- Year-round sunshine while the north shivers
- The mountains provide shelter from the trade winds
- October to April is the best time
- No beaches, so the island’s not crowded with tourists
Have a stress-free flight along the length of the island.
WHERE IS IT?
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
While the rest of the northern hemisphere shivers through winter, head south to La Palma where the flying season lasts all winter and the sun shines all year.
La Palma is the most north-westerly of the Canary Islands, a series of seven main volcanic islands that sit 100km west of Morocco. Nationally and politically the islands are part of Spain, but geographically they belong to Africa.
La Palma is the fifth largest (Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Lanzarote are all bigger), but is quite small – 48km long and 25km at its widest point. However, the mountains rise to 2,400m, and there are some exceptional landscapes.
There are eight official take-offs, mainly on the west of the island. For those who want to fly in and have a stress-free week, there’s an all-inclusive guiding service that includes daily weather briefings, radio connection, transportation and accommodation. For those who want to stay independent, you can – just make contact with the Palmaclub local association to get the latest news and site info.
La Palma is quieter than its bigger neighbours, and with no big strips of golden sand it doesn’t attract beach tourists. Instead, it’s well known as a hiking island – visitors come here to visit the lush Caldera de Taburiente national park, which lies at the heart of the island.
Flying on La Palma is mainly in the lee of the trade winds. The high mountains form a natural barrier against the east wind and protect the flying area on the west.
WHEN TO GO
October through to April is the bet time.
Launch: Eight launches, up to 2,200m
Landing: Sea level
HANG GLIDER ACCESS
With only one beach big enough for landing, hang gliding options are limited on La Palma. Famara in Lanzarote is a better bet.
MUST BE FLOWN
Fly the length of the island from north to south. Because of its position west of Africa and the fact that it’s actually the top of a 6,400m volcano (most of it below the sea), La Palma offers an astonishing variety of landscapes, from rivers of lava to lush tropical forest and hidden beaches. Flying to the top of the island to where there’s only the Atlantic Ocean, then turning to fly back, is beautiful.
DANGERS AND ANNOYANCES
As flying is often in the lee you need to watch and understand the weather. The wind can change very quickly – La Palma pilots have amassed a great deal of weather knowledge. As they always say, speak to the locals.
Flying into and over the Caldera de Taburiente is prohibited.
The place to base yourself to be close to the flying action is at Puerto Naos, where you’ll find the Hotel Sol (€60 a night) plus many apartments to rent. An economy flat costs €35 a night, premium flats up to €60. Prices change with the season.
GUIDES AND COURSES
The local paragliding school Palmaclub Aventura offers an all-inclusive guiding service for qualified pilots. With accommodation, a week costs from €372 per person (non-flying partners are less); without accommodation it’s €250.
A €10 a week visiting pilot club membership fee is payable to help cover club costs.
TAKE THE FAMILY
Diving, boat trips to see dolphins, ocean kayak tours, beaches, towns, all different levels of hikes/rambles/walks, volcanoes and vineyards.
La Palma is connected to Europe via Madrid plus many other European destinations. You can also fly between the islands. The airport code is SPC for Santa Cruz de La Palma – you don’t want to end up in Mallorca or Peru! You can also take a boat from Tenerife to La Palma. Rental cars on the island start at about €130 a week.
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