Lukla Airport in the Everest region is the gateway to one of the most popular trekking routes in the Himalayas – the Everest Base Camp Trek. It also serves as the starting point for mountaineers planning to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the top of the world.
Thousands of trekkers and hundreds of Everest expeditions consistently pass through the Lukla Airport, making it the busiest small airport in Nepal. During the peak trekking and tourist season, there are generally about 12 flights or more between Lukla and Kathmandu City every hour. These flights depart daily, starting at 6 AM, if the weather permits. The duration of this exciting mountain flight is approximately 30 minutes each way.
The chance of getting stranded at Lukla Airport is an often overlooked possibility and being unprepared can cause many regrets later. It is important to leave extra layover days in your itinerary for the return trip back to Kathmandu. The Lukla airstrip is also known as the Hillary and Tenzin Airport (named after Edmund Hillary and Tenzin Norgay Sherpa – the first men ever to reach the summit of Mt. Everest). Lukla is notorious for its scary airstrip and infamous for long flight delays or cancellations due to unpredictable weather (clouds and fog).
On more than one occasion, this has left frustrated tourists stranded at Lukla Airport for days, or even up to a week. In November 2011, about two thousand trekkers were stranded at Lukla Airport for a week. You can read more about that event by clicking on this link: CNN article. While it is not life threatening, the delays can clearly be a major inconvenience for trekkers. Extra costs for lodging and food, flight re-booking and changes in travel plans are the last thing any traveler wants to deal with after a long Himalayan trek. Unfortunately, trekking in the Himalayas puts one at the mercy of Mother Nature. Predicting weather changes weeks in advance in the Himalayas is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Tips for things to do while stranded at the Lukla Airport.
- Bring a book, even better E-books or a tablet – they will become your best friend.
- Phone or mp3 player to listen to music. If you are traveling overseas, most carriers will very simply unlock your phone per your request. Yes! You can call home from Everest Base Camp.
- A deck of cards and small board games. Get to know your trekking mates or have fun challenging the locals!
- Visit with the locals at their homes and learn more about Sherpa culture.
What are the alternative routes back to Kathmandu from Lukla Airport?
- Trek 2 days downhill to Phaplu village (2200 m; 7,040 ft.) and catch a 25 minute flight back to Kathmandu from Phaplu Airport.
- Trek 2 days downhill to Phaplu village and take an inland off-track 15 hour drive back to Kathmandu.
- Trek 1.5 hours downhill to Surke Village (2500 m; 88,202 ft.). There is a helicopter pad here and you can pay around $600 per person for the flight back to Kathmandu.
How does Sonam Adventures make their clients happy?
- All lodging at Lukla Airport will be paid for by Sonam Adventures, for up to 3 days at no additional cost – a first in the travel industry.
- If flights are cancelled for more than 2 days, our clients can choose either option 1 or 2, or they may choose to wait at Lukla Airport.
- If stranded for 6 days or longer, we will provide a free helicopter ride back to Kathmandu at no additional cost – another first in the travel industry.
- While stranded at Lukla, we will make short treks to visit local homes, monasteries and temples. This will give our trekkers a unique opportunity to learn more about Sherpa culture and religion.
- One free daily call to loved ones back home (limited minutes) – yet one more first in the travel industry.
- We have 24/7 local customer service – also a first in the travel industry.
- Plus, we have the best travel features among the Himalayan travel industries and the best prices in North America, guaranteed. See, “Why Sonam Adventures?”
It is our hope that by raising these concerns and possible issues ahead of time, future prospective trekkers to Everest Base Camp will be armed with choices and options should they get stranded at Lukla Airport. Our aim is to make your trek to Everest Base Camp safe, enjoyable and successful. Please ask lots of questions and contact us anytime. Our Himalayan Expert will be available to speak (+1 888 388-5308) to you 24/7. Email us at email@example.com for latest update news and information.