The Three Sisters each stand more than 900m above sea level. Picture: Kelly Fitzgerald

Driving to Katoomba from Sydney, whether you realise it or not, is almost a history lesson about the explorers who forged a path west through the New South Wales Blue Mountains.

First you come across Blaxland, then, about 25km along the Great Western Highway, you'll find Lawson, and then drive another 10 minutes or so and you'll hit Wentworth Falls.

Gregory Blaxland, William Lawson and William Charles Wentworth embarked on a 21-day expedition to find a way of crossing the mountains in 1813.

Now you can tackle the 100km journey from Sydney to Katoomba in less than two hours by car, or slightly longer by train.

The word charming doesn't do Katoomba justice. It has that pretty village quality which makes you want to spend the day hunting for treasures in bookstores, art galleries and antique shops before retiring to a cosy B&B with a glass of red in front of the fire - but there's more.

Katoomba sits on the edge of the Jamison Valley, surrounded by incredible natural beauty, excellent bushwalking and crisp mountain air that you especially appreciate after being in Sydney.

But, for all its attractions, the most famous and most photographed thing in town is the Three Sisters.

The Queen and Prince Philip stopped for a look during their 1954 Australia visit and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge popped in on their recent tour as well.

It's worth it. The easiest way to view the Three Sisters is from Echo Point, something of a magnet for the steady stream of tourists that come through. Go in the early morning or late afternoon when there are fewer people and you'll be able to better appreciate just how beautiful pillars of sandstone can be. They stand at 922m, 918m and 906m above sea level.

There are a couple of versions of the Three Sisters' legend. The most popular one describes sisters Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo, who fall in love with three men from another tribe but are forbidden by tribal law from marrying them. Unwilling to take no for an answer, the men start a war against the Gundungurra people. To protect them, the tribe's "clever man" or witch doctor changes the three sisters to stone with the intention of changing them back when it is safe. But he is killed in the fighting and no one else knows how to break the spell. Another story has the sisters' father using a magic bone to change them to stone to protect them from a bunyip but then losing the bone and being unable to change them back.

If you have the time, it's worth going bushwalking. There are plenty of routes to be found online or by checking out the local visitor centre. Many start from Echo Point and are signposted from there. If you take one of the walks to the valley floor but don't want to trek back uphill on the return journey, you can take a one-way trip back to the top on Scenic World's cableway or railway.

Another plus of visiting Katoomba and the Blue Mountains is how accessible they are from Sydney, whether or not you have a car.

The Katoomba train station is in the centre of town and there is a hop-on, hop-off bus that travels to all of the main points of interest around the area. Sydney Trains also does a one-day or three-day Blue Mountains Explorer ticket, which includes return train travel to Katoomba and a pass for the bus.

Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth would have liked those options.

FACT FILE

For information on train tickets to Katoomba or the Blue Mountains see sydneytrains.info. Ticket prices depend on the type of ticket purchased and the station your journey starts from.

The Blue Mountains Explorer bus visits 29 stops in Katoomba and Leura and you can hop on and off when you like. explorerbus.com.au.

One-way tickets on Scenic World's cableway or railway are $14 for adults, $8 children for aged four to 13 and $36 for families. scenicworld.com.au.

To find out about other attractions and events in the Blue Mountains visit bluemountainscitytourism.com.au.

Visit wildwalks.com and search for Katoomba to find plenty of walks in the area that are rated according to length and level of difficulty.

The West Australian

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