From zip lining in Rishikesh to paragliding in Bir and hot air ballooning in Pushkar, here are the top adventure sports locations in India that adrenaline junkies should check out. Follow some tips to stay safe and enjoy the thrilling activities
Parasailing is the art of feeling alive with every breath of wind, says 27-year-old Delhi based software professional Abhi Anand, who has undertaken nearly all kinds of air-based adventure sports. He says he loves to fly – “the more you fly, the more you want to fly like a bird. And fly with the wind, dance with the clouds, and embrace the thrill of the unknown.”
The market of adventure sports may be classified into three categories- adventure sports which are land based such as skiing, water based such as snorkelling or rafting and one of the most popular are the air based activities such as hang gliding, zip-lining, bungee jumping, paragliding, etc. which are gaining traction in the country.
Air Based Adventure
There are various air-based adventure sports activities undertaken in India such as paragliding, skydiving, hang gliding, hot air ballooning, microlight flying, paramotoring, zip-lining, etc. (See Price Chart for cost of these activities) According to a spokesperson from TechSci Research, a research-based management consulting firm based out of India, “Adventure sports have gained significant popularity over the past few years. Also, with the rising adventure tourism in India, the adventure sports sector has been observing a rapid growth. These sports are performed at different locations, such as Manali and Bir Billing are the most popular destinations for paragliding. Bir Billing is the second-highest paragliding spot in the world. The jump begins at a height of 5,000 feet above the earth and roughly 8,000 feet above sea level. The paragliding experience at this location takes approximately 20 to 25 minutes from top to bottom. Billing is the starting point of the leap, while Bir is the landing spot. Similarly, Rajasthan is the most popular place for hot air ballooning in the country. Regular flights operate around Jaipur and Pushkar. Other popular locations for adventure sports include skydiving at Mysore (Karnataka) and Amby Valley (Maharashtra); Zip-lining at Neemrana (Rajasthan), Rishikesh (Uttarakhand); Paramotoring at Jaisalmer (Rajasthan), Rishikesh (Uttarakhand) and Microlight Flying at Bangalore (Karnataka), Jakkur (Karnataka).”
The Indian government has been taking initiatives to promote adventure sports tourism in India. Recently the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board (UTDB) announced a plan to establish Tehri the global centre for paragliding. According to Col Ashwini Pundir, Additional Chief Executive Officer Adventure UTDB, “The Tehri Acro Festival, which will take place in Tehri from November 24 to 28, will be India’s first International Aerial Acrobatic Show. Tehri’s unparalleled topography, with the majestic Tehri Lake as its backdrop, sets the stage for a series of adventure sports, making it an ideal hub for paragliding and water sports. The festival will showcase various aerial acrobatics events and three exciting competitions, marking the commencement of paragliding activities in Tehri. The take-off points from Pratap Nagar, at an impressive height of around 1400 meters, stand as the second-highest in the world, rivalled only by OluDeniz in Turkey, currently a focal point for paragliding training and aerial acrobatics shows.” There are certain inherent advantages of Tehri such as height and quality of freshwater. According to Tanaji Takve, Expert Paragliding Mentor and advisor to UTDB – “The height of Tehri is excellent at 1400 metres, which is more than the world famous Oludeniz Turkey site or the one in Austria at 1,300 meters or Italy which at 1,200 meters. Most of the people don’t know we have something as spectacular as Tehri at 1,400 meters and it also has the advantage of having freshwater unlike others which have sea water and tend to spoil the equipment.”
Hot air ballooning is also very popular for adventure tourists. For Chandigarh based adventure tourism enthusiast Dr. Himanshu Talwar, who has written extensively on the subject and travelled to Dubai, Nepal, Uttarakhand, Pune, Jaipur for exploring adventure tourism, hot air ballooning is his favourite. Says Dr Talwar, “I have had the pleasure of enjoying my flight this year near the pink city of Jaipur. A thorough briefing related to safety, security, flight etc was done and we boarded the balloon. Honestly, it was a bit scary in the beginning but after reaching a decent altitude we felt comfortable and enjoyed every bit of it. Around 45 minutes in the air passed with a blink of an eye.”
What kind of preparation is required? It’s important to have a medical check-up before embarking on the adventure, as well as maintaining a good level of fitness too. Dr Talwar advises that familiarization with the equipment used in ballooning, such as the balloon itself and the safety gear, is crucial. Understanding the basic principles of flight, like how the burner operates and how to control altitude, will definitely enhance your experience. Also one must follow the instructions provided by the pilot/ crew at all times. It’s essential to listen attentively and follow the guidance for a safe and enjoyable journey. Additionally, being aware of weather conditions is vital, as ballooning is weather-dependent. If you are an air adventure enthusiast then you must be aware that flying at any cost must be avoided in unfavorable weather conditions.
Caution on the part of travelers is also very important and they need to be responsible in choosing the right kind of operator and booking the right kind of adventure holiday. Says Vinayak Koul – Director, SnowLion Expeditions, a Delhi based adventure tourism company, “People often do not understand the value of trips that tend to get expensive when all aspects of safety and precautions are covered in the operating activities by the service provider, and at the same time also ensuring that the processes are responsible towards nature and gentle towards mother Earth. When booking an adventure activity/holiday the customer must do due diligence of checking whether the service provider has the required licenses and permissions to conduct the said activity. They should look out for service providers who are Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India approved and are members of ATOAI. These simple checks in the beginning of their planning will save them a lot of hassles later on. Lastly, many times I get asked how to handle bad weather/extreme wind conditions when in air – if I may quickly explain without getting into details, you will not need to handle bad weather/extreme wind conditions in the first itself because you don’t fly if the weather/wind is not favorable and there are enough sources available these days to get such information in advance. These are the basics which are taught while training for air based activities.”
Safety is Paramount
Adventure activities such as paragliding, parasailing, paramotoring, skydiving, etc. often involve inherent risks and thus making sure the safety of participants is crucial for the sustainability of the adventure tourism industry. The service providers have to make sure all the guidelines and SOPs are followed in letter and in spirit. It is essential to have safety protocols in place and enough trained personnel conducting the activity. Clearly defining the role of guide/pilot, enlisting important equipment required, timely inspection and maintenance process, risk mitigation, medical safety, emergency response and detailed action plan etc. are few of the building blocks for a safe and regulated adventure activity.
The Adventure Tour Operators Association of India (ATOAI) and the Ministry of Tourism have developed the standards that will standardise the safety and quality requirements for adventure tourism in India. The guidelines provide defined regulations for safety precautions, required training, insurance, medical safety, and other requirements to participate in such activities. They also establish standard operating procedures (SOPs) and directions for risk reduction and emergencies. It has released SOPs for rescues, age restrictions for various sports, training, flying permits, equipment, signboard usage, skilled manpower risk management plans, inspections, and maintenance among other things. The standards also address insurance liabilities including disability and death. Extensive protocols are designed to inform tour operators and other relevant organisations about critical safety standards and lesser-known hazards.
Furthermore, additional factors which are expected to contribute to the growth of adventure sports in coming years include the increasing influence of social media and the popularity of trip and video blogging, both of which attract tourists. Additionally, travel and tourism have become more popular, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. It is projected that these factors will strengthen the country’s adventure sports industry.
Air-based adventure sports activities are available at a wide range of prices due to variations in type. Take a look at this price chart for air-based adventure sports activities compiled by TechSci Research:
|Adventure Sport Type
|Average Price Range (in Rs)
|Hot Air Ballooning
Credits: TechSci Research