What is happening?
Now it’s all certain! Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA)/Kathmandu Airport will close from 10 pm to 8 am every day for runway maintenance from April 1st to June 30th 2019. This operation is going to impact all international and domestic flights but the most affected will be the flights to Lukla. Every season thousands of tourists fly to Lukla to complete their dream of trekking to Everest Base Camp, climbing Mera Peak, Island Peak or Lobuche Peak. Besides, all Everest expeditions from the south side also operate via Lukla.
What does this mean to you?
During this time, all flights to/from Lukla are rerouted from Kathmandu Airport to Manthali Airport, Ramechhap as the Kathmandu Airport will be shut down completely from 10 pm to 8 am every day.
Though the flight time will be comparatively shorter (50 minutes for round trip), you are required to travel to Ramechhap from Kathmandu to catch your Lukla flight and retrace the same route while returning back to the city. Due to this new arrangement, there are certain things you should know before travelling to Lukla.
In the meantime, please be informed that there will still be a couple of flights from Kathmandu to Lukla after 8 am once the airport opens but we don’t think it will be sensible to wait for those flights. The air traffic and landings at the airport can cause delays and we all know that the weather in Lukla is slightly notorious. The later the flights, the higher the chances for the weather in Lukla to go unfavorable. So, the best option is to fly to Lukla via Manthali Airport.
Where is Manthali Airport?
Manthali Airport (493 m. /1617 ft) is situated approximately 132 km east of Kathmandu on the bank of Tama Koshi River in Manthali, a municipality and headquarter of Ramechhap district. As it is the closest airport in the eastern part of Nepal from Kathmandu, the airport poses itself as the best option to fly to Lukla in the present situation. The airport also used to operate Lukla flights during air traffic congestion at Kathmandu Airport (TIA) in the past.
How to get there?
You can travel to Manthali Airport by road. It takes about 4-5 hours to reach there depending on the traffic. As you will have to reach Manthali early to catch your flight, you can either travel there one day prior to the flight or leave Kathmandu very early in the morning around 3 am. In both cases, it’s better to take a private transfer to Manthali as the local transfer timings do not match with the flight timings. More specifically, you don’t get any early morning local buses. And in their regular run also, you can never be sure about their punctuality.
*If you have booked your travel arrangements from travel agencies or directly with the airlines, they should take care of your transportation, which in most likely case will be a private transfer.
Where to stay?
Manthali is not a very well facilitated place as it is not used to receiving a huge number of travelers. Accommodation facilities are limited and the service is basic. Due to the present situation with many travelers travelling via Manthali this season, it is very likely that you will not find an accommodation easily. Also, flight crew and staffs from the airlines will be occupying most of the hotels in the area.
So, in this situation, a better option for you is to go for accommodations at Mulkot, from where Manthali Airport is just an hour’s drive. Accommodations at Mulkot are far better and you will also save the trouble of finding an accommodation in Manthali.
What we think is best for you?
To tackle this situation, Explore Himalaya made a recent trip to Manthali to plan our operations and find the best solution for you. We think that driving early morning to Manthali for 4-5 hours and then boarding the Lukla flight half asleep will be very inconvenient for our clients. It will make your day very hectic and not leave you in a good spirit to start your trek up to Phakding or Monjo.
The best way to deal with this change is to drive to Mulkot one day earlier. Mulkot is a small settlement, from where Manthali Airport is just 37 km away (1 hour’s drive). This not only breaks the monotony of a long drive but also makes things comfortable for you as Mulkot has good standard accommodation facilities, which Manthali lacks. One can stay comfortably in a hotel in Mulkot, wake up at 5 am the next morning and drive an hour to the airport for the flight. This will not make the day tiring at all and the schedule of your trek will also not be affected.
Another reliable option – if you have pretty deep pockets – would be opting for a helicopter upgrade and flying to Lukla straight from Kathmandu. The Kathmandu helipad area will not be affected and you can have heli flight to Lukla from 6.30 am onwards. The upgrade could cost you a top up of USD 250-500 per person depending on the payload and availability.
We hope that this blog has been helpful to you. For any further queries, please feel free to contact Explore Himalaya at +977-1-4418 100, 4418 400 or write us to firstname.lastname@example.org
We work with the motto "Tourism for Development". Explore Himalaya Community Service Project was conceived to empower underprivileged segments of Nepal.