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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe vast expanse of the Blue Mountains lies only a one-to-two-hour drive west of Sydney, Australia’s largest metropolis. It covers an area of approximately one million hectares of ancient wilderness. That vast wilderness consists mostly of temperate eucalyptus forest, covering the mountain ranges as far as the eye can see. The Blue Mountains National Park is probably the most well-known and visited place, but it is only a small part of the much larger Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Site, which comprises a conservation reserve and seven national parks.
Its exceptional geography and vegetation, as well as cultural value – there are several ancient Aboriginal sites – are the reasons why the region was included in the World Heritage List in 2000. It is now a popular destination among tourists and Australians alike. Various outdoor activities can be done, such as bushwalking on 140 kilometers of hiking trails, horseback riding, camping, and rock climbing. Not-so-active visitors can enjoy the spectacular landscapes from several scenic lookouts.
HistoryAlthough it appears to be mountainous, the Greater Blue Mountains region is actually an incised sandstone plateau, consisting of a series of ridges and gorges. It is virtually unspoiled and is the largest protected pristine bushland region in Australia. Numerous waterfalls, slot canyons, blue-hazed valleys and 300-meter cliffs create a unique landscape that supports and sustains many native Australian species. The Blue Mountains provide a home to hundreds of bird species, dozens of reptile and amphibian species, more than a hundred different eucalyptus species and other innumerable ancient and rare plants. The region’s biodiversity combined with its cultural heritage makes it an outstanding place.
The Gundungurra, Wiradjuri, Dharwal, and Darug people have inhabited the Blue Mountains for several millennia. According to the Gundungurra creation story, the Blue Mountains were created after an epic battle between the Dreamtimes creatures, Garantach and Mirigan, both half-reptile half-fish. The battle was so fierce that it scarred the landscape.
In 1788, the first governor of New South Wales , Arthur Phillip, spotted the mountains from a hill in modern-day Oakhill College and named them Carmarthen and Lansdowne Hills. The current name of “Blue Mountains” was first written down shortly after, in 1789. The name comes from the blue haze that you see when looking at the mountains and valleys from a distance.
AttractionsAlthough the Blue Mountains National Park is among the most popular in Australia, many visitors don’t actually set foot inside the national park. They generally stay around the lookouts between Blackheath and Wentworth Falls. Those lookouts and viewpoints do in fact offer breathtaking vistas of the sandstone ridges and wide valleys, but there is so much more to do. Countless waterfalls are to be found in the area and dozens of hiking trails allow active visitors to explore the rainforest-covered valleys and ridges.
Katoomba is the Blue Mountains’ center of tourism. Only two kilometers south of the town center lies Echo Point Lookout, the most visited spot in the entire national park. No less than four million people visit that lookout each year and take pictures of Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters rock formation. Other visible features are the Ruined Castle rock formation and Mount Solitary. The Three Sisters is an iconic landmark, basically an unusual formation of sandstone rock. According to an Aboriginal legend, the rocks represent three sisters who were turned to stone. It is a natural feature that looks spectacular throughout the day; as the sun moves across the sky, the colors and shadows shift as well. Until 11 at night the rock formations is lit by floodlights. The Three Sisters are respectively 906, 918, and 922 meters tall.
A short walk from Echo Point Lookout lies the Giant Stairway, a steep hiking trail that runs down the cliffs towards Jamison Valley. It provides access to other hiking trails through this eucalypt-covered valley.
Another attraction in Katoomba is the tourist complex of Scenic World, where visitors can take a ride on the formerly steepest funicular railroad in the world, the Katoomba Scenic Railway. This railway used to be part of the Katoomba mining trams and descend into the valley at a 52° radiant. It passes a tunnel through the rocks and runs through stunning sandstone cliffs. The Scenic Skyway is another attraction at Scenic World; it is an aerial cable car with a degreeless bottom that crosses the Jamison Valley.
There are more scenic lookouts, hiking trails, waterfalls, as well as restaurants, art galleries, and museums in other towns in the region. Glenbrook, Springwood, Leura, Blackheath and Wentworth Falls are some of those.
Getting ThereThe proximity of the Blue Mountains to Sydney makes it an area that is easily accessed by car. The Blue Mountains entrance is located in Glenbrook/Lapstone, only a 50-minute drive away. Starting in Sydney, follow the signs toward Parramatta . Then, continue on the M4 highway in Strathfield and all the way to the national park.
An alternative road is the Bell’s Line of Road. This drive starts in Richmond and runs past Mount Tomah, Bell, and Mount Victoria. It is a fun drive through the heart of the Blue Mountains’ wilderness.
The Blue Mountains can also be reached by public transport. Trains and buses run between towns in the mountains and Sydney CBD.
Similar LandmarksAustralia is a national park country. Dozens of other national parks and wilderness areas can be found and visited all across the country. The most well-known are the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, Freycinet National Park, Wilsons Promontory National Park, Kakadu National Park and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 08, 2015