The sport of Paragliding involves taking off from hilltops using a kind of modified parachute and harnessig thermals and wind currents to stay aloft and even fly cross country. Paragliders are based on parachutes, in that they are made of fabric and can be tucked into a bag and allow slow or controlled descent. However paragliders are designed to also act as gliders and their aerofoil shape gives them lift and so they will also travel much further forward than parachutes in similar flying conditions. Also, parachutes are designed to be deployed while falling through the air, paragliders must be raised and catching air before you leave the ground!
In Nepal, the mecca for paragliding is Pokhara where several commercial outfits run day trips and longer cross country trips. As a client, you will be taken aloft on what is called a tandem paraglider, where you and a pilot will attached to the glider on a special harness, and the pilot will do all the flying, while you do all the enjoying of scenery. If you are an experienced and certified paraglider pilot, you have the option of bringing your own glider and flying, or you can rent a glider and fly solo. Pokhara has a number of ‘house thermals’ and makes for great flying.
Flying paragliders is probably the closest we will ever get to unpowered flight, and is a stunning way to see mountain scenery.