The 10 Scariest Airports in the World

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Published: March 10, 2023
© Pelikh Alexey/
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While landing at some airports, pilots must exercise extra caution since the location, topography, weather, and/or peculiarities of the airport’s design may make the task much more challenging. So buckle your seatbelts and brace for impact as we look at the scariest airports in the world to land in!

Over the years, air travel has been steadily safer due to an array of factors, including advancements in aircraft technology, more effective air traffic management, and greater training for aircrew and mechanics. According to global data acquired by aircraft manufacturer Boeing, the rate of fatal incidents involving jetliners decreased from 40 per million flights in 1959 to around 0.05 deaths per million flights in 2021. Even though flying is very safe, accidents do happen occasionally, and the final approach and landing of any flight continue to be the most dangerous. Even though they only take up a small portion of a normal trip, those stages are responsible for over fifty percent of all fatalities. Let’s discover together the most challenging runways of the world!

1. Paro Airport

Only 17 licensed pilots are permitted to land at the airport designed in the style of a temple in Bhutan. Imposing 18,000-foot mountain peaks encircle the runway. As a result, arrivals and departures are only permitted on the 6,500-foot runway during daylight. 

The pilots are utterly unaware of the stunning descent to the runway as they navigate at a 45-degree angle between mountains befit’sdescending swiftly into the runway. One red cliffside residence serves as the primary focal point for pilots as they approach at one point when the bottom of the plane comes alarmingly close to mountainside homes. 

The passengers’ cheering upon landing is definitely well deserved!

Splendid view of Paro airport, Bhutan
Splendid view of Paro airport in Bhutan.


2. Lukla Airport

The primary airport for people traveling to Mount Everest is Lukla Airport in Nepal, which is accessible over frigid terrain. The landing can be as spectacular as the ascent to the renowned mountain because it is situated between mountains and has a very limited runway. 

The pilots must stay in continual contact with the air controllers during the landing because there may occasionally be no electricity at the airport. The most well-liked resting place for hikers visiting the area is the 9,325-foot-high Tenzing airport. It is located in the Himalayan highlands and was named after the first couple of climbers to reach Mount Everest. 

The airport is on a mountainside and has a tiny 1,600-foot-long, one-way runway with extreme slopes and angles. The runway has a mountain wall at one end and a dramatic 2,000-foot drop into a ravine at the other.

Lukla airport, Khumbu valley, Solukhumbu, Everest area, Nepal Himalayas,
Lukla airport in Nepal.

©Daniel Prudek/

3. Wellington International Airport

One of the most difficult airports to land at is Wellington International Airport, in New Zealand. The runway is 6,350 feet long, and both ends seem to begin and terminate in the water. 

Pilots encounter additional difficulties when approaching the airport because it is in a mountainous region of the nation famous for its blustery winds. This makes landing maneuvers even more challenging. Strong winds can knock passengers from their feet even after landing. Even yet, there haven’t been many safety-related occurrences.

Wellington International Airport
Wellington International Airport in New Zealand.

©Natsuki H/

4. McMurdo Station

On the exposed volcanic rock of Hut Point Peninsula on Ross Island, this Ice Runway was constructed with a tarmac made entirely of multiple inches of ice and snow. The Ice Runway, which is adjacent to McMurdo Station, is utilized by the US Antarctic Program during the summer. 

The sole major airport on the continent is located at this military post, and during the winter, the area is completely dark at all hours. Pilots are taught to land in the dark and in a whiteout when there is no lighting on the runway. It definitely is one of the scariest airports in the world!

Mcmurdo Station, Antarctica
Ice Runway, McMurdo Station, Antarctica

©Colin Harnish/

5. Gibraltar International Airport

The oddest airport in southern Europe is definitely Gibraltar International Airport, Spain. The runway isn’t difficult to land on, but an intriguing design element makes it perhaps hazardous. 

When a jet wants to land, Winston Churchill Avenue, the major thoroughfare of the city, must be shut down. There is a stoplight on the road that signals drivers to stop. However, there have been close encounters at the airport in the past. Moreover, the small runway ends abruptly at the water on both ends, requiring pilots to come to a complete stop just after landing.

Gibraltar Airport, Spain
Gibraltar Airport, Spain.

©Isaac Muns/

6. Toncontin Airport 

Landing at this airport in Honduras is exceedingly difficult because of the runway’s low width and proximity to mountains. The sensation of landing near the valley, which necessitates a dramatic quick turn, isvery similar to landing on a navy ship. 

Having firsthand experience with therunway’s wind gusts and bad weather that make it difficult for pilots to perform direct head-on landings, with the major concern being that a big plane might miss the runway if not landed precisely on target. Machine gun-wielding security officers meet passengers as they disembark, heightening the impact of their spectacular landing.

A panoramic view of Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Toncontin Airport is in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

©Sebastian Delgado C/

7. Madeira Airport

Madeira Airport, Portugal, is one of the rare airports in the world where engineers constructed a platform to extend the runway between bluffs and the ocean’s edge. 

On an artificial island, engineers erected several platforms to extend the airstrip. More than 180 columns support the runway, and they must endure the impact of landings. 

A select few pilots are authoocean’so land at this airfield. Pilots rarely land by instrument alone; they must identify landmarks to navigate their approach. Strong gusts, tall mountains, and the ocean on the other side add to the difficulty.

Madeira Airport
At Madeira Airport more than 180 columns support the runway, and they must endure the impact of landings. 


8. Princess Juliana International Airport

This airport of Saint Maarten is named after Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, who arrived there in 1944, the year it was opened. The runway’s proximity to the shore and Maho Beach necessitates very low flyover landing approaches at the airport. 

When a plane lands at this airport in the Caribbean, it does so low over a public beach, giving beachgoers a decent blast of wind and sand every time. 

Tourists will specifically stand near the beach and take photos and videos of planes landing. While many airports don’t allow people to do this for security purposes, it’s encouraged here. Despite how it looks, Princess Juliana has never had a landing mishap, according to its profile on the Aviation Safety Network.

Airplane flying over people during landing at Maho Beach in Saint Maarten at Princess Juliana airport.
Airplane flying over people during landing at Maho Beach in Saint Maarten at Princess Juliana airport.

©Matthew Zuech/

9. Courchevel Altiport

The runway at Courchevel Altiport, a small airport in the French Alps, is just 1,762 feet long and has a pronounced 18.6 percent uphill grade. As a result, pilots need to meet specific requirements in order to use the airfield, including completing a test administered by a mountain flight instructor and maintaining their certification by flying there at a minimum every six months. Flying journal states, “caution, dedicated training, and careful planning are key to enjoying this runway cradled in the Alps.”

The runway of the mountain airport in Courchevel in the French Alps with the snow-capped mountains in the background
Courchevel Altiport in the French Alps.


10. Telluride Regional Airport

Southwest Colorado‘s Telluride Regional Airport is one of the world’s most terrifying airports when it comes to landing a plane. It is one of the highest airports in America at 9,070 feet.

Although it is actually quite safe, the approach might be somewhat tense. It is on a narrow plateau, with 1,000-foot sheer cliffs at either end of the runway. In the winter, mountain winds cause solid vertical turbulence that pilots and passengers must endure. Moreover, the runway has a dip since each end is somewhat higher than the center. However, this was lessened during a 2009 repair. Nevertheless, several travelers who have taken the voyage will attest that is one of the scariest airports in the world!

Telluride Valley, Colorado
Telluride Valley, Colorado.

©Yaya Ernst/

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Plane landing at Saint Maarten
Plane landing at Saint Maarten
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About the Author

When she's not busy playing with her several guinea pigs or her cat Finlay Kirstin is writing articles to help other pet owners. She's also a REALTOR® in the Twin Cities and is passionate about social justice. There's nothing that beats a rainy day with a warm cup of tea and Frank Sinatra on vinyl for this millennial.

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