6 of the World's Most Unique Airports

by Lexa Pennington /
Lexa Pennington's picture
Nov 22, 2011 / 0 comments

If you have ever wondered where some of the most unique airports in the world are, here are six that certainly fit the bill!

1. Barra, Outer Hebrides

Barra airport, located one the Island of Barra, one of the most southerly inhabited islands in the Outer Hebrides, is one of the last remaining airports in the world where flights actually land on a beach. The island itself is just five miles wide, eight miles long, and has one main road that travels all the way around it. Everything about this island is small, compact but perfectly formed.

This airport has been open since June 1936 and is basically still run the same way today as it was back then. It is probably fair to say that Barra needs this airport to be up and running and it is run like a well oiled machine! There are three runways here and each one is just marked out using concrete poles, very simple and basic really, and this is the only airport in the World where you will find scheduled flights using a beach as a runway. When the tide is high you will not be able to land at this airport as the runways will completely disappear under the flow of the water, however, don't be perturbed by this as flights are planned accordingly.

There are often movie crews in the local area filming this wonderful location just because of how unique it is and this adds a wonderful feel to arriving at the airport.

Once you are exploring the Island for yourself, you will be alerted of flights arriving by a fancy strobe light from the traffic control tower and a large wind sock flying on the beach. During the time that the wind sock is displayed you will not be able to use this part of the beach. Don't worry- there are lots of other glorious beaches nearby just waiting to be explored..

2. Lukla, Nepal

Now known as the Hillary Tenzing Airport (Lukla Airport previously) this airport is one of the most unique in the world. Being 450 metres in length and 20 metres wide, this airport has a runway incline of 12% as it is built on the steep side of a hill. There are no landing aids available for pilots to use and the only air traffic service available is AFIS (Aerodrome Flight Information Service) - and all of these factors mean that only the most experienced pilots land here. Pilots have to work incredibly hard to land successfully here but as this is the main airport for trekking to the Khumbu and Everest Base Camp, there can be a staggering 50 flights landing here every single day during peak season - making this the busiest domestic airport in Nepal. There are 4 stands at this airport and there is even a heli-pad located near the air traffic control tower. The approach to the runway is a maze of wonderful mountains and there is often lots of clouds in the air. This can lead to cancelled flights, particularly in the cooler months of the year, and therefore this part of Nepal is probably not the best place to visit if you have to be guaranteed to make a connecting flight or return home at a particular time!


3. Punta Cana International Airport, Dominican Republic

With over 3,000,000 visitors passing through this airport every year, it is one of the busiest in the Caribbean, yet this airport is not your average holiday destination airport with dreary grey walls and concrete floors. This is an eco-friendly, clean, light, airy airport which features modern bathrooms, unlimited free WiFi, designer shops, VIP lounges, outdoor viewing areas, and even a VIP terminal for the most elite passengers to travel through quickly and conveniently. The main thing however that makes this airport stand out are the wonderful thatched roofs and the crisp coolness of the terminal, whatever time of year you visit.

This airport offers a real VIP feel, particularly if you are staying at Tortuga Bay or any one of the Puntacana Group hotels, as you will be whisked from your airplane to your hotel by golf cart - giving you that luxurious private jet kind of feel. Free drinks and food make your stay in the VIP lounge even more amazing and being driven back out to your airplane on departure, again in a golf cart, completes your holiday and the VIP treatment on offer at this airport and the surrounding hotels.


4. Kona, Hawaii

In 1801, an active volcano erupted and actually extended the shoreline of this Island by around 1 mile and added 1.5 square miles to the area of the island overall. In the 1960's someone had an idea to build an airport runway on this lava flow, making for one of the most unique airports in the world... one that took three million pounds of dynamite to help prepare! Dynamite was used to flatten the lava flow and this process took just 13 months. When you arrive and depart the airport, you can see the aquaculture ponds and solar energy experiments that are being undertaken at the nearby Natural Energy Lab - this makes for a wonderfully interesting sight!


5. Saba, Caribbean

Despite being known as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, you are unlikely to find a single accident ever occurring here. One side of the airport is flanked by incredibly high hills and the other side and at both ends you will find cliff drops that end up in the sea. The runway itself is just 400 metres, meaning you could easily overshoot the runway and end up on the cliffs below, however, this just does not happen! This airport is amazing! You will need special permission to land at this airport as it is 'officially closed' to standard traffic but regional airline propeller aircraft can land here with a waiver and the most common aircraft that you will see landing here are the Twin Otter and BN-2 Island planes.

While the landing and the runway may make your travels seem a little hairy, this is a real adventure and a truly unique airport with minimal staff and services.


6. Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Unalaska Airport is another short and sweet one with a tiny runway and it is located on a fairly unique patch of land. Landing at this airport is probably the most unique arrival that you will ever experience in your life. One minute you are heading over water, and the next you will see a small patch of snow/ice covered land that contains a small compact runway that needs extreme experience to be landed on. One side is bordered by a steep drop into the ocean and another is bordered by a large hill. Both ends have drops off into open water.When you arrive at this airport you will be blown away by the magnificence and beauty that is all around you - but with an average of just 65 or less flights per month you will be one of the few people to experience this wonderful airport and amazing landscape for yourself.