Possibly the most consistent flying destination in the world, is Iquique (Chile) in October.
We all asked ourselves the question “where can we go and fly consistently day after day and have the best chance for good conditions”. One of the possible answers would be Iquique, Chile.
On the edge of the Atacama desert and on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, geology conspired to create one of the best paragliding destinations. The plateau approaches the ocean at an altitude of approx. 800 metres, creating a ridge that extends for hundreds of kilometres, facing the inshore breezes of the Pacific Ocean.
In October, the breeze starts to come in at 10am, allowing for easy launching conditions. The South American sun hits the sand, and immediately after the thermals start to kick in. In the afternoon, the coastal soaring site of Palo Buque starts to be flyable from 3pm until sunset.
The town of Iquique provides good accommodation options, excellent South American food and all at very reasonable prices. There are several paragliding companies providing guiding services in town and even good public transport to the launch. The newly refurbished and open launch just above the town of Iquique makes flying about as easy as it gets.
How to get there – the city of Iquique is easily accessible via flights from Santiago. There are daily flights with a stop in Antofagasta. The airport of Iquique is about 18kms from the city, and easily accessible by taxi.
Suggested accommodation – we suggest paragliding pilots look at hotels and apartments situated on the main beach of Iquique which is the landing area for flights from Alto Hospicio. The Alto Hospicio launch is easily accessible from all of these hotels by public transport and, after landing, it is a short walk back to the hotel and the swimming pool. Accommodation varies but it is quite possible to book a 4-star single bedroom apartment for close to $100 per day. Most restaurants are located in the same area.
Main flying areas
Alto Hospicio – the main launch above the town of Iquique. We recommend reaching the launch about 9.30am and ready to launch at about 10am in the morning. The site provides very good thermalling opportunities as well as ridge soaring, depending on the position. Cross country pilots can continue following the ridge on both sides, north and south, for several kilometres.
Most days, the launch area can be quite busy in the morning with up to 60-80 pilots in the air. Early thermals can be busy, but in a short period of time the pilots spread along the ridge allowing for very comfortable flying conditions. Most pilots land on the main beach of Iquique, Playa Brava, in front of their hotels (pictured above).
Palo Buque – mainly a soaring site that works from approximately 3pm every day. The sea breezes are making it possible to take off right at the bottom of the ridge and soar up to 1,000 metres and over (or sand kite at the bottom, pictured below). Energetic pilots can kite up the mountain and then launch at their desired altitude.
The site is very consistent, with flyable conditions most days in October until sunset. The bonus is the display by many acro-pilots that use the lift to reach 800+ metres, push outin front and use the altitude for practicing their maneuvres. They can then rejoin the lift band at 100 metres ASL and repeat.
Palo Buque can be reached from Iquique via car or taxi. Please note that there are no facilities of any description at Palo Buque – please bring everything you need.
Black Mountain and other remote sides – there are remote sites and guided cross country opportunities, with several local paragliding schools that can organise cross country flights or flying from other sites. We strongly recommend that if you want to venture off the beaten track, to go with one of the local guides.
If you want to maximise your training and flying, we can recommend Wallowa Paragliding and Atlanta Paragliding of ParaglidingTrips.com who organise guided trips to Iquique every year in October/November. They have eighteen years of experience, an excellent ratio of about one instructor for every four pilots, and lots of opportunities for learning and improving your flying abilities in a safe environment.
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