Greater Blue Mountains Area

World Heritage Site #32: Greater Blue Mountains Area
Greater Blue Mountains Area: My 32nd UNESCO World Heritage Site

From the World Heritage inscription for the Greater Blue Mountains Area:

The Greater Blue Mountains Area (GBMA) is a deeply incised sandstone tableland that encompasses 1.03 million hectares of eucalypt-dominated landscape just inland from Sydney, Australia’s largest city, in south-eastern Australia. Spread across eight adjacent conservation reserves, it constitutes one of the largest and most intact tracts of protected bushland in Australia. It also supports an exceptional representation of the taxonomic, physiognomic and ecological diversity that eucalypts have developed: an outstanding illustration of the evolution of plant life. A number of rare and endemic taxa, including relict flora such as the Wollemi pine, also occur here. Ongoing research continues to reveal the rich scientific value of the area as more species are discovered.

The geology and geomorphology of the property, which includes 300-metre cliffs, slot canyons, and waterfalls, provides the physical conditions and visual backdrop to support these outstanding biological values. The property includes large areas of accessible wilderness in close proximity to 4.5 million people. Its exceptional biodiversity values are complemented by numerous others, including indigenous and post-European-settlement cultural values, geodiversity, water production, wilderness, recreation and natural beauty.

Greater Blue Mountains AreaKatoomba and the Blue Mountains National Park is about an hour outside of Sydney. The amazing thing about Katoomba is that the town is located right on the rim of a canyon, which is one or the largest canyons in the world. You can literally walk through town and look out over the edge of the canyon.

The most prominent feature in Katoomba is the Three Sisters (shown above). In addition to the Three Sisters, you can take cable car rides to the bottom of the canyon where are the walking trails, several waterfalls, as well as hiking trails near the canyon rim.

The Blue Mountains is a must see for anyone visiting Sydney. You can easily take a train or drive to Katoomba from Sydney for a day trip.


The Greater Blue Mountains Area in New South Wales, Australia is one of the state’s most notable tourist attractions. Aside from being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also unique in that it is a deeply incised sandstone tableland. It covers more than 1.03 million hectares of landscape that is dominated by eucalyptus trees within inland Sydney.

The area covered by the Greater Blue Mountains Area spans 8 adjacent conservation reserves. It also comprises some of Australia’s largest and protected bushland. Due to its ecological diversity and immense taxonomic features, it is quickly recognized by UNESCO for how it illustrates the evolution of plant life.

Greater Blue Mountains Area

How to Get Here

If you are traveling from Sydney, the Great Blue Mountains Area is about two hours’ drive away. You can travel by car but there is also an option to travel by train or coach tour. The Sydney Airport is located about 1 hour and 30 minutes from the Blue Mountains.

Landscape of Greater Blue Mountains Area

As mentioned above, the Greater Blue Mountains Area consists of rugged sheer cliffs, tablelands, rivers, lakes and inaccessible valleys. All of these land features are teeming with life and is one of the most beautiful yet inhospitable parts of Australia’s New South Wales. There are also several plants and animal life that thrive in this natural place that exhibits Australia’s antiquity (more on that later).

With a total land area of more than 10,300 square kilometers dominated by forested landscape, the Greater Blue Mountains Area is approximately 60 to 180 kilometers from the Sydney CBD Area. It is a vast expanse of wilderness that is twice the size of Brunei. It is dubbed as “Blue Mountains” because of the visible spectrum of blue light that is propagated by the mountains as impacted by the atmospheric temperature and essential oils from the eucalyptus trees dispersing into the air.

Greater Blue Mountains AreaAside from the 8 protected areas that are encompassed within the Great Blue Mountains Area, it is also home to 7 national parks. These are the following:

  • Blue Mountains National Park
  • Wollemi National Park
  • Yengo National Park
  • Nattai National Park
  • Gardens of Stone National Park
  • Thirlmere Lakes National Park
  • Kanangra-Boyd National Park

Aside from the 7 national parks listed above, the Greater Blue Mountains Area also includes the famous Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve. Even though it is dubbed as Blue Mountains, the world heritage site does not consist of mountains in the most basic sense of the word. These are sandstone rising plateau that rise over 100 meters above sea level (in their highest point).


Aside from the thick vegetation and diverse landscape, there are various fauna species that thrive in the Great Blue Mountains Area. There are about 400 different kinds of animals that live within the rugged landscape of the Blue Mountains’ gorges and tablelands. These animals include both rare and threatened species such as the long-nosed potoroo, koala, tiger quoll and yellow-bellied glider.

View the complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Australia.

View the list of all of the UNESCO World Heritage sites I have visited on my travels.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2017 @ 10:06 pm

2008 Travel Year in Review: Part 2

Read part 1 of my 2008 travel round-up here


Landscape of Coober Pedy, South Australia
Landscape of Coober Pedy, South Australia
July marked my last month in Australia. I flew from Perth to Adelaide. After weeks of driving across Western Australia, the thought of more driving didn’t appeal to me. Adelaide was overcast and cold the entire time I was there, but I did get to visit the central market and Chinatown, both of which were the best I experienced in Australia.

From there I went north by bus to Coober Pedy, the interesting community in the middle of the outback that makes its living off opal mining. From there I went north to Alice Springs where I visited Uluru (Ayer’s Rock) and Kings Canyon.

I ended my Australian adventure where it began, in Darwin, and from there flew to Singapore.


Stamford Raffels Statue in Singapore
Stamford Raffels Statue in Singapore
In Singapore I was able to meet my old college roommate David Bickford, who is currently a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Singapore. He was only the second person I’ve seen since I’ve left the United States that I knew before I left. I hadn’t seen Dave since the early 90s, so it was nice to catch up.

While he was doing profession things during the day, I was able to explore Singapore, which I had last visited back in 1999.

I also took a week and went to the Indonesian island of Bintan where I rented a bungalow near the beach for $10/night and edited video.

Returning to Singapore I took the train to Kuala Lumpur and then to Penang. I was stuck in Penang for several days as I waited for protesters to open up the Phuket, Thailand airport.

Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok, Thailand


Most of September was spent in Thailand. My goal in Phuket was to do some diving and get my PADI Rescue Diver certification. I enrolled in a course at SeaBee’s Diving in Phuket and got certified. If you are in trouble while diving with me, I’m your hookup.


Cow in Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
Cow in Temple, Angkor, Cambodia
I started October by visiting the temples of Angkor. It was a really amazing experience. I took several days photographing most of the temples in the Angkor complex, including many of the smaller outlying temples. I also took the day trip from hell to visit the Preah Vihear temple on the border of Cambodia and Thailand. Preah Vihear was the scene of fighting between Thai and Cambodian soldiers in the months before, and weeks after I visited.

I also visited the floating villages of Tonle Sap and took the boat from Sieam Reap to Phnom Penh, where I paid homage to the victims of the Killing Fields. The last few days of the month I took the bus across the border into Vietnam and into Saigon.


Sand Dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam
Sand Dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam

All of November was in Vietnam. I started the month in Saigon where I had to purchase a new laptop. My old MacBook Pro was on its last legs. From there I took the bus on Mui Ne which is on the Pacific Ocean an enjoyed cheap, fresh seafood every night. From there I went into the central Vietnam rainy season in Nha Trang, where it rained non stop. A very long overnight bus ride took me to Hoi An just outside of Da Nang where I visited the Hoi An Ancient City and My Son Sanctuary World Heritage sites. I then spent a few days in the former royal capital of Hue before one final marathon bus ride to Hanoi.


December was a busy month. I started by visiting the beautiful islands of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. I returned to Hanoi to fly to Luang Prabang, Laos where I was able to visit the temples of this World Heritage City and take part in the morning alms giving ritual where the locals give food and rice to monks. I then took a bus to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, where I took advantage of the excellent open airs BBQs on the Mekong River. I then went to Udon Thani, Thailand, Chiang Mai, Sukhothai and ended up back in Bangkok, where I rang in the New Year.