Air Junkies in Paradise
When most people think of a holiday in Greece, they think of the islands. But I'’d been there and done that. I wanted to get a taste of the real Greece, so I started researching mainland Greece. The Peloponnese, a large peninsula in southern Greece that covers about 8,300 square miles, is known as “the heart and soul of Greece.” The Peloponnese is rich in history and natural beauty. It has a mountainous interior, an enchanting coastline and charming villages. With dry, warm summers, mild sea breezes, good food, a fascinating culture, friendly people and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, including paragliding, the Peloponnese has everything I look for in a vacation destination.
Last year, the Peloponnese suffered devastating wildfires that will impact of the region for many years, but that didn’t deter us. We started our trip with some hiking and sightseeing in the Mani region of the southern Peloponnese and then we headed back north for some paragliding and more sightseeing. I Googled “paragliding and Peloponnese” and found Flying Paradise at the top of the list. Just for fun, I Googled “paragliding and paradise,” and got over 30,000 hits, including places as diverse as the Alps, Columbia, Bali and Jackson Hole. Paradise is in the eye of the beholder, so I was a bit skeptical about Flying Paradise. I started an email correspondence with the owner of Flying Paradise. I was so impressed with how responsive and helpful he was, that I bought two tickets to paradise.
Base camp for Flying Paradise is Epidavros, a small village on the Aegean Sea, about eighty miles southwest of Athens. There are literally hundreds of archeological sites in the area. But Epidavros is most famous for the fascinating Asclepios archeological site, a renowned healing center, built in the 4th century B.C. The ancient amphitheater at Asclepios seats 14,000 and the view, aesthetics and acoustics of the theater are remarkable. From the top row of the theatre, you can actually hear the unamplified sound of a match struck at center stage. What a thrill is to get a birds-eye view of the site as you fly over it under a paraglider.
Flying Paradise operates out of the Hotel Apollon, a relatively small hotel on a quiet beach, with views of the mountains and the sea. The hotel is modern, clean and comfortable. The restaurant serves great food and the bar is open for drinks and coffee at all hours of the day or night. They also have shaded lawns that are perfect for folding your glider. The staff is especially friendly and accommodating to pilots, who made up most of their guests, when we were there.