Airports around the world are famous — and infamous — for their unique locations, strange architecture and intriguing conspiracy theories. Some are so remote they can only be reached by daredevil pilots, while others are so immersed in the urban landscape that planes fly low enough to rattle beach-goers.
A comprehensive list of the world’s most unique airports would be long enough to keep you entertained during an 8-hour layover. There are that many. For now, though, here’s a look at three of the most unique airports in the world.
Courchevel Altiport (French Alps)
The Courchevel Altiport is less an international airport and more a ski resort parking lot in its scope and size. Adventurous visitors to the Courchevel ski resort can land on the 1,700-foot runway going uphill, and they take off going downhill at an 18.5 percent grade. It’s enough to make seasoned pilots sweat, which is why those wanting to land there must acquire a special “Qualification of Sight” license.
If the Courchevel Altiport looks familiar, it’s probably because it was featured — and successfully navigated by James Bond — in the 1995 movie GoldenEye. Currently, and for good reason, only small airplanes and helicopters can land and take off from here.
Princess Juliana International Airport (St. Martin)
The Princess Juliana International Airport is unique not for a short runway (it’s pretty average at approximately 7,500 feet) but for its low-flying approaches and takeoffs. Search the web for videos to see just how low airplanes fly over beaches and stunned onlookers! The low flyovers have become a feature and a tourist attraction, and for good reason.
Visitors at Maho Beach in St. Martin (an island located in the northeast Caribbean Sea) can feel the rumble of the jet engines as planes pass overhead so low that beach-goers feel like they could reach up and touch the landing gear. Tourists aren’t really in harm’s way. However, there’s a once-in-a-lifetime thrill associated with watching a plane approach only to have it fly just overhead and land after clearing a small fence just behind the beach.
Denver International Airport (Colorado)
On the surface, Denver International Airport might not stand out from the crowd, but DIA is more than meets the eye.
For starters, Denver International Airport holds the record for the largest airport in the United States, covering 53 square miles. With this much space, it’s no surprise that DIA is also home to the longest public use runway in the country (16,000 feet long). The runway is capable of accommodating the world’s largest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380.
But size isn’t everything appealing about the Denver International Airport. Visitors to the airport will be surprised to find that DIA embraces its many conspiracy theories. Haunted artwork? Underground bunkers? Lizard people? Denver International Airport’s biggest conspiracy theories are celebrated both in the media and on the grounds of the airport. Strange murals around the airport confirm and deny these conspiracy theories, and posters on walls tease that remodeling is being done on the lizard people’s lair.
What’s more, Denver International Airport’s unofficial mascot is a 32-foot statue of a horse reared up and looking ominous. The fierce face and glowing red eyes of the Blue Mustang statue (known as Blucifer by locals) are already nightmarish, but the statue also killed its creator when a section fell and severed an artery in his leg in 2006. Talk about adding to the airport’s reputation of being haunted.
Cover image credit: MATJAZ SLANIC / iStock