The Blue Mountains are a mountain range situated about 80 km west of Sydney, Australia. Thanks to their proximity to the capital of New South Wales, they are one of Australia‘s most visited natural attractions.
They are located within the vast park of the same name, the Blue Mountains National Park. Which in turn is part of the Great Dividing Range, the group of mountains that strecthes for over 2,000 km parallel to the east coast of Australia, from northern Queensland all the way down to Victoria.
WHY ARE THEY CALLED BLUE MOUNTAINS?
The name Blue Mountains is due to the fact that the area is covered in eucalyptus forests, also known as blue gum trees. These trees release a peculiar oil into the air, which gets in contact with water vapour and sunlight creating a blue-grey mist. The unique tint of the Blue Mountains is particularly visible from distance and from viewpoints.
Even though eucalyptus leaves are koalas‘ favourite food, it’s hard to spot them in the Blue Mountains. We did see them in the wild in southern New South Wales and at Otway National Park, next to the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Alternatively it’s common to find wildlife parks or sanctuaries all around Australia, a compromise between reserves and zoos where native species including koalas are enclosed but get to live in wide areas and not in cages.
ALSO READ: 4 days in Sydney, our itinerary guide
KATOOMBA, BLUE MOUNTAINS
Katoomba is the ideal place to use as a base in order to visit the Blue Mountains. It’s a small town with less than 10,000 residents, known exactly for its closeness to the gorgeous mountains. It’s located 1,000 m above sea level and has a very cool climate, snowfalls are not a rarity over here in winter.
Katoomba is delimited to the south by the cliffs over Jamison Valley, where tall Katoomba Falls dive into.
We spent two nights in Katoomba taking day trips to the Blue Mountains. We stayed at nice guesthouse No.14 at Lovel St, which offers private rooms with shared bathrooms in a lovely house with a cozy atmosphere.
BLUE MOUNTAINS TRAIN FROM SYDNEY TO KATOOMBA
As said it’s necessary to climb overe 1,000 metres from the seaside in Sydney to the mountainside in the Blue Mountains.
The convenient Blue Mountains Train (BMT) runs on the railway scrambling up the slopes next to the state road. Operating daily once every hour from Sydney Central Station. The trip from Sydney to the Blue Mountains takes 2 hours and the ticket costs 9.30$ with an Opal Card.
Lithgow is usually the end of route, step off in Katoomba to find yourself close to the walking tracks and lookouts.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS – VIEWPOINTS
There are lots of places to visit and possible excursions in the Blue Mountains, which spread over an area of more than 10,000 square km. However we’ll focus on the best views and most easy to reach around the town of Katoomba.
Several viewpoints and lookouts allow to appreciate the Blue Mountains from every angle. Some require more time to get to, whereas other are just few steps away from Katoomba.
Let’s see the most famous viewpoints from the closest to the farthest:
- THREE SISTERS – ECHO POINT
- GIANT STAIRWAY
- KATOOMBA FALLS
- SCENIC WORLD: SKYWAY&RAILWAY
- SUBLIME POINT LOOKOUT
- FEDERAL PASS WALKING TRACK
THREE SISTERS – ECHO POINT
The Three Sisters are the most famous view over the Blue Mountains. The three peaks sit one next to the other facing the endless panorama. It’s easy to reach the Echo Point Lookout to admire them, even on foot directly from Katoomba town in about 20 minutes. Some walking paths begin just below the lookout, among which the Three Sisters Walk is the least difficult and provides different views.
By the Echo Point you’ll also find the Visitor Centre where to get more info or buy your souvenirs.
By walking all the way to the bottom of the Three Sisters Walk you’ll get in front of a super long stairway. It’s the Giant Stairway, counting some 800 steps along the steep descent. If you’re not worried about tackling them back and forth, you’ll end up exactly at the base of the first of the Three Sisters.
As you can imagine these areas get busy as soon as the first bus tours arrive from Sydney. Try and come earlier than 10 am to avoid crowds.
Back at Echo Point, let’s take a new path. Heading west along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk, you’ll go past more viewpoints including Lady Darley’s and Cliff View lookouts, before reaching the Katoomba Falls. Here River Kedumba meets the ravine and jumps down repeatedly, for a total fall of 230 m of height!
SCENIC WORLD: SKYWAY&RAILWAY
Heads up: giving your back to the falls you will see a large funicular hanging up in the sky. As a matter of fact it’s called Skyway, and it’s part of the Scenic World tourist complex.
The centre includes the Skyway funicular, flying over the gorge for more than 700 metres and 200 m up in the sky; the Cableway cable car, reaching the bottom of the valley; and the rack Scenic Railway. The latter is also known as the steepest railway in the world with its maximum angle of 52°.
Tour prices and info here.
SUBLIME POINT LOOKOUT
The foreamentioned places are already enough to fill a full day or two half days.
If you’d like to see more around Katoomba, you can head in the opposite direction, that is eastwards from the Three Sisters. There you can appreciate the valley from above as you carry on towards Leura, the town preceding Katoomba.
Once again there are many interesting spots such as the Elysian Rock Lookout, the Pool of Siloam and Sublime Point Lookout. You are really spoilt for choice and each viewpoint has something spectacular!
FEDERAL PASS WALKING TRACK
Finally if you’re up for a bigger challenge, the Federal Pass Walking Track is right for you.
Leaving from Katoomba the track ventures into the below Jamison Valley. It’s 13 km altogether, and it takes at least 6-7 hours one way to reach the final spot at Ruined Castle.
Check the National Park website to make sure the track is open, as it may be shut temporarily if weather conditions are hostile. Some sections of the path are easy as in the picture below, some other are steep and might become slippery.
That’s a wrap, our introductory guide to the Blue Mountains ends here. These places and activities will keep you busy and amazed during your stay in Katoomba and Sydney!
HOTEL – WHERE TO STAY IN KATOOMBA, BLUE MOUNTAINS
You can book all your accommodation in the Blue Mountains and in Australia with free cancellation here:
- No.14 Lovel St: cozy guesthouse with private rooms and shared bathrooms. Kitchen and commons areas downstairs. Good location few minutes from Katoomba train station
- Blue Mountains Heritage Motel: a 3 minute drive from town, this motel is ideal if you’re driving to Katoomba
- Treetops Retreat Katoomba: for a memorable stay deep in the woods, check out this dreamlike place
HOW TO GET AROUND
- On foot: Katoomba is perfect for hikers, distances aren’t excessive and allow to walk around town and its main attractions
- By train: the easiest and most convenient way to get here from Sydney. Leaving hourly from Central Station, 2 hour trip. 9,30$ with Opal Card.
- By car: driving will help you be more flexible once in Katoomba. You can rent a car in Sydney here
- Tours: private tours include transfer to/from Sydney. Tours info here.
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