Imagine looking up and seeing an exquisite shawl draping down from the ceiling – except that it is rock-hard with crystals.
This is but one of the many awe-inspiring sights at the Jenolan Caves.
The calcite crystal formations here – columns and straws and entire coral beds – are breathtaking in their beauty, whether you’re seeing them for the first time or revisiting.
Equally delightful are the names of these structures: The Cathedral, Angels’ Wings, Wall of Noses, Diamond Branch, Crystal Cities, The Crystal Basin, Pillar of Hercules. (Don’t miss the jaw-dropping Indian Chamber and Indian Canopy.)
Set in Blue Mountains World Heritage wilderness, this labyrinth of caves is an exquisite natural wonder.
Jenolan is among the finest and oldest cave systems in the world, dated by scientists to be about 340 million years old.
It is some 3 and half hours’ drive from the Sydney CBD, 230 kms towards the west. Give yourself a full weekend, so that as you drive through the Blue Mountains, you can stop and marvel at the natural beauty of the other scenic spots here – 3 Sisters lookout, the scenic railway, and perhaps a meal at a specialty restaurant.
Beware of driving times though, as the road from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves is through the mountains and can be slow. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the awesome beauty of the mountains as you drive through the twists and turns.
The Jenolan Caves have been part of the local indigenous people culture for thousands of years. It came under government control in 1866, becoming only the second area in the world reserved for conservation.
In 1896, the grand hotel, Jenolan Caves House, was built as a wilderness retreat for the wealthy. A summer escape here became a favourite getaway activity.
Considerable changes have been made to the buildings over the years, but today Caves House is one of the finest large guest houses still functioning as tourist accommodation.
It caters to all wallets and tastes, from motel rooms to dorm rooms, with traditional English fare for breakfast and dinner.
A stay at this fabulously eerie spot will also allow you to stroll through the wild Aussie bush at dawn or at dusk – look out for native wildlife including quolls, wallabies and lyrebirds.
The Caves themselves are a spectacular experience. Guided tours take you inside the dried-up river systems. Caves such as the Imperial and Diamond are easy-grade walks, an excellent choice if you’re not quite as mobile as you once were. Follow an ancient riverbed, mostly level, with short sets of stairs. For a more adventurous experience, try the Plughole – abseil, squeeze, crawl and climb deep into the heart of the mountain, with only a headlamp to light your way. Feel the excitement! Emerge with a brand new swagger and that special exhilaration that only authentic adventure can provide. Tour guides guide you step by step, so no experience needed.
Some interesting Jenolan Caves Facts
- The Jenolan Caves is one of the most extensive and complex limestone cave systems in the world
- It is known as Binoomea or ‘Dark Places’ by the Gundungurra tribes of Australia
- It houses more than 300 subterranean chambers formed in a limestone belt
- There are nine caves open to the public which can be viewed only on a tour
- Popular tours include the 2 ½-hr ghost tour and adventure tour
- Classical concerts are also held in the caves which are a sonic revelation
- The caves are an impressive amalgamation of stalactites, stalagmites, and underground rivers and pools
- Hikers can undertake the 42km Six Foot Track from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves over two to three days
Make the awesome Jenolan Caves your next weekend away.
For more information www.visitnsw.com/feelnew