Lukla Airport, the gateway to the Everest Base Camp Trekking

The Lukla airport is also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport. This airport is the common gateway to the Everest Base Camp trekking. Most of the trekking trail in the Khumbu region starts from the Lukla airport. However, there are other traditional gateways to the Everest region like Jiri, Tumlingtar, and Salleri.

Lukla airport was built in 1964 under the supervision of Sir. Edmund Hillary. It is situated at an elevation of 2845m above sea level. It lies in the eastern part of Nepal in Khumbu Pasanglhamu, Solukhumbu District, and Province No. 1 of Nepal. It is a kind of small domestic airport in Nepal.

The airport has successfully gained worldwide fame as it was rated the most dangerous airport in the world for more than 20 years by a program titled Most Extreme Airports, broadcast on The History Channel in 2010. 

The airport is popular because it is considered the starting point for treks towards Mount Everest Base Camp. There are daily flight schedules from Lukla to Kathmandu and vice versa. But it depends on the weather condition as the rain occurs mostly in Lukla while it is sunny in Kathmandu. Besides, it takes almost 20 min to reach Lukla from Kathmandu. Although the flying distance is short, the flight may be delayed or postponed to the next day, If bad weather occurs due to the cloudy sky, high winds, and changing visibility. The airport is contained within a chain-link fence and for security is patrolled by the Nepali armed police or civil police around the clock.

Almost all of the airplanes of airline companies of Nepal have been to Lukla such as Nepal airlines, Tara airlines, Buddha airlines, and others. But only the highly expert pilots whose qualification meets the proposed conditions of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, are permitted to land the flight at Lukla airport.                               

History of Lukla Airport

Speaking about the history of Lukla airport, the airport was endowed by the famous Germans climber Edmund Hilary. In 1964, Sir Edmund Hilary originally intended to build the airport on flat farmlands. However, the local people of the Sherpa community did not want to give up their land, and as a result, the current airport was in this way. Later, he bought these lands from Local Sherpa people for $2650.

Similarly, it is also said that at that time, he was not happy with the runway's soil resistance and that his solution was to buy local liquor for the Sherpa and ask them to complete a foot-stomping dance to flatten the land that served as the runway. Likewise, the runway was paved until 2001. In 2008, the airport was renamed in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. The duo is the first people to summit the world's largest mountain Mount Everest. The duo is also famous for their effort in the construction of this beautiful airport.

In the beginning, the airport is accessible to helicopters and small, fixed-wing, short-takeoff-and-landing aircraft such as the De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter, Dornier 228, L-410 Turbolet and Pilatus PC-6 Turbo Porter. The runway is 527 m (1,729 ft) × 30 m (98 ft) with an 11.7% gradient. The airport is at an elevation of 9,334 ft (2,845 m. Thanks to the founder and local people of Lukla, via the airport thousands of visitors came to see Mount Everest. The airport is used for passenger flights and for transporting most of the building materials, goods, and cargo to Lukla and other villages to the north of Lukla, as there is no road to this region.

Lukla airport’s weather

As we have mentioned a couple of times before, Lukla is a gateway to the world-famous Khumbu region. Talking about the climate and weather of the Lukla region is dramatic and unpredictable. Because of the bad weather and the unpredictable your flight might be delayed. Thus, in the below sub-headings, we have tried to describe some amazing facts including the average temperature, and flights.

Lukla airport in January

Generally, in Nepal, January is one of the coldest months. Thus, the temperature of the Lukla is so cold. And the average high temperature during this month reaches around -3.9°C (25°F), meanwhile; the average low temperature is around -14.7°C (5.5°F). The snow and the steepness of the trails also bring difficulty to the treks. During this season Lukla remains dry and hardly ever rains here. And the sky also remains clear and the visibility of the mountains is good.  And more importantly, the unpredictable weather and the fog around Kathmandu can cause delays and cancellations. But to be fair, this period sees one of the lowest chances of flight cancellations.

Lukla airport in February

Similar to January, during this month the weather is quite cold. The average high temperature during this month reaches around -2.3°C (27.9°F), meanwhile it drops down to -14.1°C (6.6°F) which is also the average low temperature. If you are thinking about traveling during this time it will be best if you avoid it because the trails are covered with snow and they might be icy as well. For the flight, there is a very low chance of flight cancellations.

Lukla airport in March

Compared to January and February March is slightly warmer in Lukla. From this month the winter slowly fades away and the temperature slowly starts increasing. Similarly, the morning is very clear in Lukla and the mostly afternoons are episodic thunderstorms. So the chance of a flight delay is also high. And the average high temperature of the Lukla airport is around 0.4°C (31.3°F), whereas the average low temperature is -11.8°C (10.8°F). And May is an ideal time to trek around the base of the giant Mount Everest.

Lukla airport in April

Speaking of April, the month is a very pleasant season along with great mountain views and blooming wildflowers for a trek to Everest Base camp or Lukla airport. The average high temperature in Lukla during April is around 54°F (12°C meanwhile the low temperature in Lukla drops down to around 33°F (1°C). Sometime the humidity might cause difficulty in April. However, the days are warm and the nights are still cold. Also, remember that this month is considered to be the best month to visit the Everest base camp and Gokyo RI.

Lukla airport in May

Following the beautiful spring season, the Sherpa welcomes summer with a big smile. The average temperature in Lukla in May for a typical day ranges from a high of 59°F (15°C) to a low of 39°F (4°C).  While visiting Lukla during this month make sure to bring a warm blanket and plan on wearing layer clothes. Likewise, the chance of flight cancellation and delay is very low.

Lukla airport in June

Well, June is said to be the warmest month in the region. The average temperature during June for a typical day ranges from a high of 63°F (17°C) to a low of 45°F (7°C). Like April, the morning until mid-June is very clear and the visibility is good.  Thus, flying to Lukla is not a big problem, especially if the flights operate from Ramechhap to Lukla, even if the backlogs clear easily. However, flying to Lukla in the latter half of June will be difficult. The weather is cloudy, and cancellations are highly likely.

Lukla airport in July

In Nepal, July and August are monsoon months, during this month the region experiences heavy rainfall. The average high temperature during July is around 8.3°C (46.9°F), while the average low temperature is around 5°C (41°F). In case you are planning or traveling Lukla, remember that the chance of a flight delay or cancellation is very high.  Similarly, for the sights, the washed flora and fauna are beyond beautiful.

Lukla Airport in August

Comparing to other months, in August the region experience heavy rainfall. The average temperature of Lukla airport during this month fluctuates between 8.3°C (46.9°F) and 5°C (41°F). The weather is cloudy and the chance of flight delay and cancellation is very high. Thus, pack your things and make plans accordingly.

Lukla Airport in September

September marks the end of the monsoons in Nepal. Generally, during this time, the temperature also rises around 23°C, reaching highs of 26°C and dropping to an average min temperature of 19°C. Nestled between the peak seasons, September is an excellent time to visit if you want to avoid the main tourist period while still enjoying some excellent weather. At Lukla airport, the maximum average temperature around this month reaches 17C in the daytime, while the minimum temperature drops to 1C at night.

Also, the Everest Base Camp Trek in September is extremely suggested because most days are full of sunshine. However, flight cancellation this month is also high.

Lukla Airport in October

October is the second autumn month and is considered the best time of the year for the Everest Base Camp trek. Compared to other months this month, the crows of the national and international people are high, and it is also the busiest time in this trail.

Speaking of that, during this month, the average maximum temperature reaches around 3.4°C (38.1°F) during the day; the minimum temperature drops to -5.3°C (22.5°F) at night. Thus, during this month, the temperature is neither too hot nor too cold, so most people plan to trek to the Everest base camp in October. Likewise, the Everest Base Camp Trek via Lukla airport in October is highly recommended.

Lukla airport in November

Among all of these months, November is considered to be one of the busiest months for Lukla Airport. During this time the average high temperature reaches around 0.9°C (33.6°F), meanwhile, the average low temperature drops down to around -9.5°C (14.9°F). During this month the sky remains clear. Thus, the chance of the flight getting canceled or delay is very low. If you are thinking about traveling here then go for it. The sights, weather, and temperature will always be on your side.

Lukla Airport in December

December marks the beginning of the winter season in Nepal. The temperature in the Lukla region drops every day in December. The average temperature in Lukla in December for a typical day ranges from a high of 43°F (6°C) to a low of 21°F (-6°C).  After looking at the temperature one can easily assume that you will experience cold. Despite being so cold, during this time the sky remains clear and the view from the base camp is also clear. Similarly, during the flight, you will able to see a clear view of the spectacular mountains, and 360 views of Khumbu valley. And, the disruptions/ cancellations are very low during these months. The flow of trekkers is also low, the visibility is still perfect, and Lukla flights run smoothly.

We hope that this short article has covered the necessary information regarding the Lukla airport’s climate and weather throughout the entire month of the year. This may help you to plan your trek accordingly.

Types of planes fly to Lukla

Talking about the types of airlines, there are several flight options that you can take to reach Lukla. Generally, three main airlines run this route frequently. They are Tara Air / Yeti Airlines, Summit Air, and Sita Air. Likewise, Goma Airlines and Simrik Airlines terminated their operations at Lukla airport for quite some time now.  Tara air is one of the most famous airlines in Nepal. Endowed in 2009, it uses aircraft from Yeti Airlines. As of now, it operates a fleet of seven Short Takeoff & Landing aircraft, five Twin Otter DHC 6/300, and two Dornier DO 228 aircraft. These aircraft can only carry not more than 13 passengers at a time.

On the other hand, Summit Air is also known as Goma Air. The airline began its operation in 2011. They rebranded themselves to Summit Air in 2017. Starting operation with two Cessna Grand Caravan 208 B, scheduled flights through Turbolet LET-L 410 UVPE-20 STOL aircraft began later in 2014. The Turbolet aircraft can carry 19 passengers at a time. Likewise, Sita Air is a very well-liked domestic airline in Nepal that started commercial flights in 2003. This airline offers scheduled as well as charter services using four Dornier DO-228 STOL HERO aircraft. This aircraft can carry 13 passengers at a time.

All these airlines operate such as Dornier Do 228 and DHC-6 Twin Otter, which hold around 15 or so passengers. Similarly, you will find flights in the earlier parts of the day starting around 6 AM. Most of the flights happen in the morning around 6 AM. Because the weather around the Lukla and Kathmandu regions is unpredictable. The early morning has the best weather window for all flights to land and takes off successfully. And we would highly advise you to take the earliest available flight in the day when booking. During the flight, you will be able to witness the spectacular hills, mountains, villages, and diverse landscapes.

Alternatives to Lukla Airport

Due to Lukla airport’s bad reputation, trekkers might think, “Does Lukla Flight worth it?” giving an answer to this question, the flight is not as frightening as advertised in newspapers and TV. Furthermore, only experienced and skilled pilots can fly in this region.  Apart from that, taking some dangers in life adds an extra adventure and memories that might feel proud of in the forthcoming years.

However, those who don’t want to take risks can drive from Kathmandu to Jiri and hike to Lukla. The route via Jiri is considered to be a classic route taken by the early day explorer early day explorers like Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay when the Lukla airport wasn’t in existence. Comparatively, many trekkers as well as nature and culture lovers who wish to explore the authentic self of Nepal beyond the mountains prefer this route over the flight. During the trial, you will be able to see a spectacular view of mountains, monasteries, terrace farms, and hospitable locals. You can get this bus from Ratnapark. Every day the bus leaves at around 5 AM, 7 AM, and 9 AM. And it costs you around NPR 535- NR 700. Not only, that you can also get bust to Mali, or Shivalaya for the same price from the same location. If you are concerned about not getting a seat, you can pre-book your tickets a day ahead from ticket counters in Ratnapark itself. Following Jiri, you have to walk a further 8 days to reach Phakding.

Apart from Jiri, you can also reach Lukla via Salleri/ Phaplu. Salleri is around 265 km far away from Kathmandu and Phaplu is a 20-minute walk from Salleri. To reach there it takes you around 8 hours and you can catch buses or jeeps from Koteshwor. It costs you around NPR 1,100 for a bus and around NPR 1700 for a jeep. Following Phaplu, you have to walk for 4 days to reach Phakding. During the Route, you will experience a thrilling ride through the highs and lows of the mid-hills through real villages inhabited by ethnic groups like Sherpas and Rais. During the trail, you will see Khachhars (mules). From Lukla, one can start their Everest Base Camp Trek, Everest High Passes Trek, Everest Expedition, and many other popular Everest treks.

An interesting fact about Lukla Airport

  • As we talked already about the history, weather, and route of Lukla, in the below bulletins let’s talk about some interesting facts about Lukla Airport.
  •  On January 2008, in the honor of the first-ever mountaineers to reach Everest’s summit, the Lukla airport was named Tenzing Hillary airport. 
  • From Kathmandu it takes around 20 minutes to reach Lukla, during the flight one can witness the mesmerizing views of greenery hills, farmlands, and giant standing snow-capped peaks. 
  • Before the construction of the Lukla airport, the only way to reach there is via five days hike from Jiri.
  • Every day, there is an average of 50 flights for Lukla daily in favorable weather conditions and visibility.           
  • During the construction of an airport, many Sherpas were against it.
  • The airport is only the way to transport construction, medicine, clothes, and food materials to much higher towns and villages. As it is not connected by any road.
  • Each passenger can carry only 15 kg loads.
  • The weather in this region is unpredictable strong wind might blow, and the clouds fill the sky in a blink of an eye.
  • The chance of flight delay and cancellation depends upon the clearness of the sky.
  • Until 2001, the airport was not paved.
  • As of today, there are 11 flight accidents took place in this region.
  • To become the main pilot of the Lukla flights you must have completed a minimum of 100 short takeoffs and landing (STOL) assignments, one year of STOL experience, and 10 Lukla flight trips under a certified instructor. 
  • The airport has a single runway for flight takeoff and landing.

Things to do in Lukla

As we have mentioned a couple of times earlier, the Lukla is one of the most popular destinations for trekkers. Compared to other places in Nepal, each year thousands of visitors come here just to see a natural beauty and the highest snow-capped mountains in the world.   

Lukla is identified as a popular destination for trekkers there are many things to do in Lukla & places to see in Lukla Nepal. Many tourists come to visit Lukla from different parts of the world. The Lukla village is a part of the Khumbu area. Among the many things to do in Lukla, a visit to the Sagarmatha zone of North-eastern Nepal is indeed highly interesting.

Lukla was made available to the world in 1964 when the airport was built, it was then that trekkers began to use the town as a base for their Mt Everest expeditions. It has since served as a spot for people to sleep before or after their hikes and as a result, not much has been put in place for those having to stay a little longer than expected.

The changing weather conditions can mean that flights are canceled or delayed and if this happens, you might find yourself struggling to find something to do. We’ve put a few ideas together just in case:

  • You can head out to one of the local villages to experience some of the rich cultures.
  • Watch the flights come in and out of Lukla airport – this is definitely an extreme airport and well worth watching. 
  • Make somebody’s day and visit the local school or hospital, you can take some gifts or leave a donation.
  • Check out Kemgon Gompa, there are some beautiful paintings to capture if you’re into photography. 
  • Read a book and taste the local cuisine – Sherpa Stew is a warming dish to start with and as meat is flown in, it may be best to stick to vegetarian options.
  • It's also a good idea to spend a day/night in Lukla before heading off on your treks, it's a great time to begin your acclimatization regime and there are some short walks from the town for you to enjoy. Lukla is what you make of it and although delayed flights and bad weather can give new meaning to the word stress, safety is more important. So kick back, relax, and enjoy as much as you can.