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This Backpack and Snorkel Travel Guide (Blue Mountains Purple Guide) provides information about the best things to do in the Blue Mountains and ensures that you will be Making Memorable Moments on a relaxing vacation in the Blue Mountains.
The Blue Mountains with their deep valleys and steep cliffs and an elevation up to 3,901ft formed about 1 million years ago during the Pliocene era. The Three Sisters, a formation of three sandstone peaks, are the most well-known distinctive natural feature which developed over time by erosion. Many people come to see the three sisters at sunset, when they are illuminated by the setting sun.
Prior to the arrival of the Europeans, the Blue Mountains were inhabited for millennia by the Gundungurra and the Darug people.
The mountains were originally called the Carmarthen and Lansdowne Hills in 1788, but name Blue Mountains was preferred. The name comes from the hazy blue appearance of the mountain range when viewed from a distance and is likely due to sun light scattered on small bubbles of volatile chemicals released by the abundant eucalyptus trees.
Fueled by global warming, the Blue Mountains have suffered from more frequent and severe bush fires since 2010 than in all of their recorded history. During the 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, which led to widespread devastation at a scale never seen before, up to 80% of the area has burned.
The Greater Blue Mountains Area was listed as a World Heritage Area by UNESCO in 2000. It is home to over 400 different animal species, a popular tourist destination and a weekend getaway for people from Sydney. Popular activities are hiking, mountain biking, canyoning, rock climbing and other adventure sports. There are numerous companies catering to this demand and many are located in Katoomba.
Main tourist attractions in the Blue Mountains:
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The deep valleys and steep cliffs of the Blue Mountains formed about 1 million years ago and the three sandstone peaks, called The Three Sisters, formed by erosion of one of these cliffs.
The Three Sisters are one of the main attractions of the Blue Mountains and there is an easily accessible vista point called Echo Point Lookout in Katoomba.
Katoomba can easily reached by car in a 100min drive or by direct train from Central Station in Sydney. The train ride takes between 1h 43min and 1h 58min. The Katoomba Railway Station is about 1.6miles (2.6km) from Echo Point Lookout. You can either walk (30-35min) or take one of the buses (website) at the train station (bus: 686 (10min), 686G (14min), 696 (22min)).
The Aboriginal dream-time legend says:
Three sisters from the Katoomba tribe: “Meehni”, “Wimlah” and “Gunnedoo” lived in the Jamison Valley fell in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe. Unfortunately, tribal law did not allow them to get married. So, the brothers were captured the three sisters by force, which then led the tribes to go at war with each other.
When the battle got close to where the three sisters were held and their lives were in danger, a witch doctor from the Katoomba tribe turned the three sisters into stone so that they could not be harmed. Unfortunately, the witch doctor got killed and nobody else was able to reverse the spell.
The Jenolan Caves are a network of limestone caves that the Jenolan River has carved out underground. There are more than 25 miles (40km) of multi-level passages and over 300 entrances. The cave complex is still being explored.
The caves are approx. 340 million years old and that makes them the world's oldest known and dated open cave system.
Indigenous Gundungurra people believed the underground waters have curative powers and carried their sick people to be bathed in this water.
Westerners likely discovered the caves in 1838, named them Fish River Caves and soon after opened them to tourists. Unfortunately, early tourists had no respect for this natural wonder and damaged many formations and cut others up for souvenirs. They also wrote or carved their names and other things in the walls and formations until it was finally banned in 1872.
The name Jenolan Caves was adopted in 1884 and it is likely that the word Jenolan comes from the indigenous word “Genowlan” which means "high place".
Most people drive to the Jenolan Caves, but there are buses that can be boarded in Sydney or the Katoomba train station (website).
Eleven caves have been developed for tourism and 10 are typically open daily for 1-2h guided tours, which require varying degrees of fitness. There are also 2h to full day spelunking tours that can be booked.
Our Australia Travel Guide has detailed information about the individual destinations, links to their locations in google maps, reviews and websites (if available).
Please see the Backpack & Snorkel Travel Store for more information.