Just 60 km west of Sydney in New South Wales, it takes less than two hours to reach the World Heritage listed Blue Mountains, a unique amalgam of culture, heritage and forest diversity. Nestled among the mountains are picturesque villages with equally charming names like Katoomba, Leura, Blackheath, Wolgan Valley, Lithgow and Oberon amongst a few. A large part of the Blue Mountains is incorporated into the Greater Blue Mountains Area World Heritage Site, consisting of seven national park areas and a conservation reserve.
From a distance the eucalypt forests that cover the Blue Mountains take on an intense blue haze that gives the region its name. The blue haze is due to an optical phenomenon called ‘Rayleigh Scattering’. Volatile terpenoids emitted in large quantities by the abundant eucalypt trees may cause this scattering and thus the blue haze for which the mountains were named.
|The Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon Tourism Festival of Walking is held in October, and includes bushwalks and treks, ambles through the countryside, family events, history tours and cheese and wine sampling. Oktoberfest at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba is another popular event, serving up German music, German food, German beer, and a whole lot of fun. Or if you fancy something a bit more tranquil, visit the famous Leura Garden Festival, held annually in October since 1964.|
A legacy of regeneration
Eucalypt trees or blue gum as it is popularly known as belongs to a species that need to be burned down for it to regenerate. This amazing physiology makes the forests self sustainable and a legacy for future generations of the indigenous aboriginal tribes like the Gundungurra and the Daruk.When Europeans arrived in Australia, the Blue Mountains had already been inhabited for several millennia by the Gundungurra people and, in the lower Blue Mountains by the Daruk people.
The Blue Mountains National Park boasts more than 140 km of trails and walking tracks (many of which were created for Victorian-era honeymooners and day-trippers) and there are great camping spots like Euroka or Blue Gum Forest. The park includes the Grose Wilderness, dedicated for its wild unspoilt natural beauty. The Blue Mountains National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2000.
In this World Heritage Area, you can see natural attractions like the Three Sisters – a trio of rocky pinnacles named after an aboriginal legend. These three weathered sandstone peaks, formed thousands of years ago through erosion, are set among the cliffs of the Jamison Valley and can be best viewed from Echo Point in Katoomba.
For the adventure seekers, a trip to Scenic World to journey on the world’s steepest incline railway is a must. Crossing the valley in the glass-floored Skyway suspended 270 metres in the air, descending into the ancient Jamison Valley by Cableway and exploring the rainforest along a 2.4 km walkway (the longest boardwalk in the Southern Hemisphere) are added attractions for that adrenaline rush. The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah features thousands of plants from the southern hemisphere and around the world. An exciting way of exploring the Blue Mountains is by segway (those two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicles). Segway Blue Mountains offers guided tours around the beautiful grounds of The Fairmont Resort on segways that will take you through the forest, test your new skills on varied terrain and end the tour with glimpses of the Jamison Valley. A stopover at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre also offers panoramic views of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage area. Built on the highest point in Katoomba, the cultural centre includes a 600 square metre Art Gallery.
Blue Mountains offers a variety of accommodation options. Lilianfels Resort & Spa, a five-star property was the historic homestead and original summer residence of Sir Frederick Darley, the sixth Chief Justice of NSW. Its 85 rooms and suites are uniquely themed and adorned with handcrafted wallpaper to reflect its Victorian origins.Within the grounds of this historic hotel is Darley’s Restaurant. This multi-award winning restaurant serves the best seasonal produce from the region, served in an elegant setting that reflects the romance of a bygone era. Another dining option is Echoes’ Restaurant perched at the edge of the Blue Mountains National Park, with uniterrupted views of mountains, cliff edges and rainforest valleys.
For handcrafted fine chocolates, visit Josophan’s – Fine Chocolates. Fresh ingredients like mint leaves, basil leaves, vanilla bean, lime and chilli are infused into fresh cream, mixed with couverture chocolate.