Hate crowded airports? Just want to float through check-in and security without the hassle of waiting in another long line? At the world’s least busy airport, Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI) in Mattala, Sri Lanka, you may not have to. To the surprise of many seasoned travelers, HRI typically sees no more than seven people pass through its terminal each day. Located in the district of Hambantota, about four hours from the capital city of Colombo, this supremely low-trafficked airport is surrounded by jungles and small villages.
The airport—the second largest in Sri Lanka—opened in 2013 as the pet project of then-president Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was raised in the area. During his tenure, he led the airport’s construction at a cost of $209 million. The airport was originally intended to be part of a larger infrastructure plan to turn the secluded village area into a modern city and tourist attraction; however, due to political unsteadiness, the project never fully materialized. Thankfully, HRI has found inventive and out-of-the-box ways to bolster its finances to repay its construction loans, including storing rice and hosting the long-term parking of unused jets.
Last year, HRI saw just two flights a week, and today, just one airline, flydubai, is listed as the single arrival and departure in a 24-hour period. Despite seeing few takeoffs and touchdowns, visitors by car and on foot often visit the impressive airport itself. The overall design is modern and sleek, with twelve check-in counters and 110,000 square feet of bright terminal space built to accommodate one million passengers.