If you intend to explore areas away from the towns and villages on the train line, a car is a must. Hire one from the city before you leave or from Sydney Airport, where all the major companies have a desk. Try Hertz (www.hertz.com.au). The drive west from Sydney to Katoomba takes two hours, but you can reach the south-western areas of the Mountains in just over an hour.
Sydney's CityRail service (www.cityrail.info) runs regularly between Central Station and the Blue Mountains, stopping at most of the villages, including Katoomba, the largest town, two hours' away.
The international code for Australia is 61. Blue Mountains: 02 (drop the zero if calling from overseas).
Norman Lindsay's classic children's picture book The Magic Pudding was written in 1917 to settle an argument with his friend Bertram Stevens about whether children would rather read about fairies or food. Food won. After Sydney was colonised, many tried to cross the natural barrier of the Mountains to access the fertile plains beyond, but it wasn't until May 1813 that Gregory Blaxland, William Wentworth and William Lawson made it. Blaxland-Lawson-Wentworth 1813 by Joanna Armour tells their story.
Do go / Don't Go
The Mountains cool climate makes for a refreshing summer retreat, but chillier winter days can still be sunny with blue skies (or atmospherically misty), plus you'll find trails and lookouts less crowded. Weekends are busy with day-trippers from the city, but even during winter when the temperature really drops, it's still worth visiting to experience Yulefest (also called Christmas in July).
The rugged terrain dotted by a series of fertile ridges has seen small operations flourish, predominantly fruit and vegetable growers. The region has also been influenced by the Slow Food Movement and in March 2007 was granted Cittaslow status. The results can be found throughout the area, with growers, makers and chefs promoting local produce.
Several cab companies service different parts of the Blue Mountains. From Wentworth Falls to Mount Victoria, try Katoomba Radio Cabs (+61 (0)2 4782 1311); between Hazelbrook and Lawson, call Blue Mountains Taxi Cabs (+61 (0)2 4759 3000).
Like most parts of Australia, tipping is not expected, although leaving a 10 per cent gratuity is always appreciated.
Australian dollars (AU$).
A worn-in pair of hiking boots, plenty of memory cards for your camera (to document the views) and an alarm clock so you can get up for one of the spectacular sunrises.
He was an artist, cartoonist and writer, and one of Australia's most celebrated creative figures. Norman Lindsay moved to the Blue Mountains in 1901, and in 1912 he and his second wife Rose bought a beautiful property they renamed Springwood. Lindsay died in 1969, but the house and its garden, in Faulconbridge, were turned into the Norman Lindsay Gallery & Museum (+61 (0)2 4751 1067; www.normanlindsay.com.au) in the early 1970s and has been open to the public ever since. See his work - sculptures, watercolours, ceramics and ship models - on display.
Those with a sweet tooth should visit The Candy Store (+61 (0)2 4782 5190; www.candystore.com.au), Shop 6, 178 The Mall, in the upmarket village of Leura. The walls are lined with lollies from rock candy to saltwater taffy, English fudge and eucalyptus drops.
Those who love antiques and collectables could spend days visiting all the outlets in the Mountains, but if you're in a hurry head to Blackheath. Here, you'll find a couple of smaller stores, such as The Old Tythe Barn (+61 (0)2 4787 7284) at 266 Great Western Highway and The Manor House Antiques (+61 (0)2 4787 5700) at 27-29 Govetts Leap Road. For total bang for your buck, however, go to the Victory Theatre Antique Centre at 17-19 Govetts Leap Road (+61 (0)2 4787 6002). Housed in a 1920s theatre with a Jenny Kee mural painted on its side, it has the collections of a range of different antique dealers on display - everything from colonial furniture to 1960s fashion and jewellery.
Head to the west side of the Blue Mountains, 10 kilometres south of Lithgow, and you come to Hassans Wall Lookout. At 1,130 metres above sea level, it's the highest scenic lookout in the Blue Mountains. From here you can see Mounts Wilson, York, Tarana and Blaxland, as well as the Megalong Valley, Kanimbla and Mount Bindo to the south. Alternatively, for the Blue Mountain's most popular site, visit Echo Point in Katoomba, which looks out over the Three Sisters, an iconic trio of rocky pinnacles in a vertiginous Grand Canyon-style setting.
It's a six kilometre walk from the Glenbrook Visitor Centre, but the Red Hands Cave, discovered in 1913 by a search party looking for a lost child, is an important Aboriginal art site. Stencils of hands created using red ochre and dating back between 500 and 1,600 years are now protected by a viewing window.
February Officially, agricultural event the Oberon Show (www.oberonfestivals.com.au) is for showing off all kind of animals and crops, but there are also sideshow rides, arts and crafts, bull riding and the Miss Showgirl competition. April Ironfest (www.ironfest.com.au) is all about metal, but not the sort with guitars, long hair and disenfranchised youth. For two days blacksmithing, jousting, battle recreations, automobile exhibitions and wood-chopping competitions take over the Lithgow Showgrounds. June Throughout the month, the Winter Magic Festival (www.wintermagic.com.au) features short films, music events, an annual ball and other fun happenings, transforming Katoomba. June-August Since Christmas falls in the middle of summer in Australia, having a second celebration, Yulefest (www.yulefest.com), has become a tradition in the Mountains. Many venues serve up turkey, carols and egg nog fireside. October When spring arrives so do the flowers, so the entire town of Leura turns its thoughts to gardens, visitors, music and arts for the Leura Gardens Festival (www.leuragardensfestival.com.au).