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Guide to Andalucia, Spain

Tuesday 4 February, 2014
Flying at Hermita de la Crux, Huecija, where Europe’s only desert meets the sea. Photo: Ed Ewing

Flying at Hermita de la Crux, Huecija, where Europe’s only desert meets the sea. Photo: Ed Ewing

Big dry mountains, hot sun, with European infrastructure.


Andalucia is flyable all year. As a region it offers two dozen established flying sites, all within four hours of Malaga airport. That makes it a perfect destination for a one-week dash for the sun, or a longer road trip.

El Yelmo, in the north-east of the region, is the spiritual home of the Rodriguez brothers. They’re natives of nearby Albacete, and it was in El Yelmo that they first spread their acro wings.

From there the 20-plus sites of Andalucia are spread out in a triangle, with Algodonales in the south-western corner, and Huecija on the coast in the south-east. In between are the big mountains of the Sierra Nevada, meaning “Snowy Range”, where the summits reach 3,478 m. The peaks fall rapidly to the coast at Almunecar, another popular paragliding base, and big XC flights from mountain to sea are common.

Further inland the terrain can be either flat, hot, dry and dusty, or, towards Jaen and Pegalajar, covered in olive trees as far as the eye can see. Slot in between the groves or land on the road.

The Spanish scene is strong, and most sites will see local pilots at the weekend and have a school or club attached.

Pilots, schools and clubs flock here from central and northern Europe in winter to take advantage of the open access and open skies, but it’s still best to check with locals before you fly or use a site. Some sites have restrictions – you’re not allowed to launch from inside the Sierra Nevada National Park, for example. But otherwise, the name of the game is hire a car and explore. You’ll discover that the Spain of your imagination really does exist.

Andalucia is flyable all year. The south sees thermals from February, while the north stirs in March. Expect summer to be strong.

Whenever you can!

Cloudbase: Can be over 4,000 m
Launches: About 1,200 m
Landings: Down to sea level

The main sites have road access and often ramps. Route-finding on the access roads can be tricky.

El Yelmo, Pegalajar, Sierra Nevada, Almunecar, Valle de Abdalajis and Algodonales would make a good two-week trip. Boom out of Cenes de la Vega in Sierra Nevada, along the high mountains and fly to the beach, 70 km away, and Cenes de la Vega to Baza, a 90 km jaunt over the Sierra and out across the desert-like plains. Both flights need 3,500 m to 4,000 m cloudbase.

Although historically locals have ignored it, airspace does exist in Spain. Check your maps.

From camping to luxury paradors – grand old buildings turned into smart hotels – everything is on offer.

There are guides in all the main locations. Under Spanish law they should be registered, but this is not to say they all are. Fly Spain is a BHPA (UK) school – they’ve been based in Algodonales for 10 years.

Andalucia is one of Europe’s busiest tourist destinations. On the coast there are beaches, aquaparks and resorts. Inland it’s much more rural. The towns and cities offer fascinating history and culture.

Mountain biking, trekking, exploring mediaeval villages, horse riding and fiestas can all fill a blown-out day. On the coast the beach calls.

The standard meteo websites for Europe. The TV forecast gives the general picture.

Budget airlines fly to Malaga from across Europe. Cordoba and Seville are other options. You’ll need a car – competition is fierce, so hunt around online for the best deal before you go.



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