Lukla Airport in Nepal | Gateway to Everest region
The Lukla Airport, also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport, is infamous for being the most dangerous airport in the world. The short (in fact, the shortest in the world), steep runway starts at the face of a cliff. It almost looks as if the runway itself is sliding off the mountain. To be quite frank, Tenzing-Hillary Airport poses a variety of risks. At 2,860 meters/9,383 feet, it’s not the highest airport in the world, but the altitude does pose risks. A short runway, surrounding mountainous terrain, heavy winds/low visibility, and the high altitude all combine to cause challenges for pilots. These days, pilots wait for the perfect conditions to fly. On one hand, this makes the flights a lot safer. On the other hand, you may have to wait a few days before the conditions are just right.
Lukla Airport was constructed in 1964, with the help of Edmund Hillary, the first (along with Tenzing Norgay) to summit Mount Everest. The runway was not actually even paved until 2001. Since the construction of the airport, Lukla has grown into a bustling trekker’s hub. Dozens of lodges, shops, and little restaurants surround the single cobblestone street in the town. There are a couple of pubs as well to celebrate the last night of your trek before you leave the Everest region.
Despite all the talk about how unsafe it is, the most common way to reach Lukla is by flight. For most people, the mere 30-45 minute flight from Kathmandu to Lukla beats days of trekking through the lower hills to reach the Everest region’s gateway. Don’t be too afraid, as the chances of an accident are extremely low. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal sets high standards for pilots. Also, government is planning to extend the runway to increase safety. Thousands of people fly to Lukla each year and seldom is there a crash. Note: Book your trip to Nepal with a couple of cushion days after your arrival and before your departure, as flights may be delayed for several days.