Nepal’s vibrant capital stimulates at every turn. A collision of rich traditions and awe-inspiring landscapes, Kathmandu is sure to impress even the most intrepid traveller.

I keep a tally of the countries I’ve visited (26, for those playing at home) and I’m always chasing new destinations to add to my list. Bonus points if it appeases my adrenaline junkie side, offers mouth-watering affordable cuisine, and is jam-packed with culture and history.

And guess what? Kathmandu offers all of the above, and then some.

I mean, where else can you experience some of the world’s best thrills, explore thousand-year-old temples and finish your day savouring a six-course dinner inside a Michelin-rated hotel? My trip to Kathmandu in January 2023 quite literally leaves me breathless – in the best possible way.

Durbar Square
Durbar Square is home to more than 50 temples.

And I’m travelling for Point Hacks, so luxury and comfort are on the cards – using points, of course. For 68,300 Qantas Points, I fly from Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines in Economy, then on to Kathmandu in Business Class. Fees and taxes set me back just $205 – a saving of $1,505 off the retail price of this one-way journey. Waltzing off a Business Class flight means I’m ready to hit the ground running in Kathmandu and discover everything this magical city has to offer.

And I do just that. Here’s what I get up to.

Flying into Kathmandu, Nepal
My heart skips a beat as I catch my first glimpse of Nepal.

Flying to Kathmandu from Australia

Kathmandu is just two flights from Australia: a 7.5-hour leg to Kuala Lumpur, then a 4.5-hour hop over the Himalayas. Given the availability at the time of booking, my flight from Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur is in Economy – no dramas for a daytime leg. My second flight – in a different cabin class – is booked separately.

And get this. For a low points outlay, I fly up the pointy end to Kathmandu and enjoy the perks of Business Class, including lounge access in Kuala Lumpur. It’s a hard life.

Also read: How to redeem frequent flyer points for Malaysia Airlines flights

View of rooftops
Kathmandu’s picturesque views are calling.

Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia Airlines Economy

Eager to get stuck into the cuisine before I even set foot in Malaysia, I fly with Malaysia Airlines from Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur. This Classic Reward redemption sets me back just 24,500 Qantas Points and $92 in fees and taxes. And I’m playing the long game here. The more cash I save on flights, the more I have to blow on activities when I arrive in Kathmandu.

The Economy cabin has a 2-4-2 configuration. With an 11 am departure from Adelaide and a late afternoon arrival in Kuala Lumpur, I’m fine to sit at the back for this leg. For a small fee I can access Wi-Fi on board, so I’ll be awake curating my Spotify playlist for the duration of the flight. Priorities.

My daytime flight warrants lunch. I’ve selected the chicken thigh in a creamy sauce, accompanied by rice. Prior to landing I’ve got a choice of pies as a refreshment – the creamy vegetable pie wins this round. Filling? Very. But I’m purposely saving my stomach for all the street food I’m about to consume during my overnight stop in Kuala Lumpur.

All in all, I hop over to Asia fuss-free, and I’m poised for my next treat: Business Class to Kathmandu.

Transit in Kuala Lumpur

I’m spending the night at Pullman Kuala Lumpur City Centre, which puts me within easy access of Petronas Towers and Pavilion shopping mall. Booking directly through Accor, I collect Accor Live Limitless points on my stay.

With only a night to spend in one of my favourite cities, I want to make the most of my time. The KLIA Ekspres train whisks me from KLIA to KL Sentral station, where I take a 15-minute Grab ride to my hotel. Even with this transfer, I’m still getting to my hotel quicker than if I had taken a Grab straight from the airport. I bypass Kuala Lumpur’s notoriously busy traffic and have ample time to tuck into some street food.

But first, a bit of quick sightseeing at the Twin Towers and KLCC’s Lake Symphony water show. After a short Grab ride, I arrive at Kuala Lumpur’s culinary heaven, Jalan Alor. I power my way through this famous street food market, determined to wrap my tastebuds around a plate of roti canai and a glass of Malaysia’s popular milk tea, teh tarik. A cendol topped with durian also makes the cut – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu in Malaysia Airlines Business Class

The second and final leg of my journey is also with Malaysia Airlines. At the time of booking, there’s plenty of Business Class availability on this route, even over the peak Christmas period when I’m travelling. For a low Qantas Points outlay, I jet to Kathmandu up the pointy end after kicking back at the stylish Malaysia Airlines Regional Golden Lounge at KLIA.

Check-in at KLIA

Still battling a food coma from the night before, I arrive at KLIA precisely as check-in opens. A wave of excitement washes over me as I head for the check-in counter. Country number 27 awaits! And I’m flying there in Business Class – how cool.

I enjoy a seamless check-in at Malaysia Airlines’ Business Class check-in zone at KLIA. There are no lines, and a staff member loads my luggage onto the scale before I’m off through the dedicated immigration line for Business Class passengers. Quick and easy, and more time to spend in the lounge.

Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge Regional

Taking a left after security, I head up the escalators next to Travelex to Malaysia Airlines’ Regional Golden Lounge. The lounge is tucked away on the mezzanine level, providing an oasis from the airport bustle below.

Entering the cosy, earth-toned lounge, a wave of relaxation washes over me. I’m still in ‘cosy mode’ and half awake – so the decor suits my state of mind perfectly.

The lounge is pleasingly quiet and I’ve got a choice of seating. I stake out a spot on one of the big couches overlooking the tarmac with the sun rising in the distance. Can it get much better than this?

I soon discover that it can indeed. As I’m sussing the buffet – which, by the way, includes a selection of local fare, cereal, and fresh fruit – I hear the undeniable sound of a teh tarik being mixed. Okay, so it’s instant teh tarik – but I’m already clutching a plate of DIY nasi lemak, and this is the perfect accompaniment.

Also read: Malaysia Airlines Satellite Golden Lounge Kuala Lumpur overview

Flying to Kathmandu in Business Class

Malaysia Airlines operates at least one flight per day from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu, while some days have two. I’ve got a 9 am departure, so I arrive in Kathmandu in time for lunch.

The Boeing 737 Business Class cabin has a 2-2 configuration. Of the 16 Business Class seats, only seven on my flight are occupied.

And the perks of flying Business? I get two windows to enjoy the sights of the Himalayas as we descend into Kathmandu. And here’s my hot tip – booking a seat on the right side of the plane yields exceptional views.

I settle into my cobalt blue seat – Malaysia Airlines’ signature colour – to enjoy my pre-boarding juice and survey my surroundings for the next 4.5 hours. My feet just reach the seat in front when I stretch my legs out, so I’m all set for a comfortable journey.

An hour into the flight, a hot meal is served. Feeling adventurous, I opt for the fish curry with rice, served with a yoghurt and sweet sauce on the side. Accompanying my main is a selection of fruit, low-fat mixed berry yoghurt and guava juice. Delish.

After a satisfying lunch, I wrap myself in the soft blanket. The width of my seat offers plenty of wriggle room. With my pillow propped up against the window, I can rest my head without any discomfort at all. Footrest out, chair reclined, and three very eager hours until I arrive.

There’s no live flight path on this flight. But as my destination looms, I notice passengers on the opposite side of the cabin enthusiastically bobbing their heads to look out the window behind me (remember my tip earlier?) The crisp white peaks of the Himalayas stretch into the distance.

My heart always skips a beat when I catch my first glimpse of a country I’ve never visited before. But this is next-level. I never thought I’d be gliding over the Himalayas in a cushy Business Class seat, but hey, here I am. And it’s magical.

Also read: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 737 Business Class (Kuala Lumpur – Kuching)

Arriving in Kathmandu

Tribhuvan International Airport is Nepal’s major international airport and the gateway to this charming nation. The airport is just five kilometres from the heart of Kathmandu. I’m refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.

I arrive prepared, with local rideshare app Pathao pre-downloaded on my phone. I quickly realise that Pathao – and every other local rideshare service – requires a Nepali phone number to create an account. Thankfully there’s a pre-paid taxi rank outside the terminal, and my ride to Kathmandu Marriott – where I’ll be staying – is just 800 Rupees, or AU$9.

Oh, also – seatbelts aren’t mandatory here. The driver tells me this as we zoom through the streets like we have nine lives. Not to worry – I sit back and enjoy this real-life rendition of Grand Theft Auto.

First impressions of Kathmandu

Kathmandu is organised chaos, and I’m already in love. The bustling streets are comparable to the likes of Bangkok or Manila, sans the glittering skyscrapers. And with good reason. The roads are lined with buildings no more than a few storeys high, many of which have flat roofs fitted with terraces. Careful consideration has gone into the architecture so as not to intrude on the mountainous panorama encircling the city.

Cars, pedestrians, motorcycles and rickshaws lay claim to the road in equal measure – and somehow everything ticks along harmoniously.

And to top it off, the people are some of the friendliest I’ve ever come across. The warmth of the city embraces me, and I’m ready to say ‘namaste’ to everything it has to offer.

Kathmandu Marriott Hotel

I spend two nights at the Kathmandu Marriott Hotel, booked for just AU$321.50 per night ($161 per person, twin share). As a member of the Marriott Bonvoy program, I enjoy benefits like free Wi-Fi, buffet breakfast and a US$10 credit per night. Plus, I pocket Marriott Bonvoy points that I can redeem for future stays or transfer to frequent flyer partners.

Given the generous exchange rate, US$10 is enough for a meal at the hotel’s on-site restaurant, Thamel Kitchen, or a few cheeky drinks at the bar. Or, if like me, you’ve forgotten about the credit until check-out, you can fuel your sweet tooth with gourmet cakes and cookies at the hotel’s on-site patisserie.

My Deluxe Mountain View room on the sixth floor offers sweeping views over the city. I can even enjoy the scenery from the full-size bathtub. The hotel has a gym, swimming pool and spa on-site, plus there’s a casino next door.

Thamel Kitchen serves up a scrumptious buffet breakfast, with an assortment of western and Nepali fare. And of course, an entire section dedicated to what I like to call ‘breakfast dessert’ – waffles, pancakes and pain au chocolat. Plenty for me to fuel up before exploring Kathmandu.

Also read: The ultimate guide to Marriott Bonvoy

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Getting to Kathmandu on points

Kathmandu is one of those destinations that can seem far and unattainable – that’s what I thought, anyway. But for just 68,300 Qantas Points and $205 in cash, it’s well within reach.

Malaysia Airlines is part of the oneworld Alliance, so you can redeem Qantas Points for Classic Rewards. My Economy flight from Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur cost just 24,500 Qantas Points, plus $113 in fees and taxes. It’s the same amount of points if you’re flying from Perth, or 30,200 Qantas Points from Melbourne or Sydney – with fees and taxes payable by route.

Tacking on Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu in Business Class for 43,800 Qantas Points and $92, my entire one-way journey costs just 68,300 Qantas Points plus $205 in cash. Without points, I’m looking at $1,710 for the same flights.

Can you do it too? Absolutely!

Earning Qantas Points is easy, and there are lots of ways to go about it. Credit card sign-up offers can get you over the line by dishing out enough points for a one-way journey to Kathmandu. Of course, you’ll need to be approved and meet a minimum spend to be eligible for bonus points.

For the vinos, Qantas Wine is a refreshingly simple way to top up your points balance (and your glass). Some cases offer up to 20,000 bonus Qantas Points, on top of the standard earn rate of one Qantas Point per $1 spent. If you’ve unlocked Qantas Points Club, this jumps up to three Qantas Points per $1, plus free delivery.

And if retail therapy is on the cards, you can pocket points by shopping via Qantas Marketplace or Qantas Shopping. Don’t forget to pay for your purchase with a points-earning credit card and watch those points stack up.

Read on for everything I get up to during my visit to glorious Kathmandu. Spoiler alert – I have the time of my life.

What to do in Kathmandu

Kathmandu is brimming with deep-rooted traditions, unique architecture and sumptuous street food. Sprinkle in a bit of shopping and a few heart-pumping thrills and there really is something for everyone.

Durbar Square

I head to the UNESCO-listed Durbar Square first thing in the morning – and I’m so glad I do. As the heart of Kathmandu, the square is a flurry of activity at this hour. Over 50 Buddhist and Hindu temples are located in and around the square, which is also home to a museum, shopfronts and restaurants, and a market.

The sun shines through the haze as vendors scurry around, setting up wooden pallets on top of old paint cans to sell their goods. Stores line the narrow streets, selling everything from vibrant flowers to colourful grains. A vendor wheels long bamboo shoots past me on a tricycle, as the sound of deep bells from the surrounding temples fill the air. There’s commotion from all angles, and despite Durbar Square being a tourist highlight, it’s abuzz with locals.

I explore the alleyways and wander through some temples, then head back to the middle of the square to test my haggling skills with a spot of souvenir shopping. I could easily spend hours getting lost in the beauty of this complex.

People-watching is one of my favourite pastimes, so I head upstairs to one of the many cafes surrounding Durbar Square to do just that. Granted, I find myself sipping a long macchiato at a western coffee shop, but the view is unparalleled.

Boudhanath Stupa

It’s not every day that I’m fortunate enough to bear witness to one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, and Nepal’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. But just four kilometres from the centre of Kathmandu sits the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Boudhanath Stupa – a holy site that is said to house the remains of Buddha.

Boudhanath Stupa is open 24 hours, but it’s during the morning and late afternoon that you can witness hundreds of pilgrims conduct prayer rituals. I arrive at 4 pm, pay the 400 Rupee entry fee and make my way to the courtyard. Here, everything happens in a clockwise direction. So with the stupa on my right, I tack onto the crowd and shuffle around the stupa, occasionally turning the prayer wheels – again, in a clockwise direction.

It’s busy on the ground, but the rooftop cafes surrounding the stupa serve up magnificent views. The one I wander into has a vacant table on the terrace and charges just $3 for a mixed fruit lassi. It’s almost more peaceful up here, with the gentle breeze and faint chanting below complimenting the sight before me.

Stroll through the bazars

Kathmandu has several bazars scattered across the city (the word is bizarrely spelt with a single ‘a’ in Nepal), and my first stop is the most well-known one: Thamel. Despite its overwhelming touristy feel – it’s Kathmandu’s nightlife district, after all – I can’t deny its convenience. Souvenir shops and restaurants are condensed into a few streets, making it easy for me to grab a quick falafel and then duck next door for a cashmere scarf.

Asan Bazar, which is just a 10-minute walk from Thamel, is in an entirely different league. This has got to be one of my favourite spots in Kathmandu. Unlike Thamel, Asan is geared towards locals. The bazar stretches across several blocks, with stores selling wholesale goods, homewares and traditional sculptures.

It’s quite literally a jaw-dropping moment as I stand at the intersection. The atmosphere is electric, and I feel as if I’ve stepped back in time. I just want to marvel at everything that makes Kathmandu, well, Kathmandu. And I do exactly that.

Pashupatinath Temple

The oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu, Pashupatinath, dates back to the 5th century. Sitting along the holy Bagmati River, it’s an important pilgrimage site for Hindus – and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Kathmandu.

It’s a sight to behold. The grounds comprise over 500 temples and one main pagoda, with the banks connected by bridges. Smoke billows over the temples from the open cremations occurring below. I’m slightly jarred, yet also fascinated by the ritual.

There’s a 1,000 Rupee entry fee, and non-Hindus can visit the grounds at any time of day but are prohibited from entering the temples. The grounds are massive, and the view from the top of the steps is mesmerising. I take a leisurely stroll, taking in the serenity of the area – while dodging the free-roaming buffalo.

Garden of Dreams

Just a short walk from Thamel puts me in the lush surroundings of the Garden of Dreams. This European-inspired retreat provides a welcome respite from the busyness of the city beyond the garden’s walls. It’s only 400 Rupees to enter – so I check it out.

After navigating the hectic bazars and roads outside, I enjoy a moment of tranquillity under the trees. And it’s not very crowded at all. Pathways surround the pond, leading to secluded pockets around the garden. It’s a contrast from the constant movement of the city – so I take the opportunity to enjoy a different slice of Kathmandu.

Take on the world’s most extreme zipline

With my trusty GoPro in tow, I set my sights on Pokhara – a picturesque valley roughly 200 kilometres northwest of Kathmandu. I take a quick 25-minute commercial flight, though an eight-hour bus ride is also an option.

Now, I’m no stranger to ziplining – Nepal will be the seventh country I’ve ziplined in. But the one I’m about to tackle will trump all my ziplining experiences around the globe. HighGround Adventures operates the most extreme zipline in the world, with a 600-metre drop. Gulp.

A feeling of exhilaration kicks in as I mount the ziplining platform. I’ve never ziplined with this kind of view before! The cable stretches 1.8 kilometres into the valley below, and it’s so steep that I can’t see the end of the line. After being harnessed up, I’m sitting at the edge of the platform with my feet pressed firmly against the metal gate – the only thing separating me from the sprawling forest below.

‘Five, four, three, two, one, go!’ The gate flings open. I let out a small squeal as I gather speed and hurtle down the line. Mountains on either side of me, a river below me, and my heart pounding from sheer elation. This is hands-down the most breathtaking scenery I’ve enjoyed of any zipline in the world.

I’m all smiles at the bottom. Another zipline under the belt – tick. The world’s most extreme zipline – tick. This adrenaline junkie’s soul is oh-so-happy.

If you’re itching for more adventure, there’s also a bungee jump and sky swing at the base of the zipline. I wasn’t planning on doing the sky swing, but I’m enticed by the discount offered to zipline customers. Within moments I’m perched on a cliff edge, swinging over a valley. When in Rome, right?

Paraglide through the peaks of Pokhara

There’s plenty to do in Pokhara to keep my adrenaline pumping. And while the town is easy enough to explore on foot, I take to the sky for a bird’s eye view.

My 30-minute tandem paragliding experience begins in the hilly region of Sarangkot. It’s my first time paragliding, and thankfully no experience is required. I’ve got a competent guide who runs me through everything I need to do – which basically involves walking and then running at his command, then easing into my harness once we take flight. Simple, right?

Running towards the edge of a hill isn’t on my list of ‘top five fun things to do’. But as soon as my feet leave the ground and I’m circling over the valley below, I can safely say that paragliding is on the aforementioned list.

It’s surprisingly relaxing. My guide does all the heavy lifting – you know, maneuvering the glider, capturing photos of me wearing a cheesy grin, that sort of thing. Soft gusts of wind whirl around me, but it’s a seamless flight. And the views? Phenomenal is putting it lightly.

I gently plop onto an empty patch of land in the valley below. The hills I’ve just flown over tower above me, putting into perspective the height from which I’ve descended. My first-ever paraglide has me hooked.

Eat and drink your way around Kathmandu

Kathmandu is heaven for foodies. Tantalising street food meets high-end dining, topped off with a few treats to power me through my trip. And all of this for a very reasonable price. Count me in!

Fine dining at Krishnarpan Restaurant

Set in the enchanting grounds of the Michelin-rated Dwarika’s Hotel is Krishnarpan Restaurant. The restaurant provides a traditional slow-dining gastronomic experience reminiscent of Nepali royal rituals, with ingredients sourced from the hotel’s own organic farms. I reserve a table online in advance and select six courses, though you can opt for nine, 12, 16 or 22.

I feel like royalty from the moment I set foot inside. And if this isn’t one of the coolest things I’ve seen at a restaurant, ever – the menu has my name printed on it! As I glance over the two-page menu wondering if I’ve accidentally booked 22 courses instead of six, my waiter informs me that, in fact, these are all the dishes I’ll be indulging in this evening. I thank my lucky stars that I’ve left adequate stomach space.

The entire meal is an experience, with each course consisting of several small portions. As per tradition, I place a small offering from my first course on the tray in front of me. I power through the next four courses – including an 11-portion main course – before finishing strong with three types of dessert.

My second stomach kicks in as the flavours envelop me. I often inhale dessert, but I find myself consciously taking my time with this one. This is a ‘slow dining’ experience after all. Every bite is just so delectable that I want to savour this meal for as long as possible.

I leave with a small gift from the restaurant, a full stomach and a happy heart. This two-hour dining experience will stay with me for a long time.


No trip to Kathmandu is complete without trying a plate of delicious momo. These Nepalese-style dumplings can be found at almost every corner. For lunch, I treat myself to the renowned Narayan Dai Ko Masangalli Ko Famous Momo in Durbar Square.

For around 200 Rupees – a mere AU$2.26 – you can feast on a plate of traditional dumplings with flavours like buff momo, chicken breast momo or veg-meat momo. I part with a very reasonable 180 Rupees for a cheese-veg momo and settle onto a stool inside the tiny shop.

The appeal of these famous momos is that they’re made fresh, not plucked from a warmer like some other places. And trust me – the wait is worth it. There’s a perfect ratio of dumpling pastry to the fluffy mixture of cheese and vegetables, sprinkled with various spices on top. Condiments are added to your liking, and I drown my dumplings in jhol achar, a special dumpling soup. I polish off every last bit.


Exploring such a beautiful city is hard work. Thankfully, the streets are lined with plenty of traditional and inexpensive options to quench my thirst.

Mama’s Tea Shop in Durbar Square is one of those unassuming, hole-in-the-wall spots – quite literally. A window opens onto a stove where Mama, the store’s namesake, brews a pot of tea. The piping hot tea goes down a treat, and it cost me just 30 cents.

I’m a huge lover of lassi, and the convenience and affordability of it here has me consuming several per day. And when I can grab a small cup from a street stall for just 45 Rupees a pop – about 50 cents – I’m not gonna not. Many restaurants serve them up, too. I’m spoiled for choice.

Kathmandu, it’s been a blast.

Here are my hard-won tips and tricks to help you plan your trip.

Tips and tricks for travelling to Kathmandu

  • Australian passport holders need a visa to enter Nepal, but the process is straightforward. I apply online for a 15-day tourist visa, which costs $60 and takes two days to process.
  • It’s difficult to source Nepalese Rupees in Australia, and you may have a hard time exchanging Australian Dollars for Nepalese Rupees when you land in Kathmandu. Your best bet is to have US Dollars on hand as this is the easiest currency to exchange in Nepal.
  • When flying from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu, select a window seat on the right-hand side of the plane for the best view of the Himalayas.
  • Kathmandu doesn’t have Uber or Grab. Rather, there are local rideshare services like Pathao and Tootle but you’ll need a Nepali phone number to sign up. But don’t fret if you only have a data SIM. The city centre is walkable, and taxis are easy to come by.
  • On that note, bring a sturdy pair of walking shoes as some of the pathways around the city are uneven.

Want to extend your trip?

There’s so much to do, and two nights are barely scratching the surface. If you want to spend more time discovering the wonders of Kathmandu, here are some ideas.

  • Tack on an extra day or two and explore Chandragiri Hills and its famous cable car, take a scenic helicopter flight over Mt. Everest or watch the sunset over the Himalayas in Nagarkot. Kathmandu Marriott will set you back around AU$161 per person, per night, twin share – and you can explore more of Kathmandu!
  • Alternatively, spend a night or two in Pokhara and take on whitewater rafting, explore temples and natural landmarks, or visit a yoga retreat. Flights from Kathmandu start from around $134 one-way with various airlines.
  • For the ultra-adventurous, Kathmandu and Pokhara are gateways to the Everest Base Camp trek and Annapurna Base Camp trek respectively. There are also several shorter treks around the region.

It’s time to take off to Kathmandu

Don’t just dream about Kathmandu – check it out for yourself. After all, for just 68,300 Qantas Points plus $205 in fees and taxes, there’s no excuse to not discover this diverse city.

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Kathmandu has catapulted its way into my heart. So, when will you be planning a trip?

Photography by Victoria Kyriakopoulos, who travelled at Point Hacks’ expense.

Experience captivating Kathmandu with Qantas Points was last modified: October 10th, 2023 by Victoria Kyriakopoulos