Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends


The first view of any destination is from high above right before landing. Some of these descents are scenic while some are just downright scary (while others are both). The pilots that fly in and out of the scariest runways sometimes even require additional training. If you need a little extra vacation adrenaline right before you land, book a flight to some of the scariest runaways on earth.

RELATED: These are the country’s best airport meals

Flickr CC: Juliette

Paro Airport: Paro, Bhutan (PBH)
The scariest runway in the world has only 8 qualified pilots available to fly into it. Paro is 7,300 feet above sea level and located smack in the Himalayas amid 18,000-foot mountain peaks. It only operates during the day with Visual Flight Rules, which basically just means pilots use their local knowledge of the area to make landing/take off judgment calls. Even Boeing has listed Paro as one of the toughest landings in the world.
Runway length: 6,500 ft

Trover photo by Stills ‘n’ stories

Princess Juliana International Airport, St. Maarten (SXM)
St. Maarten’s Maho Beach is known around the world for the 747 planes flying right over your head. If you’re  island hopping, there’s a chance you’ll spend the day here. Ask the driver to take you to Maho Beach and Sunset Cafe, then check the surfboard that has the flight arrival schedule. The jet blast literally knocks people on the ground when the planes take off. It is advised NOT to hang onto the fence to feel the blast; you will feel it enough just standing on the beach.
Runway length: 7,152 ft

Flickr CC: enrique

Toncontín Airport: Tegucigalpa, Honduras (TGU)
Let’s start off with the fact that they had to remove part of a hillside to extend the runway. At Tegucigalpa, located in the mountains, pilots must execute a perfect last minute 45-degree turn in order to land safely inside the bowl shaped valley. As of 2008, the airport no longer serves any aircraft bigger than Boeing 757’s.
Runway length: 6,112 ft

ALSO: Land on unbelievable travel savings when you join Orbitz Rewards!

Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport: Maderia, Portugal (FNC)
Yes, there is an airport named after Cristiano Ronaldo, the famous soccer player who is a Madeira native. Originally, it had only a 5,249-foot runway, but the airport has gone through several extensions, the latest being a platform above the ocean supported by 180 columns, each 230 feet tall. This extension is considered one of the most difficult to achieve due to the terrain and orography. The wind often leaves the airport closed for days, and shaky and terrifying landings are commonplace.
Runway length: Originally 5,249 ft, now 9,124 ft

Flickr CC: Petr Meissner

Tenzing–Hillary Airport: Lukla, Nepal (LUA)
If Mt. Everest is on your bucket list you’ll more than likely find yourself on a plane heading to Lukla. Lukla sits at an elevation of 9,500 feet with very little descent before landing on the very, very short runway. On one end of the runway is a cliff with a 2,000-foot drop and on the other end is a stone wall with a Buddhist shrine. Lukla is the most popular starting point for trekkers heading up Mt. Everest, thus the extreme landing is just all part of the adventure. It is not uncommon for trekkers to be fogged in for over a week, so don’t plan on your flight getting in or out on time.
Runway length: 1,729 ft

Now who’s ready for their next flight?


Tagged: Caribbean, Europe, Feature, Latin America, Portugal, Top 10 Lists

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Hannah & Adam | Getting Stamped Bloggers
Hannah & Adam are travel writers & photographers who have called the road home since 2013. Their passion for adventurous travel has brought them to 60 countries and counting. They blog about their adventures on their travel blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *