Ultimate Karijini National Park Guide

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Australia, Ecotourism, National Parks, Oceania

Karijini National Park is a hidden gem full of stunning gorges, wildlife and natural swimming holes. Find out everything you need to know.

Visiting Karijini National Park was one of my favorite adventures in Australia. The national park is one of my favorite places on earth and absolutely magical. The landscape with its picturesque red gorges, natural swimming holes, and red rocks is amazing.

As a matter of fact, it is my favorite place in Australia followed by the cliffs of Sydney and Rottnest Island. Therefore I can only encourage you to add it to your Western Australia road trip itinerary. You won’t regret it! Karijini is a piece of heaven and a real hidden gem that many have never heard of.

Back in 2018, I spend three days in Karijini, and I would have loved to stay longer. While there, I did most of class 4 and 5 gorge hikes and they were some of the greatest hikes I did in my life. The length of the individual hikes might be short, but the things you will see will leave you breathless.

I really hope that you will love Karijini National Park as much as I do if you decide to visit it. And do not forget to bring swimwear and a towel. Swimming in the crystal clear rock pools after a hike is incredible.

Fortescue Falls, Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park

How long to stay in Karijini National Park?

Spend at least 3 days there to do most of what the national park has to offer.

If you want to visit Karijini National Park after reading this Karijini Guide, you can find 3 days in Karijini itinerary at the bottom of this post.

But if you feel like venturing even further of the beaten track, you should add at least another day. Doing so allows you to explore more remote gorges or potentially the abandoned town Wittenoom just outside of the national park.

Karijini National Park Facts

Karijini National Park is set in the Hamersley Range in the Pilbara region. It is 75km E from Tom Price, about 4 hours from Port Hedland (325km), and 9 hours from Exmouth. With a size of 6.274 km², it is Western Australia’s second-largest national park.

Before the Karijini National Park was renamed in 1991 to recognize the historic significance of the area to the Aboriginal people, it was known as Hamersley National Park. To this day the park is a significant place for its traditional owners.

Therefore: Please pay respect to the cultural and environmental value of certain areas and mind the signs in the park.

Karijini National Park Gorges
Gorge in Karijini National Park

The large diversity within Karijini National Park can be traced back to fire stick farming by the Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. You can learn more about this at the Karijini National Park Visitors Center, so do not forget to stop there when you visit the park.

You can find a map of Karijini here.

Karijini National Park Map

Karijini National Park Entrance Fee

Visiting Karijini National Park is rather affordable. If you plan to spend more than 4 days in Karijini or want to explore other national parks in Western Australia, it is best to buy the Holiday Pass.

National Park Pass: 12 AUD per day per car (max. 12 people)

Holiday Pass: 60 AUD (valid for 4 weeks and all national parks in Western Australia)

Things to do before you explore Karijini

Plan out your trip there in advance and check if your vehicle can drive on all the roads as some of them are unsealed. Therefore it might be better to exit the park and reenter it at a different location. So take the driving time into account. You do not want to miss out on things because you run out of time.

There are no real shops within the park, so you should buy food and drinks before you head there. Hereby it is best to do so in Tom Price or Port Hedland as these cities have the best prices. The fuel station east of Karijini has a small selection of groceries as does Karijini Eco Retreat, but the prices there are steep.

Stop at the Karijini Visitor center when you enter the eastern side of the park. The staff there will be able to give you useful information and you can learn more about the history of this national park in Western Australia.

Karijini National Park Landscape full of flowers

Karijini National Park Tours

If you do not feel like venturing into the gorges of Karijini on your own, you should check out the tours organized by West Oz Active Adventure Tours. Aside from simple gorge tours, they also offer tours to level 6 areas that are not accessible to the general public and photography tours.

My road trip crew and I actually met one of their guides at the very start of our trip in Broome, so we got a free gorge tour when he and a friend had a day off. They accompanied us in the first gorge and told us what to look out for. It really boosted my confidence to explore the other gorges without a guide. Therefore I can recommend joining one of their gorge tours if you have no prior experience or just want to brush up on your skills.

I love canyoning and dream of doing the Weano Descent with the company during my next visit to Karijini.

The Best Time to visit Karijini National Park

The best time to visit Karijini National Park is between April and October. The temperatures are lower and there is less rain. The days are warm, but the nights can get very cold due to the high location of the camping grounds. During the summer months, the temperatures often exceed 40 degrees celsius and it rains a lot. Therefore it is best to avoid these months.

Karijini National Park Accommodation

By now there are three camping sites within Karijini National Park and several free ones nearby, which you can easily find with the Wiki Camps Australia app. Due to the stunning scenery, the national park has some of the best camping in Western Australia. This might just be my opinion, but I loved seeing the wildflowers and how close the camping spots are to the gorges.

The booking process for the two parks and wildlife campgrounds was altered in 2019. Therefore it is necessary to book your stay in advance. You can do so up to 180 days in advance, so it is best to plan ahead.

Karijini National Park Camping

Dales Gorge Campground

Flowers Karijini Camping in Western Australia

Cost: 11$ p.p./night

When your camping at Dales Gorge Campground you will want to forgo pegs and use rocks instead as the ground is very dry and using pegs will be impossible. We attempted to use pegs and they ended up unusable for the rest of our trip.

There are toilets at this campground, but no showers. However, you can just jump into one of the natural pools to freshen up. Please just do not use shampoo or other things.

If you do want to shower, you have to drive to the Visitors Center and use their showers for a small fee (4 AUD). Just check the opening times before you drive there, so you do not stand in front of closed doors.

Arrive early if you want to explore Karijini National Park during the school holidays. Otherwise, you might have to wait a bit until you can drive to your pre-booked camping spot at Dales Gorge Campground.

The campsites here have different sizes, so be sure to book one that suits your preference. Generators are only permitted at two of the six loops, so only book the Bungarra and Cockatoo loop if you need one. The official map of the campground should help you select a site.

Dales Gorge Campground Map

Map of Dales Gorge Campground in Karijini National Park. Camping in Western Australia

Karijini Overflow Camping

The Karijini Overflow Campground is the newest campsite and located around 10 km away from Dales Campground. It is close to the visitors center and you can use the showers there for a small fee. This campsite is only open during the peak periods.

Cost: 11 AUD p.p./night

You can book a camping spot at Karijini Overflow Camping on the Park Stay WA website. Keep in mind that you can only park one vehicle per booking, so be sure to book your stay accordingly.

I have not been to this campsite as it was established after my Western Australia road trip. However the reviews of this campground are great, so you should opt for this one if you do not mind the short drive to Dales Gorge.

It is not possible to stay at the Karijini Overflow Camping campsite for more than two days. If you wish to spend more time in Karijini, you can easily book further nights at the other two campgrounds.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I/we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see the full disclosure for further information.

Karijini Eco Retreat

Karijini Eco Retreat is a retreat that promotes sustainable tourism. It has a restaurant in the main building and a small shop where you can buy food.

You can camp there for $20 per person or stay in a deluxe tent, whereby prices vary between $189 and $349, so check the current price online before you arrive. All camping plots have access to hot showers that use rainwater.

Be mindful of the sleeping times as the management does not take kindly to groups it considers to be loud after hours. Do yourself a favor and do not play music even if the volume is turned down.

We experienced a bit of a situation at this retreat that involved a noise complaint, and to this day I am not entirely sure how to explain the situation. If you want to know more about it, you can read my guest post for ShareBus.

Hike Ratings

There are hikes of varying levels in Karijini National Park and the ratings follow the Australian standard. Class 2 hikes are walks on hardened surfaces and possibly a small amount of steps. Meanwhile class 3 might have some unstable surfaces and conditions depend on the weather. Both of these levels are rather easy one require little to no physical effort aside from walking.

Hikes of class 4 consist of natural tracks so do not expect even surfaces. Meanwhile, class 5 hikes are rough terrain and require a high level of fitness. Some outdoor experience is recommended. Do not do these hikes if the weather conditions are bad as it can get incredibly dangerous.

As you are hiking in gorges, there is a risk of flash floods so leave the area as soon as heavy rain sets in if you have already started the hike.

Karijini National Park Gorges and Things to Do

Please be careful while exploring the gorges: while I was there with a group of amazing women, a tour guide told us how hard it is to rescue someone that injures themselves in the gorges. And I honestly do not want to be responsible for adding to their workload. So please heed the warning signs.

I want to give you an overview of everything one can do at my favorite place in Australia, so this guide includes some things that I have yet to do. But I will tackle them once I return there.

Mount Bruce (Punurrunha)

Mount Bruce is the second highest mountain of Western Australia with a height of 1235m. There are various hikes on Mount Bruce and I recommend starting all of the just after sunrise. Hereby all three hikes start at the car park and both the Honey Hakea Track and Summit Hike pass Marandoo View.

Marandoo View: 500m, 30 minutes (Class 3)

Honey Hakea Track: 4.6 km, 3 hours return (Class 3)

Summit Hike: 9 km, 6h return (Class 4) – amazing view over mountain range

Hamersley Gorge

Hamersley Gorge is located in the Northwest of the national park. It is the most remote gorge and quite far away from the other gorges of Karijini. It is a 400 meters long trail that takes around 1 hour. It ends at the picturesque Hamersley Waterfall at the Spa Pool.

A 4WD is recommended for the drive to the car park, but if you drive slowly, a 2WD is sufficient.

Weano Gorge

Handrail Pool: 1 km, 1.5 h

Weano Gorge just before Handrail Pool

The starting point of this Karijini hike is the Weano car park. It starts out as class 3 and turns into a class 5 hike when you walk through a narrow passage.

The last part of the trail just before the Handrail Pool can be slippery so watch where you step.

As you climb down to Handrail Pool, you will have to hold on to a handrail. From above it looks a lot harder than it is, so do not worry about it. If you have made it this far, you will be able to do it. And the reward of swim between the high towering red walls is just incredible.

If you swim through the pool, you can continue the hike to its nearby ending point. Be aware of the fact that the water here is colder than in the other natural pools of Karijini National Park. So please do not just jump in and allow you body to get used to the water temperature – especially if the air temperature breaches 40 degrees celsius.

Swimming in this natural pool was one of my favorite moments in Karijini. I can only recommend floating in the water and looking up towards the towering red walls of the gorge that seem to frame the sky.

Handrail Pool Karijini National Park
Handrail Pool: swim surrounded by red rock walls
The Handrail at Handrail Pool in Karijini National Park

Hancock Gorge

The Hancock Gorge hike also starts at Weano car park and is divided into two parts. The first part is class 3, while the rest of the gorge hike is class 5. You will have no choice but to walk through water, so only bring gear that you don’t mind getting wet or a waterproof bag.

Bring a waterproof camera as you will definitely want to take picture.

Keep your shoes on while walking through the gorge or you will slip. I decided to take mine off at one point and ended up regretting it after the first few meters.

Hancock Gorge – Part 1: 135 meters, 10 minutes return

The easy part of the hike ends at a ladder. If you climb down, you will proceed to part 2.

Hancock Gorge – Part 2: 200 meters, 45 minutes return

Kermit’s Pool, Hancock Gorge

This is the best part of Hancock Gorge as it includes places know as Amphitheatre, the Spider Walk, and Kermit’s Pool. I especially loved Kermit’s Pool which marks the end of the trail.

Karijini National Park Gorges Class 6 Connection

The area beyond Kermit’s Pool has a class 6 rating. Those that want to enter it have to obtain permission from the rangers of Karijini National Park.

Several years ago, the area used to be accessible and it was possible to do a loop through Hancock Gorge and Weano Gorge via the Junction Pool. However, this part of the gorge is way too dangerous for normal hikers and many injuries have occurred there.

It might seem tempting to attempt it anyway, but I under no circumstances recommend it. Please think of those that have to rescue you if you injure yourself and do not do it.

Joffre Gorge

You can reach Joffre Gorge via a path from Karijini Eco Retreat or by walking there from the day parking lot of the gorge. The two paths approach the gorge from different sides, so the length of the hikes can vary.

The first part of the track towards Joffre Falls is rather easy even if it is class 4. At least if you do not mind climbing down some bigger boulders that form a path into the gorge.

Hiker standing close to cliff in Western Australia Joffrey Gorge
‘Joffre View’ – the last stop before the final descent

The last climb of the Joffre Falls hike is level 5 and starts at the area of Joffre View, an in-official viewpoint. It is the place where many stop their hike. After all, the final cliff is quite steep and the climb is not for the faint of heart. You have to scramble down some rock slates and at times you have to feel where to place your feet rather than see it. Therefore it is best not to climb down if no one is with you.

Do yourself a favor and closely follow the arrows that indicate where you should climb down. You can do a minor detour for the first ‘step’ by climbing down to the right of the first descent. After that, the official route is the only safe option.

Climbing down the cliff is worth the amazing view that awaits you, but only do it if you are wearing sturdy shoes and are confident that you will be able to do it. I personally would rank the short climb the hardest thing I did in Karijini National Park. I loved it, but it was hard to make myself do it as the exact path is not obvious before you actually climb down the individual passages.

If you do not feel like climbing down you can just walk to the lookout to see the falls and the amphitheater from above. Do not force yourself to do it if you are not confident enough in your skills. Out of the ten of us, only four did the final descent to the pool downstream of Joffre waterfall.

The falls are rarely more than a trickle if you visit Karijini months after the wet season. Nonetheless, standing at the foot of the falls is amazing. The area is a natural amphitheater with curved walls and just impressive.

I absolutely loved standing at the foot of Joffre Falls and think it was well worth the climb. I can only recommend it to you. That is if you are experienced enough to do so and have proper footwear.

Be aware of the fact that it is not allowed to climb up the waterfall.

Joffre Lookout: 100 meters, 10 minutes return

Joffre Falls: 3 km, 2 hours return (class 5)

Joffre Falls hike: part of the final climb from below
Amphitheater at Joffre Falls, Karijini National Park

Knox Gorge

Knox Lookout: 300 meters, 15 minutes return

Gorge Hike: 2 km, 3 h return trail (class 4)

Dales Gorge

Gorge Rim: 2 km, 1.5 h

Dales Gorge: 2 km, 3 h return

Circular Pool: 800 meters, 2 hours return (class 4)

Circular Pool is the natural pool visited by the largest amount of people, but if you go there in the hour before sunset, you might be lucky enough to be the only one there.

Fortescue Falls

Fortescue Falls Waterfall
Fortescue Falls, Dales Gorge

The walk to Fortescue Falls is 800 meters long and a return trip should take an hour. There are metal staircases that lead you down into the gorge and right towards the falls. You can swim here, so it is the perfect place to cool off in the heat of the day.

Fern Pool (Jubura)

Fern Pool is only a 300m walk away from Fortescue Falls. And while this section is classed as class 4 it is fairly easy and absolutely worth it. Especially as Jubura is the only permanent waterfall in the park.

Once there, you can enter the water using a ladder and swim to the waterfall. It is a very serene location and sitting in the little cave under the waterfall is incredibly peaceful.

The pool is very important to the local Indigenous people, so please be quiet and respectful while swimming there.

I can only encourage you to visit Fern Pool as the sun is setting. The fading sunlight alters the colors of the area and it only makes this area of Karijini National Park more special.

Fern Pool, near Dales Gorge Campground, Karijini National Park

Kalamina Gorge

Kalamina Gorge is the shallowest gorge of Karijini. It is a class 4 hike, but considered to be a perfect introduction hike. As you venture through the gorge you walk along a stream and ponds. The trail ends at Rock Arch Pool and is is 3 km long and takes 3 h. However you will need a 4WD to access this gorge.

Oxer Lookout & Junction Pool Lookout

These two lookouts are located close to each other and there is a narrow trail connecting these two. They are close to the Weano Recreational Area and getting there is an 800 meters long return walk that takes 30 minutes.

Junction Pool Lookout is 130 meters high and allows you a view of the junction of the Joffre, Hancock, Weano, and Red Gorges.

The view these viewpoints offer you is stunning so be sure to visit. While I was at the Junction Pool Lookout a flock of birds flew through the gorge and it only added to the scenery.

Gorges of Karijini as seen from above
Junction Pool, Karijini National Park

Wittenoom

I personally did not visit Wittenoom as our car could not handle the road there, but it was recommended to us by locals. Wittenoom, close to Karijini National Park, is an abandoned town with only two remaining citizens. However, visiting this place is not without danger.

It is up to you if you want to visit it, but be aware of the possible health hazard due to asbestos mining between 1937 and 1966. There are many warning signs that advise you not to do it, but it is possible.

In its natural state, the blue asbestos is harmless and only its dust is lethal. Therefore some say that going there is fine as long as you are not planning on throwing dirt in the air or eating something that has fallen to the ground. However, inhaling a single asbestos fiber can be deadly.

In the end, I cannot tell you what you should do. Please do your own research before you decide to visit Wittenoom. If you decide to go, do not camp there and leave the area once you have explored the ghost town. Furthermore, it might be a good idea to wear a mask while exploring the town.

The condition of the road there varies. So if you decide to go to Wittenoom, I recommend inquiring about its condition at the fuel station close to the national park. In general, it is best not to drive there with a normal rental, but a 4WD will easily handle the road there.

I admittedly was not sure if I should include Wittenoom in this Karijini National Park guide. But in the end, I figured that locals might recommend it to you too. Therefore I prefer it if you have some general knowledge of the danger. Do your research and make an informed decision.

Yampire Gorge (closed)

If you own an old travel guide, it might still list Yampire Gorge and its’ trails. Please be aware that this gorge is closed to the public due to the high amount of asbestos. Do not try to enter this area. It is even more dangerous than exploring Wittenoom.

What to Bring to Karijini National Park

  • first aid kit
  • sufficient freshwater (at least 3l of water per person per day & enough water to cook and clean the dishes
  • headlamp
  • good and sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting wet (for level 4+ trails)
  • walking shoes or trainers for all other walks
  • cap
  • sunscreen
  • swimwear and microfiber towels
  • a good and sturdy camera (like the Olympus TG6)
  • fly net
  • hiking backpack
  • trash bags (as it’s not possible to dispose of trash at the camping spots or elsewhere)
Karijini Jubura
Fern Pool, Dales Gorge

Additional Information

Phone Reception in Karijini National Park

It is likely that that you won’t have cell phone reception while you’re in the park. Telstra is the company with the best reception off the beaten track. But even with Telstra, I had no reception except for a very limited service at the camping places.

Therefore it is recommended to download a map of the area before you head to the national park. Additionally, you should always let someone know where you are if you plan to explore the gorges on your own.

3 Days in Karijini National Park Itinerary

Day 1: Dales Gorge Area

The drive to Karijini National Park is quite long, so plan a slow first day on the east side of the national park.

Visit the Visitors Center before heading to Dales Gorge. Set up camp and start exploring Dales Gorge.

My tip: Head to Fern Pool just before sunset. The colors you will see are incredible. Just bring a flashlight in case you stay a little bit too long.

Accommodation: Dales Gorge Campground or Karijini Overflow Campground

Wildflowers in Karijini National Park

Day 2 in Karijini National Park: Hancock Gorge, Weano Gorge, Joffrey Gorge, Knox Gorge, Kalamina Gorge

Weano Gorge: avoiding the slippery ground

If you plan to do the longest hikes in the individual gorges, you will not be able to explore all gorges. Therefore you have to decide which ones you want to do the most. Additionally, you should consider which Karijini National Park gorges are the best fit for your personal experience and skill level.

This day includes my personal highlights in the national park and if you want to extend your stay, I would recommend adding another day exploring these gorges.

My recommendation:

Start out your day with Hancock Gorge and Weano Gorge. They are both incredibly stunning and a must if you feel fit enough. I absolutely loved both of them.

Afterwards you should head towards Karijini Eco Retreat which is situated close to Joffrey Gorge and do one of the hikes there.

Accommodation: Karijini Eco Retreat

Day 3: Mount Bruce, Hamersley Gorge

Mount Bruce is located outside of the limits of the national park, so it is best to do it as you leave the national park. It is recommended to woke up early if you want to do the summit hike.

If you want to do more after the Mount Bruce hike, you can head to Hamersley Gorge which is approximately 57 km away.

Accommodation: Tom Price Tourist Park

More Things to see in Western Australia

See the Monkey Mia Dolphins

Exploring Western Australia Through Photos

Kalbarri National Park

Will you visit Karijini National Park?

While there are many incredible places in Australia, Karijini National Park is one of my top five recommendations for everyone that visits the country. It is such a unique place and if you love exploring gorges and natural pools you are bound to love it.

It is more than worth the detour to get there and should be a part of every Western Australia itinerary. After all, it is a real hidden gem of Australia and unparalleled in its natural beauty.

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25 thoughts on “Ultimate Karijini National Park Guide”

  1. Looks well worth a visit. I got as far north as Kalbarri National Park and love some of the walking. I’d love to have the time to get to to Karijini and follow some of your suggestions.

    Reply
  2. Wow, what a picturesque national park! I would love to explore it some day and photograph it as well. I didn’t know much about this national park prior to reading your post. I’m bookmarking this for future reference!

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  3. It looks really amazing, and I’m sure that in person it’s much more beautiful and exciting than in the photos. Thank you for taking us with you in this experience, and great photos by the way, they do look awesome 🙂

    Reply
  4. I am planning a *potential* trip back to Australia at the end of this year or early next year and this was such a good thing to have on my radar! I’ve been to Perth before but obviously WA is so large that I knew there were other beautiful places to visit, but I really didn’t know what until I read this post. The gorges in Karijini are stunning. I think I’d definitely do one of those group tours!

    Reply
  5. Wow, at 40C, I would probably never get out of the pool. Your point is well taken as being overheated and jumping into cold water is never a good idea.

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    • That’s why it was so important to me to mention it. It is incredible to swim there, but no one should endanger themselves to have a great time in Karijini.

      Reply
  6. Karijini looks like so much fun,. I’m a big nature person. I love that it has hikes for all skill levels. The pools look amazing, would love to spend the afternoon there.

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  7. Wow, this looks like a beautiful and worthwhile park to visit! All the gorges are so pretty, especially the ones you can swim in after the hike. Seems like a pretty intense but rewarding camping experience.

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  8. I had never heard of Karijni before finding this post… You really opened my eyes. Next time I’m in Australia, I’m going to put it on my list!

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    • Please let me know if you liked or loved it!
      Karijini really is my favorite place on earth and it makes me so happy to hear that you’ll add it to your list

      Reply
  9. Okay, this looks seriously amazing. I’ve never been to Australia and I feel like it has so many hidden treasures. Your photos kind of remind me of the American Southwest. If you’ve been to the American Southwest, did you feel it was similar?

    Reply
  10. I can see why this is one of your favorite places in Australia. Among the Gorges Hancock Gorge is my favorite, and it will be so relaxing to deep into the water after a tiring hike. The pictures are fantastic.

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    • You honestly should not worry too much about the animals in Australia. I lived there for 5 months and only ever saw 5 snakes. And they were in the middle of nowhere. I did not see a single venomous spider. And the sharks are just cute puppies of the ocean

      I did not encounter anything dangerous in Karijini National Park and only saw one tiny snake in Western Australia even if I free camped in the middle of nowhere for 3 weeks.

      Reply
    • Both of the pools really are amazing.

      The biggest national park in Western Australia is Karlamilyi National Park. It is more than twice as large as Karijini and is the second largest one in Australia (after Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory).

      Reply
  11. This is such a helpful guide! I’ve always wanted to go to Australia but I’ve got a paralysing fear of snakes which hold me back. However, when I over come it, I’ll definitely do a road trip and check out the national parks!

    Reply
    • I hope you manage to overcome your fear of snakes. Australia is an incredible country and more than worth a visit. Or a lot of trips there!

      If it helps: in all of the months I spend in Australia (in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales), I only ever saw 3 snakes. And none of them were dangerous.
      The entire dangerous animals in Australia is seriously overdone. Just keep your eyes open as you explore the country and read up on what would happen in the unlikely case of a venomous snake bite. 🙂

      Reply
  12. I would so love to go here one day! Australia has been high on my bucket list for a while. It’s just that flights are always so high to get there.

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  13. What a beautiful national park. Those gorges look stunning! What an amazing experience. I’m adding this to the bucket list! Thanks for the fantastic guide!

    Hannah | GetLost . Blog

    Reply
  14. Those gorges look amaaaazing for hiking (and swimming!) I can totally see why you loved this area so much. I think I would be tempted to do the longer hikes, so we might have to stay a bit longer to see everything. 🙂

    Reply

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