Lukla is the gateway to the Khumbu Region and Mt Everest. It is from here that mountaineering expeditions and trekking adventures start. There are only two ways to reach Lukla – by air or foot.
Flying into Lukla
Fixed-wing flights fly from Ramechhap Airport in the eastern part of lowland Nepal. Lying around 4 4-hour drive from Kathmandu, those people taking the early morning flight from Ramechhap to Lukla have to leave from Kathmandu around 1 or 2 am in the morning.
Currently, there are very few accommodation options in the Ramecchap area, so it is not advisable to go the day before. We anticipate this will change in the future and will advise you.
Lukla Tenzing Hillary Airport
Lukla Airport was renamed the Tenzing Hillary Airport in 2008. Which was the year Sir Edmund died. Although Tenzing Norgay died two decades earlier, the airport was named after him in recognition of him being the first to summit Everest in 1953, along with Hillary. The bond between the airport and Sir Edmund began long before that. It was his idea to build the airport at Lukla to give the local communities better access to the outside world.
In 1964 the airport was built under the direction and funding of Sir Edmund. In 2001 it was paved and became what it is today. Looking back to 1964, Hillary could not have imagined the number of tourists and adventurers who would use that airport.
Flight Options: Airlines and Ticket Booking
There are a number of airlines that fly into Lukla, namely:
- Tara Air
- Summit Air
- Sita Air
- Nepal Airlines
The most reliable airline is Tara Air, a subsidiary of Yeti Airlines, a leading domestic carrier that has resorts in the Everest Region and other parts of the country.
All airlines use propeller planes on this route.
If you are trekking with us, we will arrange your flight tickets, and your guide will accompany you on the flight.
If you are flying independently, you can book your ticket online or through a travel agency.
Weather Conditions and Flight Delays/Cancellations
Everest region is well known for its unpredictable weather. Weather conditions can change very quickly and are often extreme. Strong winds and poor visibility are real hazards. Only operating with VFR (visual flight rules), pilots often have to make instant decisions regarding take-off and landing. Pilots fly by sight rather than radar, so it is impossible to fly during the night. This brings about longer delays as flying time is limited to daylight hours. Morning flights are preferred again due to visibility and weather conditions.
Unfortunately, because of the weather, flights are often delayed. These delays can extend over several days, and it is not unusual for Lukla to become extremely busy with trekkers waiting to fly out.
And, again, unfortunately, there is nothing anyone can do about this. There may be the option of flying out by helicopter if the weather is not too incremental. We will provide more information on this below.
We always suggest to our clients that they leave 2 or 3 contingency days between scheduled departure from Lukla and international departures in case of such delays. Please also ensure your insurance covers longer delays in case this happens.
**On another but related note, please bring extra supplies of any vital medicines with you on your trek in case of delays. **
Navigating Tenzing-Hillary Airport: Safety and Facilities
The short runway at high altitudes and tough weather conditions make, as we said, a challenge for pilots. The pilots flying in this region are experienced in flying under these conditions and take safety very seriously.
Once you have survived the possible turbulent flight with amazing views of the Himalayas and the breathtaking landing on the steep and short runway, step down into an ancient land of iconic mountains. The airport is small, and once you have unloaded your bags and passed them on to the porters, you can finally look around you at this amazingly busy airstrip.
Lukla Airport holds significant importance for the region. Locals use it to bring in their goods and transport people who need hospital attention downhill. It also brings in vast numbers of trekkers and mountaineers who bring income to the local communities, create jobs, and improve development and facilities.
Likewise, the airport not only provides a lifeline for emergencies among the locals, but it is also important for rescue operations relating to climbers and trekkers.
World’s Most Dangerous Airport
Why is Lukla known as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, if not the most dangerous? While it is not the highest airport in the world, it is situated high among vast mountains, which impacts pilots’ ability to maneuver the plane. In other words, there is no room for error.
The runway is very short (527m / 1,729 ft), leaving no margin for error. And with its steep gradient, the runway has an uphill slope during landing and a downhill slope during take-off. Again, making the pilot’s job harder. Finally, there is unpredictable weather, as we have already discussed.
Like the impact of altitude on the human body, the reduced air density in this high-altitude airport can impact the engine power when taking off. This also impacts the type of aircraft that can safely be flown here.
Alternative Routes to Lukla
For those who do not want to fly into Lukla, wish to extend their trip, or even wish to follow the footsteps of the early adventurers who did not have access to an airstrip, it is possible to go by road and trek into Lukla.
It is possible to take a vehicle, most likely a private jeep, from Kathmandu to Phaphlu, which takes 9 or 10 hours. Overnight at Phaphlu, then travel another 5 to 6 hours to Thamdanda. In very recent days, it has become possible, in the dry season, to drive from Thamdanda to Phakding, taking around 6 to 7 hours. This route misses out on Lukla entirely to bring you out at Phakding.
If you want to visit Lukla, leave the jeep at Thamdanda and trek into Lukla, then the next day on to Phakding and the rest of the ECB Trek route.
The route that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay would have taken was to drive from Kathmandu to Jiri and start trekking. That route takes approximately eight days to reach Lukla.
Helicopter Transfers: A Luxury Option
It is now possible to ride a helicopter into the Everest Region. There are many options regarding flights. And there are two ways to book your flight: book a seat on a shared flight or hire the whole helicopter.
If you are buying a seat on a group or shared flight, the most popular, and therefore the easiest, flights to get are from Kathmandu to Lukla (and back) or from Kathmandu/Lukla to Gorakshep. These are subject to demand, and while more helicopters are running in the busy spring and autumn seasons, there is also high demand.
If you wish to charter a helicopter, it is possible (subject to weather conditions) to land at other sites. Please see here for more information.
We recommend that if you are doing the EBC Trek and wish to go by helicopter, you fly into Lukla from Kathmandu by helicopter. If you wish to do a shorter trek, you could fly out of Gorakshep back to Lukla to save a few days of the downhill trek. Then the options would be a fixed plane out of Lukla to Ramechhap or a helicopter out of Lukla to Kathmandu.
**All helicopter flights and tours are subject to availability and should be booked well in advance.**
Tips for a Smooth Arrival in Lukla
Permits and Documentation Required
You require permits to trek in the Khumbu (Everest) Region. These are:
Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit:
The local government of the Khumbu Region collects Rs 2,000 per person. This permit can be obtained in Lukla or Monjo. You cannot buy this permit in Kathmandu.
**Monies raised through this permit directly benefit the development and people of the Khumbu region.**
Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit:
Obtainable in the Nepal Tourism Board office in Kathmandu or Monjo at the Park entrance gate, costing Nrs3,000 per person.
Additional Permit for Jiri to Everest Base Camp Trek:
If you are trekking in from Jiri (or driving up to Phadking), you also need a Gaurishankar Conservation Area permit for Rs3,000 per person and obtainable at the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu.
Everest Base Camp Helicopter Tour Permits:
The same permits are required if you take the Everest Base Camp helicopter tour.
Required Documents for Trekking Permits
To obtain the above permits, you will need to provide your passport details (bring photocopies). For the Gaurishankar Conservation Area permit, you will also need to bring two photographs and fill up a form.
Important Facts and Tips to getting there in Lukla for Everest Base Camp Trek
The above permit fees are payable in local currency only.
If you are trekking with us or another trekking agency, the agency will organize the permits for you.
Exploring Lukla: Attractions, Lodging, and Dining
Most people land in Lukla and head off straight away to their first overnight stop in Phadking. But for those who wish to explore Lukla and spend some time, here are a few suggestions for where to eat and stay.
Starting at the top is the Yeti Mountain Home Lukla. This is a very comfortable lodge and part of a small chain throughout the region owned by Yeti Airlines. It has rooms with private bathrooms and hot showers and a good restaurant.
The Nest at Lukla. A mid-range guest house with rooms with private bathrooms and others with shared bathrooms. It has a garden and a restaurant.
Lukla Numbur Hotel. If you want to get a taste of what is to come on the trekking route, this budget hotel has basic rooms with shared facilities.
As on most trekking routes in Nepal, people tend to eat in the lodge they are sleeping in, but some other restaurants include:-
Namaste Lodge and Restaurant. Nepali, Indian and Western dishes and baked goods.
Sunny Garden Restaurant at the Nest. Great vegetarian options.
Khumbu Lodge Restaurant serves a range of Nepali and Western dishes.
Preparing for the Everest Base Camp Trek in Lukla
As we said, most people step off the plane, offload their bags to their porters and head out of Lukla. For example, we at Magical Nepal will have your guide fly with you, but you will meet your porters only at Lukla.
For those spending more time at Lukla, you can visit the surrounding area, the monastery, or the few shops there for last-minute supplies.
** Note: there are more shops in Namche Bazaar with a wider range of goods, such as chocolate bars and other last-minute supplies for your trek.**
To Sum Up
Flying into Lukla is the least stressful way to reach the start of the EBC Trek. Whether you fly by fixed-wing plane or helicopter, Lukla is the Gateway to Everest.