Lukla Airport – The most exciting airport in the world

Lukla Airport – The most exciting airport in the world

Titled as the world’s most dangerous airport, flying to Lukla airport of the Khumbu region is an accumulation of thrill and spine-chilling experience. Travelers described their memory of landing at Lukla as an exhilarating experience. Hence, Lukla airport is considered one of the most exciting airports in the world. Also known as Tenzing Hillary Airport, Lukla airport is one of the fantastic attractions in the Everest region. This small town of Lukla is the starting point for all hiking expeditions in the Everest Region. Hence, interested travelers intending for the Everest Base Camp trek or any treks in the Khumbu valley must go through Lukla village.

This article contains all there is to know about Lukla Airport and the Lukla village. Go over this article and have a pleasant tour of Lukla.

Location and Altitude

Situated at an altitude of 2860m (9380 feet), Lukla is located in the Solukhumbu district of Nepal. Lukla village is small with closely connected houses and hotels near the region’s lone airport, the Tenzing Hillary Airport. Similarly, the Lukla airport lies at an altitude of 9,337 ft / 2,846 m, surrounded on all sides by steep and mountainous terrain offering picturesque views to visitors.

A glimpse of Lukla village

Lukla village

Ideally located at the lap of the world’s highest and extensive mountain range – Everest massif, Lukla is the start and endpoint for your trekking adventure in the Khumbu Valley. This little community with a peaceful setting is only a 30-minute flight from Kathmandu Valley. Lukla means “place of many goats and sheep,” although there aren’t many wandering there these days. Because of its popularity, Lukla has grown from a modest agricultural town to a regional commercial center on par with Namche Bazaar. Due to the increased number of luxury guesthouses and hotels in Lukla resulting from trekkers staying overnight on Everest treks, the town has experienced an increase in luxury guesthouses and hotels in recent years.

Sherpas are the primary inhabitants of the town, and thus, every corner is influenced by its unique and inspiring culture. The city is home to the oldest Sherpa monastery built around the 19th century by Lama Kyamgon-Deltsen-Donden. Similarly, Pasang Lhamu Nicole Niquille Hospital, which is another historic site, is located in Lukla. This hospital was built to honor the Pasang Lhamu Sherpa- the first Nepalese woman who scaled Mount Everest in 1993. The hospital serves mountaineers and locals of the village development committees.

Besides these historic landmarks, the town hosts the Dumche festival, one of the grand festivals for the Sherpa community. On this occasion, monks show the twisted iron rod of Ralpa Dorje at Thangme and the image of Shakyamuni Buddha and the seven grains at rimejung. Other than these charming galore, Lukla is a beautiful and constantly bustling town in the Khumbu village amidst the pristine mountainous terrain. The town has been growing each year commercially as the number of mountain lovers is increasing. Nevertheless, no matter how commercial the city is, it still manages people with its energetic spirit and cultural benevolence.

Lukla Airport – The most exciting airport in the world

Lukla is one of the busiest airports in Nepal and one of the exciting airports in the world because of its dramatic location. Well, this complex location has also earned the title of the world’s dangerous airport. Similarly, when flying to Lukla airport, a sense of insecurity arises because of its tricky position. To complicate things further, there are no other alternate options to land if you miss an approach. Once an airplane begins its path, it must land. Because of these obligations, only helicopters and small planes fly to the airport.

Moreover, since landing and taking off is not relatively easy, only experienced pilots can fly to Lukla. Therefore, the civil aviation authority of Nepal created a new standard that only allows pilots with 100 successful short takeoffs and landing (SOTL) flight records. Besides that, these pilots also have at least one year of STOP experience in Nepal and 10 successful flights to Lukla accompanied by qualified pilots.

History of the Lukla Airport

The Lukla Airport was constructed in 1964. Sir Edmund Hillary oversaw the building, and the airport runway wasn’t even adequately graded until recently, in 2001. It was named in 2008 in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa, the first persons to climb Mount Everest’s summit. The runway of the Lukla airport is 527 meters long and 30 meters wide. The airport is primarily utilized for passenger flights and freight transit to Lukla and other communities in the north, as there is no road access in Khumbu valley.

Why is Lukla airport important for hikers?

Flying to Lukla is the only medium to reach the gateway to Everest in the shortest duration. Otherwise, the trekker’s intent on seeing Mt. Everest will have to walk for days to get Namche, which is the ultimate gateway to Everest. Therefore, considering it saves time, money, and energy, Lukla airport is essential for hikers. Besides that, the airport is a convenient medium to transport necessary supplies from Kathmandu. Hence, besides trekkers, locals also depend upon the airport.

Weather and climate

Lukla airport, snowfall

The weather in the Himalayas is constantly changing. It is always possible to have sudden mist and fog. Despite the short distance and flight time, the weather in Lukla is distinctly different from that in Kathmandu, and it changes regularly while the plane is flying. Therefore, due to unpredictable weather conditions, the airport is active from mid-morning to late morning, which is usually the only period in the mountain when the weather is excellent. During the daytime, strong southwest winds are expected in the Himalayas, which is why flights to Lukla do not operate in the mid-day or evening from Kathmandu. Additionally, the geographical situation of Lukla causes severe winds, substantial clouds, and changeable visibility. As a result, there are frequent aircraft delays or airport closures.

Flight cancelation

Because of Lukla’s location and height, weather and visibility are continuously dynamic and can change quickly. As a result, flight scheduling to Lukla can be doubtful and unpredictable. The airlines do not gamble with the weather. If the weather is bad, they return to Kathmandu from anywhere along its route rather than risk a dangerous landing.

As a result, flight delays are relatively common. Weather change is typical but is more prevalent during the monsoon season (late May to early September). If your flight is delayed, you must reschedule for the next available flight. Keep at least a day or two contingency days at the end of the journey in case of delays. Extra days should always be planned after the trip to allow for flexibility in the trekking route in weather delays.

Alternative ways to reach Lukla

Besides flying to Lukla, the alternative way to reach Lukla would be trekking Jiri or Salleri. Using this route would consume a lot of your time and energy. Nevertheless, if flying to Lukla is something you would like to avoid, set aside an extra 1 week. Likewise, if you want to reach EBC without flying to Lukla, check the itinerary of the Classic Everest Base Camp trek.

Things to do in Lukla

Many assume Lukla just as a village with several hotels and lodges for trekkers. However, that is sorely false information. Indeed trekkers do not get to spend much time in Lukla during their multiple-day trekking journey; nevertheless, during the days you spend in Lukla, there are a handful of things one can observe around. Henceforth, here’s a list of all the things one can do in Lukla:

Visit Kemgon Monastery

Monasteries are major highlights of any treks to the Everest region. Above all the essential and sacred monasteries, the Kemgon monastery is one of the holy sites for the locals of Lukla. The monastery is clad in incredible Buddhist artwork and paintings and has a fine collection of ancient tools. The monastery is near the Lukla airstrip and is open for visitors to explore. Therefore, make sure to visit this impressive and vibrant piece of Lukla village.

Partake in Dumjee Festival

Dumjee festival falls in June annually and is observed in other villages of Khumbu valley. Dumjee is a Sherpa celebration held to ward off evil spirits. Music, dancing, food, and alcohol, together with holy rites and humorous dances, signal the start of the celebration. Dumjee is a celebration of Guru Rimpoche Padmasambav’s birth anniversary. The purpose of the Dumjee festival is to spread the message of praying for world peace and harmony. Dumjee festivals are also held in the Khumbu, including Khumjung, Namche, Thame, and Phortse. However, Dumjee is more famous in Lukla. Thus, if your journey coincides with the festival dates, make sure to partake in the celebration.

Take a tour through the neighboring village.

Despite Lukla being a commercial town, take a tour through the village and discover the scenic viewpoints for the breathtaking mountain scenery. Similarly, several villages around Lukla, such as Surke, and Chaurikharka, offer stunning landscapes, vistas of panoramic peaks, forested hills, and the pristine nature of the high Himalayas. Moreover, a village tour is an excellent way to interact with the Sherpa people and learn about their way of life.

Final Words

On the whole, even if Lukla may come as a commercial town for many, it still is the fascinating destination in the world. Similarly, Lukla Airport remains one of the beautiful and exciting airports in the world despite the difficulties. The setting amidst steep Himalayan peaks and the energetic vibe of the town will never fail to inspire amazement.

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About Author

Balaram Thapa

Balaram Thapa, an executive director at Nepal Hiking Team had a long journey before making NHT one of the revolutionary tour operators in this competitive field of Tourism. He finished his Bachelor’s degree in Travel and Tourism from Tribhuwan University in the year 2000.

He started his career as a trekking support staff in 1998 and gradually earned a status of trekking leader. He has trekked several trekking routes such as Annapurna, Manaslu, Langtang, Everest, Kanchenjunga, Mustang, Makalu, etc. Thus has immense knowledge about the trekking routes of Nepal. Alongside this, he has also organized several tours to Bhutan and Tibet as a tour guide. He has traveled to Germany, France, Switzerland, Poland, Italy promoting Nepal’s tourism.

After earning lots of experience in this field, he wanted to explore his own business ideology. He along with his brother- Ganga Raj Thapa start their own company, Nepal Hiking Team in 2009. He is friendly and works side by side with the staff inspiring and motivating them. He is an expert travel consultant and handles all the concerns of travelers regarding their trip. He inspires people to travel new and unique destinations and implement the same ideology on himself as well.

He started his journey 22 years ago and has immense experience in this field. His passion for traveling has made his 22 years of working journey, a precious phase of his life. And he plans to continue doing this and add more years in it.

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