Kathmandu to Lukla by Helicopter


Lukla sits at 2,860m / 9,383 ft in the Everest Region, just below the official start of Sagarmatha National Park.  It has the only airport in the region, namely the Hillary-Tenzing Airport.  Opened in 1964 by Sir Edmund Hillary, although not paved until 2001, the airport is officially called the Hillary-Tenzing Airport but is often referred to as Lukla Airport.

Named after the first two men to climb Mount Everest successfully, the opening of this airport brought ease of access to the locals. Also, it brought climbers and trekkers, which improved the livelihoods of the local communities.

Lukla is the first stop on the way to any trekking or climbing routes in this area.  There is still the possibility of taking road transport from Kathmandu, then trekking in for a few days to reach Lukla, but hardly anyone takes this journey.

Why Would I Want to Go to Lukla by Helicopter?

The previous paragraph says it all – why to spend days on the road and trail to reach Lukla when you can easily fly in by fixed-wing plane or helicopter? But why would you want to go by helicopter and not fixed-wing plane?

Flying to Lukla by helicopter is not a helicopter tour as the others described on our site are. But there are many reasons why you would want to go by helicopter:-

  • Saves time: now that fixed-wing flights to Lukla no longer fly from Kathmandu but from Ramechhap, which requires departing Kathmandu by bus around 1 or 2 am to catch the early morning flight, you can fly direct to Lukla in 45 minutes instead of taking around 5 hours on the road and in the air.
  • No road travel: you do not have to travel by road to reach Ramechhap Airport.  We simply pick you up at your hotel in Kathmandu and transport you to the TIA airport, around 20 minutes away and settle you safely on the helicopter for your direct flight to Lukla. 
  • Fewer problems with the weather: being that this is the Himalayas, the weather can often change for days at a time which means fixed-wing planes cannot fly.  There is usually at least one occasion in each season when trekkers are waiting to enter or leave Lukla.  When leaving Lukla, there is generally a problem with the limited accommodation available, which fills up very quickly if there are several days of no flights as more and more people finish their treks.  Flying by helicopter is easier in weather that may be a problem for planes.  So if you have a helicopter flight in and/or out of Lukla, it is more likely your flight will leave while the others wait for their plane to arrive – sometime. 
  • Beautiful scenery: rather than traveling in the dark, you will fly over the city, foothills, and villages in daylight, getting a fantastic birds-eye view of the landscape. 
  • Variety of treks available from Lukla: If you do not want to join a group trek to, for example, Everest Base Camp, you can organize with your guide and customize your trekking route.  For example, you can only go to Tengboche Monastery.  Flying to Lukla is faster and gives you more time for your short, custom trek.
  • Fly onwards from Lukla: There are now a variety of helicopter tours from Lukla to other parts of the region, i.e., to Gokyo Lakes.  You have an opportunity to choose any of these trips, noting they all have to be booked ahead of time.  In this way, particularly as a single person, you can avail yourself of group flights to different locations.
  • No trekking?: If you want to visit Everest but don’t want to trek at all, you can take a helicopter to Lukla and then another to Namche Bazaar.  Or take a short walk (around 3 hours) to Phakding and base yourself there for a few days.  There are luxury lodges in Lukla, Phakding, and Namche Bazaar which would make for a wonderful break.  Then simply retake a helicopter on the return journey.  But please note you must have all the helicopter flights booked beforehand. 

You Landed in Lukla – Now What?

Most people flying from Kathmandu to Lukla by helicopter today take the faster, easier route at the beginning of their trek.  Saving themselves considerable time in the process.  For these people, landing by helicopter in Lukla is similar to landing by fixed-wing plane – they simply get their gear loaded by their local porters, meet up with their trekking guide, and set off. 

For others, it’s the first leg of a trip that involves helicopter tours to other parts of the Everest Region.  For example, once in Lukla, you can join a helicopter tour to Everest Base Camp and take in the beauty of the area and the majesty of the mountains without having a hard trek.  But please note these trips must be arranged before departing Kathmandu. 

Prices and Other Locations

The basic trip from Kathmandu to Lukla costs USD 450 for a seat.  These are one-way prices. If you then want to visit some other locations in the Everest Region, you will have to book ahead and also add the cost of another stop to this basic amount.  

The choices of places you can travel to from Lukla and the costs  are:- 

  • To Gorakshep USD1,500 per chartered flight / USD 470 per person for a group flight
  • To Pheriche USD 1,380 per chartered flight / USD 405 per person for a group flight
  • To Dingboche, USD 1,380 per chartered flight / USD 415 per person for a group flight
  • To Tengboche USD 1,280 per chartered flight / USD 390 per person for a group flight
  • To Namche, USD 1,180 per chartered flight / USD 320 per person for a group flight
  • To Gokyo Lake USD 1,500 per chartered flight / USD 470 per person for a group flight
  • And, of course, Everest Base Camp – in this case, it is more sensible and cost-effective to take a chartered helicopter on the Everest Base Camp Tour and then request an additional stop.  Please ask us about this.  

Locations in Detail

Each of these locations is a place where a helicopter can land safely and are places of great interest to trekkers passing through the area.

  • Namche Bazaar: If you were trekking, this would be your real starting point (although it is two days walk from Lukla airport). It is the biggest market town in the area, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and hotels.  Both trekkers and expedition climbers gather here to make last-minute purchases or to discover the surrounding areas.  There is a lot of history here.  Nearby, Sir Edmund Hillary set up a school and a health post for the Sherpa people.
  • Tengboche: This is the highest monastery in the region, with fantastic panorama views of the mountains.  It is worth spending time here to meet the monks, learn about Buddhist culture and soak up the mountain views.
  • Dingboche: This is the highest Sherpa settlement in the region, sitting among windswept fields where mainly potatoes are grown.  The views here are especially good of Ama Dablam Mountain.
  • Pheriche: The Himalayan Rescue Association Clinic was set up here to help trekkers suffering from altitude-related illnesses or accidents, as well as locals and porters who become sick.  
  • Gorakshep: This is where trekkers stop overnight before heading up to Kalapattar, the viewpoint for Everest.
  • Kalapattar:  The translation of its name is black rock; indeed, it is a high ridge of black rock that overlooks Mt Everest.  It gives the clearest and best views of Everest you can have.  Helicopters can safely land here for a short period to let passengers enjoy the scenery. 
  • Gokyo Lake: This is a high-altitude freshwater system of lakes, not just one lake.  It’s a beautiful sight to see these lakes lying below you as you fly over them.  By landing nearby, you can soak up the fresh air,  gaze at the shimmering water and take amazing photographs. 

Cost Effective Tours

You can calculate which tour would be more cost-effective and interesting for you.  Would you like to take the Everest Base Camp tour, which includes landing at Lukla and Kalapattar, plus a breakfast stop overlooking Everest before heading back to Kathmandu (total journey of 4 to 5 hours).  Or would you like to fly into Lukla and then take another helicopter to another of the locations mentioned above, for example, to Gokyo Lake?  The choice is yours, or you can contact us, and we can help you decide what best suits your plans and interest.  

The answers below help you make a decision. Remember, the sooner you book, the more chance you have to obtain a tour on the day (s) you want. 

Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I have to change the helicopter at Lukla?

The helicopter coming in from Kathmandu is a heavier and bigger one.  Seating 5 or 6 people, it can transport more passengers to Lukla.  At Lukla, any helicopter flying higher into the region will be lighter and more suitable for high altitudes.  These helicopters normally only hold 3 people plus the pilot.

Can I fly into Lukla and then start trekking?

Yes! That was the original idea of helicopters to Lukla – to make it easier for those setting off on their trek.

Can I only go one way, or do I need to fly in both directions by helicopter?

Yes, you can fly only one way if you wish.  Please remember if you decide at the time of your return journey you wish to fly by helicopter, it might not be possible to get a seat at that late stage, so be sure before booking.

How many people are on each flight?

As mentioned, from Kathmandu to Lukla, there will be 5 or 6 passengers and the pilot. At higher altitudes, most helicopters used are high-altitude ones which normally hold 3 passengers and the pilot.

How long do we stop at each location?

If Lukla is your final destination, you will simply get off and continue by foot.  If you are on a tour with more than one stop, the helicopter will generally land between 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the topography and altitude of the location.

Can I bring the children along?

If your child is older than 4, they can come on the helicopter.  Be aware there is no special seat for children, and children cannot sit on their parent’s knees.  Bear that in mind when booking.  If your child is very small, we suggest you take a fixed-wing plane into Lukla.

Will my trekking guide come by helicopter too?

If you are trekking from Lukla, your guide will most likely meet you at Lukla itself.  If you would like your guide to accompany you on the helicopter ride, you must charter the helicopter.  It may be possible for you to pay for a seat for your guide on a regular, non-chartered flight.  But this will be subject to availability, and there will be no cost reduction.  Tourists have priority over the seat.   Please discuss this with us well ahead of your arrival in Nepal.

Sound Good?

If you would like to save time, have the glorious experience of flying in a helicopter, see the landscape below, and be blown away by the mountain views you have from a helicopter, then traveling from Kathmandu to Lukla is something you should consider. 

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