ride my guide asked me if I liked rollercoasters. I was feeling pretty comfortable up there so I said yes. Next thing I knew we were doing twists and turns and catching the wind. I was screaming and laughing and having the time of my life. Due to weather, our ride was coming to an end. My guide reminded me of the landing procedures (keep your feet up) and we starting coming down into the field we began our adventure at.
The landing was as smooth as can be and I ran around shouting “woo hoo!” I would definitely recommend spending the money to take part of this incredible optional excursion offered by Contiki. Another perk? The guide has a digital camera attached to a long arm that he uses to take pictures throughout the ride. For 20 Euros, it was more than worth it to purchase the pics – they actually provide you with the entire memory card to take home and develop yourself. Paragliding was definitely not an activity I thought I would be doing on this trip, but I am so glad I did. It was scary and daring and so much fun. You get a much better idea of your beautiful surroundings from that high up in the air!
We were taken back to the accommodation – one of Contiki’s special stop over properties that they own. The accommodation is great,and the onsite staff were awesome! They made us a great meal and then lead us into the bar area for schnapps and trivia for the evenings activity. Hopfgarten, Austria was our second to last day on the tour and was by far one of my faves. If you are considering a tour, I would highly recommend choosing one that includes this stop.
Want to know more about an adventure vacation in Austria? Karly Cook is the General Manager at the Flight Centre Howe and Dunsmuir in Vancouver and can be reached online, in-store, or by calling 1-866-273-9753.