You probably don’t need us to tell you that the world is full of beautiful destinations and unending adventures. But to experience our planet in all of its glory, you often have to hop on a plane and jet to far-off locations on the other side of the world. And while air travel is now a hugely popular form of travel for tourists, locals, and business people alike, that doesn’t mean that every single destination has a fully functioning airport.
In fact, some of the airports on this list don’t even have a fully-formed runway. Many of these runways can only be accessed by pilots who have undergone specific training. And even the most experienced pilots in the world would be wiping the sweat off their brows while attempting these perilous landings. These are the most dangerous runways in the world, but we have to warn you… you may start to feel a little queasy.
The Agatti Aerodrome in India Is Literally in the Middle of the Ocean
A working runway requires a large area of solid land, but it seems as though that’s not always possible. You just need to look at this nauseating photo to see that for yourself. But if you can stop the room from spinning for a minute, you might want to know that while it may be one of the most dangerous runways in the world, the Agatti Aerodrome is also one of the most beautiful.
Surrounded either side by the ocean, this 1204 meter-long and 30 meter-wide runway was built on the island of Agatti in 1988. And while the descent is one that will help fill up the ‘Gram with stunning pictures of the remote island below, it’s also a tricky one for the pilot. One wrong gust of wind and that plane is headed to the bottom of the ocean. So no pressure, right?
The Landing Strip at France’s Courchevel Airport Is an Uphill Slope on the Top of a Snowy Mountain
If you’ve ever been skiing, you may have flown into an airport a few hours’ drive from the ski resort. But the posh totties who ski at the luxurious Courcheval resort in France don’t want to be stuck in a car for hours on end. They want to après-ski as soon as possible, which is where this altiport comes into play. This airport can only be used by small planes and helicopters, but it’s not an easy landing.
Not only is this airport surrounded by snowy mountains and ice, but the short landing strip is also on a slope at the top of one of those mountains. Yes, the runway is only 537 meters long and the gradient of 18.6% makes landing almost impossible. And that’s before we mention the ski slopes and skiers sliding down the mountains just a short walk away. Hats off to the pilots for navigating this one.
Gibraltar International Airport Has a Busy Street That Runs Right Through the Middle of the Runway
We can’t say that we’ve ever had to land a plane before, but we’re gonna go ahead and assume that it’s pretty difficult. So, we bet pilots prefer a runway that’s got tons of room to maneuver the plane, and as few distractions as possible. Unfortunately, the pilots who land at Gibraltar International Airport don’t get any of that. They instead get a major headache that leaves them scarred for life.
That’s because the runway at Gibraltar International Airport just happens to have one of the city’s busiest streets running right through the middle of it. The cars are stopped by barriers on either side, but we bet that’s still pretty stressful. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s only a short gap between the runway and the ocean at both ends of the tarmac. They have 5,500-feet to play with, and that’s it. No more, and no less.
Pilots Landing at Gisborne Airport in New Zealand Have To Deal With a Busy Train Track Running Straight Through It
If you have always dreamed of a career in air traffic control, you might want to look away now. After all, we have a feeling that this photo will make you seriously reconsider your dreams and wonder whether the hefty salary is even worth it. That’s because runways like the Gisborne Airport in New Zealand exist, making it virtually impossible to coordinate landings.
What’s so wild about this airport is that the national railway line runs right through one of the main runways at the airport. It’s a busy line, and one that sees countless trains run through it at all hours of the day. So, it’s down to the air traffic controllers to try and coordinate the schedules of the trains and the planes to ensure they don’t crash. We’re stressed just thinking about it.
The Runway at Skiathos Island National Airport in Greece Features a Downward Slope Right Into the Ocean
Even during the descent, planes can travel hundreds of kilometers an hour. And in a pilot’s ideal world, their runway would be super long and flat to allow them time to properly brake and land safely. But they don’t get paid the big bucks for nothing, and sometimes pilots have to deal with uncomfortable situations – like the landing at Skiathos Island National Airport in Greece. Yikes, just look at this one.
The biggest issue when it comes to this particular runway is the fact that it actually slopes down. This means that when they touch down, the pilots can’t even see the end of the runway. To make matters worse, the runway ends abruptly with a rather large puddle – also called the ocean. Sure, the photos look great, but we wouldn’t want to be the pilot or the passenger on this plane.
Lukla Airport in Nepal Is Perched on the Side of a Mountain and Next To a 9,800-Foot Drop
We all know that air travel requires flying to extreme heights, and we also know that what goes up must come down – hopefully on a secure, ground-level runway. While this is the case for many airports around the world, there are others that aren’t quite as lucky. So, we present to you the vertigo-inducing airport that is Tenzing–Hillary Airport in Nepal, also called Lukla Airport.
Lukla Airport is an altiport that only allows small planes to land, and for a very valid reason. It’s often topped charts as the most dangerous and scariest airport in the world, due to the fact that its 500-meter long runway (AKA an extremely short runway) was carved into a mountain ridge in 1964. Those who fly into this airport – normally the strange people who willingly choose to climb Mount Everest – have to deal with the fact the runway is right next to a 9,800-foot drop.
Only Specially Trained Pilots Are Allowed To Traverse the Strong Winds Near Paro Airport in Bhutan
If you don’t live in Bhutan and want to visit this beautiful country, you have no option but to fly into Paro Airport. As the only international airport in the country, you’d think it would be easily accessible and super safe… but apparently not. In fact, the runway is so dangerous that only licensed pilots who have received special training are allowed to get anywhere near it. Oh, boy.
This is due to the fact that Bhutan is home to some incredibly tricky terrain – including the Himalayas. This airport is nestled within these high peaks, which not only makes the air space difficult to navigate but also causes some seriously high winds. And as we all know, planes plus strong winds equals disaster waiting to happen. We think we might take Bhutan off our bucket list.
The Runway at Barra Airport in Scotland Is Actually Just a Sandy Beach
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, you might want to double-check your tickets. Because if you’re heading to the Isle of Barra, you’re going to have to wear some sandals. As the only airport in the world that allows planes to land quite literally in the middle of the beach, it’s certainly something special. And super dangerous.
While this may look like a beautiful place to land, pilots do encounter a series of problems when landing at Barra Island Airport. That’s because the runway isn’t quite as solid as other runways around the world, and is a little too close for comfort to the Atlantic Ocean. Oh, and one of the runways also goes underwater during high tide, so there’s also that…
Gustaf III Airport in St. Barts Is Infamous for Strong Crosswinds That Push Planes off Course
St. Baarts has long been associated with the rich and famous, and celebs and business people alike head to this Caribbean playground each year to live it large. And if they travel in a small private plane, they might land at the Gustaff III Airport – but only if they find a pilot who has the required license to land there.
Yes, this runway is intense and has often been dubbed the most dangerous runway in the world. Due to the short runway, its close proximity to a busy road and the ocean, and its howling crosswind, it’s not for the faint-hearted. Is the bumpy journey really worth it to lay on a beach and drink mojitos? You decide.
The Runway at Madeira Airport in Portugal Is Suspended on a Raised Platform Over the Ocean
When you think of an airport runway, you think of one that’s built into the ground, right? That makes the most logical sense, after all. But it seems as though logic often goes out of the window when you want to win awards for engineering, and that’s exactly what happened when the runway at Madeira Airport in Portugal was built.
Even the (super cool) fact that this airport has been renamed the Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport can’t shake our queasiness over this one. That’s because this runway was built on a raised platform jutting over the ocean – but that’s not all. Specially trained pilots are the only ones allowed to land here, and they have to make a visual approach which means they can’t land if there are clouds obscuring their view.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport in Saba Is Home To the Shortest Landing Strip the World Has Ever Seen
Well, if this doesn’t make you want to hold onto something stable then we don’t know what will. Although the Caribbean island of Saba is spread across 13 square kilometers, it’s made sure that its beautiful location is accessible. Slightly accessible, anyway. We’re not sure why they chose this particular location for the runway, but as you can see, there’s a big drop on either side…
We don’t know anything about flying or planes, but what we do know is that a runway is essential when it comes to slowing down. And with steep drops on either side of this runway, you would have thought that it would be long enough to ensure sufficient braking. But unfortunately not. This runway is actually the shortest in the world, coming in at just 400 meters. We feel a bit sick.
If Pilots Don’t Make a Sharp 90-Degree Turn at Tioman Airport in Malaysia, They’ll Miss the Runway and Fly Into the Mountains
There’s nothing better than looking out of the plane window and seeing beautiful beaches and crystal-clear water below you, but what if you also looked out of the window and saw the planet flying directly into mountains? We bet that your heart would temporarily stop beating, and passengers who fly into Tioman Airport in Malaysia have to deal with that every time. Rather them than us.
Due to the location of the runway, pilots who fly into this airport must fly directly towards the large, jungle-ridden mountains before making a sharp 90-degree turn. This split-second decision throws the plane around and leaves passengers feeling out of breath. And that’s before they realize that the runway is also pretty short and just meters away from the ocean.
This Ice Runway in Antarctica Is Literally a Runway Made From Ice
You don’t go to Antarctica for an all-inclusive, hot, relaxing vacation. Instead, many people travel to this destination to hang out with the penguins and the whales, and frolic in the snow – or whatever they do. It’s not everyone’s cup of Joe, but it does mean that Antarctica has to be able to welcome these travelers. You know, like with an airport.
The only problem is that Antarctica doesn’t really offer the best landscape for an airport. Because of this, many ice airports have popped up around this continent – and they really are what they say on the can. This particular ice airport is made from pure ice, topped with a 4-inch layer of compacted snow to stop slippage. Even with that extra cushion, we’d rather not arrive here.
The Matekane Air Strip in Lesotho Stands at the Edge of a 2,000-Foot Cliff
We wouldn’t blame you if you’ve never heard of Lesotho before. This landlocked kingdom in Southern Africa has been left unexplored for decades, but international doctors and charities often make their way to this country to help out those who live there. At least they try to get there, anyway. You need a heart of stone to arrive at Matekane Air Strip without experiencing this anxiety-inducing ride.
You just need to look at this picture to see what we’re talking about. The runway may look like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but it’s actually been built right on the edge of a cliff with a 2,000-foot-drop. Why they chose to put the airport there still remains to be seen, as we’re sure there’s a better location somewhere else in the country. But what do we know?
Pilots Flying Into Narsarsuaq Airport in Greenland Only Land During Daylight Hours To Avoid the Icebergs
We will happily spend our time trying to work out how to pronounce Narsarsuaq Airport if it means we don’t have to look at this picture for much longer. Because let’s be honest, this does not look like the kind of airport we’d like to fly into. But anyone who does travel to Greenland only has two airports to choose from, so the options are limited.
What makes this airport so dangerous is the fact that it’s located in an unstable location. It’s surrounded by icy glaciers and snowy mountains, and it’s not uncommon for icebergs to collect in the water at the end of the runway. Due to this risk, pilots who fly into this airport are only allowed to land here during the day. Nobody wants to fly into an iceberg, after all.
The Air Strip at Velana International Airport in the Maldives Is Surrounded on All Sides by the Ocean
If you’ve ever seen pictures of the Maldives, you’ll know that this country is made up of stunning tropical islands. So, it only makes sense that one of its airports is also on an island – despite how precarious and dangerous it may look. The Velana International Airport may be on a fairly large island, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less sketchy. Just look at all that water around it.
Often called Male International Airport, this airport can be found at the top of Hulhule island – but the fact that it’s on the edge of the island means that there’s nowhere for a pilot to turn if things go wrong. Unless you count the ocean, of course. If a pilot just happens to overshoot their landing or brake a little too early, they’re going right into the dark depths of water.
The Runway at Sandane Airport in Norway Is Known for Heavy Winds and Massive Turbulence
With its fjords, mountains, and luscious forests, there’s no doubt about the fact that Norway is a beautiful country. But beauty is only skin deep, and in this case, this beauty is also secretly associated with some crazy weather patterns. This has made the Sandane Airport one of the most dangerous in the world. Although you can probably already tell that by the sheer drop at the end of the runway.
If a pilot doesn’t brake hard enough, their plane could go swimming in the water – but nailing this landing isn’t just about pumping the brakes at the right time. Because this runway can be found in the middle of two fjords, pilots are constantly battling against high winds that try to push them off course. We feel dizzy just thinking about it.
Yeager Airport in West Virginia Has a Runway That’s Perched on the Edge of a Cliff and Is Susceptible To Landslides
If you live anywhere near West Virginia, you may actually be familiar with Yeager Airport. This public airport is not only a way for travelers to fly in and out of the state, but it’s also the home of the McLaughlin Air National Guard Base. So, you would have thought that this airport and its runway was pretty solid, right? Think again.
For some reason, the runway of this airport was built around 100-meters above the Kanawha and Elk Rivers on a very large hill. While this offers amazing views as you travel in and out of the airport, it’s not too great when the weather starts to turn and landslides begin to affect the area. You can see the destruction a 2015 landslide caused on the runway above. Not good.
Kansai International Airport in Japan Was Built on an Artificial Island in the Middle of the Ocean
It’s not every day you come across an artificial island, and it’s even more uncommon to find an artificial island that has been transformed into a huge airport. But that has been the case in Japan, where the Kansai International Airport was opened up to relieve the growing numbers of passengers on the mainland. And we don’t know about you, but landing on an island just seems a bit strange.
Not only do pilots have to be spot-on with their landing process, but they also have to take into account the weather forecast. While measures were put in place to limit the potential destruction caused by earthquakes and typhoons – which are extremely common in this area of the world – we still can’t help but feel a little on edge with this airport and its runways. There seems to be a lot of room for error if you ask us…
The Weather Conditions on the Runway of Daulat Beg Oldi in India Make It Almost Impossible for Pilots To Land
You may not have heard of the military base of Daulat Beg Oldi before, but if you’re currently making a list of all the airports you never want to visit then you’re going to want to add it. Located in the northeastern corner of the Karakoram Range, not only is this airport literally in the middle of nowhere, but it’s also nestled between some rather large mountains.
And by this point, you should know that mountain ranges and airports aren’t a great mix. We’re talking about the bad weather, people. Daulet Beg Aldi’s runway is constantly covered with dust, and the high winds and the cold temperature – sometimes plummeting as low as -55C – doesn’t help the situation. We won’t be adding this to our bucket list.
The United States’ Jeremiah Denton Airport Runway Doesn’t Leave Any Room for Error
We’re no experts, but what we do know is that planes are pretty big. This means that they need a lot of space to maneuver and get into place. But sometimes this just isn’t an option – and we’re not quite sure how to feel about it. Because of this, we don’t know what to make of the Jeremiah Denton Airport in Alabama. Just look at it. How is that practical?
If we were a pilot, we would want all of the space possible to make sure passengers have a safe experience. But this runway is just 914 meters long and 24 meters wide – not even wide enough to fit a commercial aircraft and its wings. Hopefully, they get the memo to avoid this airport at all costs. Otherwise, they’re going into the water.
Planes That Fly Into Kai Tak International Airport in Hong Kong Get a Little Too Close To the Buildings Underneath
If you were a pilot, where you would like to fly your plane? Somewhere completely remote? Or somewhere overrun with buildings? It’s a tough choice, especially when you see dizzying photos like this one. This image showcases just how close the planes have to fly to land on the runway of Kai Tak International Airport in Hong Kong, and it’s a little too close for comfort if you ask us.
What’s so wild about this huge airport is the fact that it only has one runway. And considering it’s surrounded by both mountains and skyscrapers, it seems as though pilots don’t have any option but to go right through the middle and just hope for the best. Let’s just hope they don’t shut their eyes at the same time.
The Runway at Donegal Airport in Ireland May Be Scenic, but It’s Only Recently Introduced a Proper Tarmac Runway
Ireland is a country that will make your Instagram pop with beautiful scenic locations and incredible natural landscapes. And the area of Donegal is just as impressive, with wide-open seas and craggy land formations. But while this area has an abundance of hiking spots, it also has a complete lack of flat land. Something that’s normally quite important when you want to land a giant flying tin can…
And while Donegal Airport has been named the most scenic airport in the world for many years in a row, it’s also one of the most dangerous. It’s surrounded by water and rocks, and it’s only recently been given an upgrade. Before 1985, the “runway” was actually just a strip of grass. At least now it has some tarmac involved.
Leipzig/Halle Airport in Germany Has a Runway That’s Suspended Over a Major Highway
Germany is home to countless airports, and the award for the 11th largest goes to the one and only Leipzig/Halle Airport in Schkeuditz, Saxony. And while we’d like to be good people and give this airport a round of applause for reaching such an accolade, we can’t. Want to know why? Well, just look at the picture below, and you’ll see why.
We bet it’s hard enough for a pilot to land a plane when it’s being battered with wind and trying to stay in a straight line, but then adding a suspended runway over a highway into the mix? These guys are just asking for trouble. We bet this isn’t funny for the pilots, the passengers, or the people driving on the highway below. We just have one question… Why?!
The Aspen/Pitkin Airport in the United States Has To Deal With Some Seriously Bad Weather
When you think of Aspen, Colorado, you might think of beautiful ski resorts. Or you might just think of après-ski hot chocolates and pizza, but either one sounds pretty awesome, right? Many skiers make their way to Aspen via the Aspen/Pitkin Airport, and while it may look rural and scenic, this is one of the most dangerous runways in the world.
In fact, this airport has been home to countless crashes and fatalities, largely due to the changing weather patterns. Because of its valley location, the nearby mountains and peaks cause high winds to batter the planes as they fly in. To help maintain the safety of the pilots who fly here, a curfew is in place, and no planes are allowed to fly after sunset. Yikes.
Brazil’s Congonhas Airport Offers the Busiest and the Most Slippery Runways in the World
Brazil may be home to the carnival and its tropical beaches, but it’s also home to A LOT of people. And we mean a lot. This country is so populated that most of its airports are stuck in the middle of bustling cities – just like the Congonhas Airport. Houses and buildings surround this airport from all angles, and that’s before we mention the tiny runway…
Yes, we’d hate to be a pilot having to land their giant jet on this runway, because there really isn’t a lot of runway to work with. And as if that wasn’t enough, the runways at this airport are also considered to be some of the most slippery the world has ever seen. We don’t really want to know any more, to be honest.
Telluride Regional Airport in the United States Has a Runway With Sheer Drops of 1,000-Feet on Either Side
If you’ve ever wanted to know the limit of your pain threshold, then all you have to do is book tickets to Telluride Regional Airport in Colorado. After all, by the time you’re done clutching onto the armrest for dear life, your knuckles may have transformed into searing hot bones of pain. That’s because this airport just doesn’t make any logical sense. Not to us, anyway.
We don’t know what kind of tests potential airport locations go through before they’re signed off, but we have a feeling that this one wasn’t tested properly. Instead of building a runway somewhere that doesn’t have 1,000-feet of cliffs on either end of the runway, they decided to just go for it. Let’s hope the pilots know what they’re doing.
Orcas Island Airport in the United States Has a Tiny Runway Only Smaller Planes Can Use
Orcas Island sounds just as beautiful as it actually is, and if you get the chance to visit this San Juan island then we would definitely recommend it. But you might want to drive. You know, if you can. While you can fly into the Orcas Island Airport and check out the Brandts Landing Marina from the sky, you should only do so if you are absolutely fearless…
This small runway proves that appearances really can be deceiving. It looks beautiful and flat, but actually, it’s super short and in the middle of a windy area of land. Because of this, it’s incredibly hard for pilots to land safely and in a straight line – which is normally what you look for when you’re putting your life in a complete stranger’s hands.
Avoiding Crowds of Beach-Goers Is Difficult Task for Pilots Landing at Princess Juliana International Airport in Saint Maarten
Saint Maarten is a beautiful Caribbean island that just has to be seen to be believed – and you get a pretty good view of it when you arrive at Princess Juliana International Airport. In fact, the beach is so close it feels as though you could reach out and touch it. And if you had super long, stretchy arms, you probably could.
The runway for this airport is so close to the beach that beach-goers have to deal with the intense sound and wind that comes from these jet engines. They laze on the beach in their swimsuits and splash in the water, and people travel across the island to get up close and personal with these planes. It’s great for the visitors, but not so great for the pilots who have to be extra careful.