Most people who trek to Everest Base Camp begin their trek from Lukla airport 2,860 m/9,383 ft, flying in and out is a memorable stand and end to the trek and one that either fills people with trepidation or excitement. You’re guaranteed to have an adrenaline rush!
1. The flight Lukla Airport is only 25 minutes.
It’s a very short flight, this often comes as a surprise when the flight time is announced by the air hostess. The Everest region is not that far from the city of Kathmandu but Lukla cannot be reached by vehicle. It’s possible to get a 4WD to the village of Phaplu and then walk for 4 days to reach Lukla, this is a great option if time is not an issue but for the majority of people work beckons, and time is of the essence. 25 minutes passes in a flash especially when you have got the most spectacular views of the city of Kathmandu and then shortly after, the Himalayan Ranges.
2. The weather changes within minutes which can result in the cancellation of a flight as it’s about to take off.
The changeable weather means many flights in and out of Lukla are cancelled. The airports in Kathmandu and Lukla often have a backlog of passengers waiting their turn to fly to begin their trek to Everest Base Camp. It’s not uncommon for passengers to board their flight, buckle up and prepare for take off only to be directed off the airplane as the weather conditions had just changed in Lukla. We find the level of vigilance reassuring as safety is always the priority. Sometimes planes are forced to land in nearby airports if they have taken off and conditions are not conducive to landing in Lukla. We always recommend booking your return flight out of Nepal a minimum of 2 or 3 days after the end of your Everest Base Camp Trek date to allow for these delays.
3. You fly over a mountain pass before landing in Lukla Airport
Be prepared for an amazing experience just a few minutes before landing in Lukla aiport 2,860 m/9,383 ft. You will suddenly feel the plane gaining altitude as it flies in between two enormous Himalayan mountains. The mountain pass is a highlight of the flight, as for many people it’s the first feeling of truly being among the Himalayas; the highest mountains in the world. Once the plane goes through the mountain pass you should see Lukla airport right there in front of you. When you see the runway you will notice how short it is and how it slopes upwards.
4. The runway is very short and slopes upwards.
After the mountain pass you will see a short runway placed in what looks like the middle of nowhere and surrounded by spectacular mountains. Many people comment on how short the runway is, the runway is approx. 527m long and to counteract it being so short the runway slopes upwards to allow for a safe and relatively fast and smooth landing. There’s only the one runway which means a very fast turn around with airplanes. You will be ushered off the plane and if the weather is good the next passengers will be on the plane within minutes. There’s no wasting time when relying on what is often a short window of good weather.
5. The official name of the airport is “Tenzing-Hillary Airport”.
Even though it’s more often than not referred to as Lukla Airport, this is not it’s official name. The airport was named after the first two people to ever summit Mount Everest, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmud Hillary. Hillary was instrumental in buiding the airport, when he first sumited Mount Everest, the expedition team trekked with all of their gear from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp, a massive undertaking. The airport opened up the Himalayas to people from all over the world and allows access to one and all.
When Sir Edmund Hillary was searching for a site to build the airport he struggled to purchase land, all of the Sherpa farmers required their land for farming and did not want to part with this precious resource. Eventually Hilary sourced land which was less than ideal but it has served it’s purpose since year 1964. If your dream is to complete the Everest Base Camp trek in less than two weeks, your only option is to fly into Tenzing-Hillary Airport.
© Take on Nepal 2023