Cool Places

The Most Dangerously Thrilling Airports Every Traveler Needs to Visit

São Paulo–Congonhas Airport — Brazil

Brazil is a huge country, but one of its central airports is incredibly dangerous, offering quite the thrill for passengers flying in and out of São Paulo.

São Paulo–Congonhas Airport, which is sometimes called just Congonhas Airport, is so dangerous that pilots know it well. It has a surprisingly short runway and a highly dangerous approach for anyone flying into the runway. That very same runway is also considered the most slippery in the entire world.

While plenty of planes have crashed upon landing at Congonhas Airport, the view you’ll experience as a passenger is also frightening. Fog can surround the city, making it impossible to see anything at all. If it’s a clear day, you’ll fly by the city’s tall buildings and mountains that seem almost too close for comfort.

Henri Bergius / Wikimedia Commons

Madeira International Airport — Portugal

Special engineering is required for any airport, but it was absolutely crucial for the runway at Madeira International Airport in Portugal. This runway, which was originally even shorter, is located between steep, sharp cliffs and the shining ocean, making it hard for pilots to take off with enough lift.

So, to extend the runway, engineers built platforms on an artificial island. This means you’ll race over dangerous-looking stilts that descend into the ocean when taking off from Madeira International Airport. And when you land, you’ll see those same columns — and you’ll have to trust that they can tolerate the weight of your plane coming down.

Richard Bartz / Wikimedia Commons

Tioman Airport — Malaysia

If it’s a thrilling takeoff or landing you’re looking for, book a flight to Tioman Airport in Malaysia. Located on the small Tioman Island, this airport appears almost out of nowhere right before you land.

When flying into Tioman Airport, it’ll look like you’re headed straight into a mountain. At the last minute, the pilots will make a sharp 90-degree turn and suddenly, you’ll see the runway. Pilots have to master the art of a fast landing here. If they miss the runway, the plane will fall off a steep cliff and into the ocean. Only a few planes can land and take off each day, and your best bet is to charter a private flight to experience this airport’s death-defying landing.

Glueball / Wikimedia Commons