The small town of Lukla is typically the starting point for all the treks in the Everest region, including the famous Everest Base Camp Trek. This small Sherpa town is located in the northeastern part of Nepal at an elevation of 2,846 meters.
Since no motorized roads connect to Lukla from Kathmandu, you only have two ways of getting there — by air or on foot. Either way, traveling to Lukla itself is an adventure of a lifetime.
While flying to the Tenzing-Hillary Airport is the most popular way to reach Lukla, there are a few other options to get there.
Getting To Lukla for Everest Base Camp Trek
There are three possible options to get to the small town of Lukla from Kathmandu.
Via Flight to Lukla
Duration - 30 minutes
The most popular option to reach Lukla from Kathmandu is via regular flight. It is also the quickest option as it only takes 30 minutes to reach Lukla by plane.
The Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla is notorious for having one of the world’s shortest runways, extending a mere 527 meters (1,729 feet) long. Besides that, this airport is often considered the world’s most extreme due to the mountain-side runway, high winds, low visibility, and cloud cover. That said, most aircraft arrive and leave this tiny airstrip almost daily without incident.
But delays and cancellations are common due to bad weather in Lukla or en-route. Hence, adding a couple of buffer days into your itinerary while trekking in the Everest region is highly recommended. This offers you more flexibility and reduces the risk of missing your international connection even if Lukla flights get grounded for a few days.
For this, you’ll have to wake up around 5 AM and drive to the domestic terminal of the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu. After that, you’ll have to catch an early morning flight to Lukla. However, the direct flights from Kathmandu to Lukla only operate during the off-seasons, i.e., December to February and June to August.
Note: In the last few years, flights to Lukla have started operating from Manthali Airport in Ramechhap during the peak trekking seasons (March to May and September to November). This is due to the high air traffic congestion at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu.
How to Get to Lukla via Manthali Flight?
Since the regular flights to and from Lukla are infamous for delays and cancellations, Manthali Airport in Ramechhap has become a popular alternative for operating Lukla flights.
Manthali Airport is situated at an altitude of 474 meters in the Tamakoshi River Valley in Manthali. It is located around 132 kilometers from Kathmandu and takes four and half hours to get there by road.
Apart from trekkers willing to fly to Lukla, this small town does not see many visitors regularly. You can either drive to Manthali village the day before your scheduled flight, or you can catch a ride around midnight on the same day.
If you’re planning to drive a day ahead and spend a night in Manthali, note that this small town offers limited accommodation facilities with basic services.
However, if you’re planning to get to Manthali on the same day, you’ll have to wake up around 2 in the morning and catch a ride to this small town. You’ll be reaching Manthali at around 6:30 AM. From here, you’ll have to take a 20-minutes flight to the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla.
Via Helicopter to Lukla
Duration - 40 to 60 minutes
Another alternative to get to Lukla from Kathmandu is by chartering a helicopter. This is ideal for travelers who are short on time but not on a tight budget. Although expensive, flying by a chartered helicopter is the most reliable option to get to Lukla.
For this option, you’ll have to drive to the domestic terminal of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and take your Heli ride to Tenzing Hillary Airport. Depending on the weather, the helicopter ride might take 40 minutes to an hour to reach Lukla.
Since chartering a helicopter to Lukla can cost you between USD 2,200 to 3,000, getting more people to tag along is more affordable. The helicopter accommodates up to 5 passengers and allows 400 KGs of baggage. Some carriers that provide helicopter services to Lukla are Air Dynasty, Summit Helicopters, Kailash Heli, and Simrik Air.
Upon landing at Lukla, you can either start your trek to the Everest region or continue your Heli ride to the mighty Everest Base Camp for a sightseeing flight and return to Kathmandu the same day.
Via Road and On Foot to Lukla
Duration - 2 to 8 days
Although traveling to Lukla on foot is much less common, it is still a reliable alternative. This is an excellent option to avoid the uncertainties of Lukla flights if you’re willing to spare a few extra days.
Here are a few options you can choose while traveling to Lukla on foot:
Drive to Phaplu
If you strictly want to avoid the hassle of the Lukla flight, you can take a jeep and drive to Phaplu. After spending a night in the village, you can start your trek to Lukla.
Phaplu is located nearly 270 kilometers away from the capital. It’ll take approximately 9 hours to reach this remote village from Kathmandu. On average, the trek from the village of Phaplu to Lukla takes 3 to 4 days.
Since the roads are extremely slippery during monsoon, we recommend you avoid this route in June and July.
Drive to Jiri
Getting to Lukla via Jiri is often considered the “Pioneer’s Route.” It is because this route was used by the early day explorers to reach Lukla before the airport was constructed.
This route is much longer and comparatively less popular in recent years. However, it is considered the best option for avid trekkers who prefer authentic experiences. This route offers beautiful mountain views, monasteries, terrace farms, forested trails, and remote villages.
Jiri is located 190 kilometers from Kathmandu, which takes about 9-10 hours to drive. Likewise, the trek from Jiri to Lukla takes around 7 to 8 days.
Drive to Thamedanda
In the last few years, the roads of the Solu region have been extended. Now, you can find private and shared jeeps from Kathmandu that take you up to the small village of Thamedanda.
First, you must catch a jeep from Kathmandu and set off on a 9-hour-drive to Phaplu. Upon arrival, you’ll continue the ride for the next six hours from Phaplu to reach Thamedanda. You can reach Lukla in just two days of trekking from this remote village.
Hence, this is the fastest route to get to Lukla by road and on foot.
Lukla Flight Delays and Cancellations
Delays and cancellations are pretty common when flying to and from Lukla airport. This can ruin your travel plans and itinerary if not handled well. Besides, if the Lukla flights get grounded for a day or two, you might miss your international connection.
Here are a few factors that play their part in delays and cancellations of Lukla flights:
- Bad and unpredicted weather conditions in or en route to Lukla.
- High air traffic congestion during the peak trekking seasons.
- Adverse climatic factors like high winds, low visibility, and cloud cover — especially during winter and monsoon.
- The narrow runway and positioning of the airstrip make the approach relatively challenging.
Regardless of which option you choose, traveling to Lukla is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If you have a few extra days to spare, the best and most reliable option to get to Lukla is on foot.
But if you’re opting for a regular flight, we advise adding a few buffer days into your itinerary and some extra cash while trekking in the Everest region.
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