Katoomba and the Blue Mountains

Named for their distinctive blue haze, a result of eucalyptus oil evaporating from gum trees, the Blue Mountains have long been a popular destination. They are famous for their scenery that features spectacular rock formations, vast gorges and sandstone cliffs hundreds of metres high. Situated on the Great Dividing Range at an average altitude of 1,000m above sea level, the Blue Mountains is a vast and rugged natural wilderness area containing three National Parks totalling almost 250,000 ha. The Blue Mountains is classified as a World Heritage site.

The Blue Mountains were initially perceived as an impenetrable barrier for early explorers and a route through them was not found until 1813. Today the Great Western Highway closely follows the route blazed by the early explorers, winding its way along a string of 26 mountain townships and it is now easily accessible by train from Sydney.

The Three Sisters rock formation is the most famous Blue Mountains attraction and there are plenty of hiking trails in the surrounding area.

Other attractions include the world’s steepest railway, the Katoomba Scenic Railway, which travels from the cliff top at Katoomba down into the Jamison Valley. Above, the Skyway carries passengers along a ropeway 206m above the valley floor.

Katoomba is the major town in the region and caters to day-trippers from Sydney with plenty of pricey boutiques, craft shops and cafés. Katoomba is the best place to base yourself in the Blue Mountains; it has easy access to the Scenic Railway, scenic lookouts and hiking trails and good rail access from Sydney.

Local transport

The Blue Mountains Bus Company operate local public transport with regular bus services through most of the day, although services become much less frequent after 6pm. One-way bus fares cost from $2.30 to $4.60 depending on the distance travelled.

There is also the Blue Mountains Explorer tourist bus service that runs a loop of the main sights in Leura and Katoomba. However this is overpriced at $40 ($35 HI/YHA, ISIC, Nomads, VIP) as Katoomba is compact enough to walk around.

If you arrive at Katoomba station, walk down Katoomba Street, which will take you to the cliff-face overlooking Jamison Valley. This is where most of the hiking trails depart from and it’s also where you’ll find the Scenic Skyway, Scenic Railway, the Three Sisters lookout and the information centre at Echo Point.

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