Paragliding is a recreation and competitive sport that is best described as a hybrid of hang gliding and parachuting. A paraglider is free-flying, unlike the parachutes used in parasailing, which is generally a passive amusement ride rather than than an active sport.

Paragliding in the Austrian Alps, above Zell am See.

A paraglider closely resembles the modern parachutes used in parachuting competitions, but with a higher aspect ratio (to increase its glide angle) and a lighter construction (it does not have to deal with the sudden deceleration from terminal velocity). These paragliders have reasonable gliding characteristics and are quite controllable by use of pull cords which are reachable above the participant's head when held by the harness. Typically, paragliders are launched from steep slopes at the summit of hills.

Paragliding offers many of the joys of hang gliding and parachuting in perhaps a less intimidating and more accessible package, avoiding the initial fright (but perhaps also some of the thrill) of the plane jump of parachuting, and giving much of the exhilaration of controllable gliding of hang gliding. There is a greater ease of control (due to the lower speeds, greater stability, lower stall speeds and lesser physical demands) but with correspondingly less acrobatic manoeuvrability and range. A paraglider can also be landed in a much smaller space than a glider or hang glider, and can easily fit in the boot of a conventional car, unlike a glider, which requires a large trailer, or a hang glider, which requires considerable space to store and at least a roof-rack to transport.