With the literal groundbreaking news that Jetstar Airways is now landing in Uluru’s Ayers Rock Airport direct from Brisbane, a holiday has never been easier. We’ve found that we sadly tend to overlook holidaying in the great country we live in, with exotic European destinations always whisking us away. We couldn’t think of a bigger tragedy than any True Blue Aussie not having seen the magnificence that is Ayers Rock. We all grew up with stories of the big red rock that happened to be situated almost smack-bang in the centre of Australia. What many don’t know is that Uluru was dual-named in 1993 both Ayers Rock and Uluru (does this count as two places off the bucket list?). Surrounded by rock caves, springs, giant rock formations, waterholes and ancient paintings, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is Australia’s most recognisable landmark and most prominent tourist attraction for a reason.
This red centre of the Northern Territory is identifiable as you first fly over the rust coloured flat terrain, with little but a snaking river breaking the red formations. Your first site of Ayers Rock will be from the plane, which we think is pretty damn special, with the airport situated not far from the rock. Uluru’s formation over 550 million years ago is still sacred to the indigenous Australian’s that inhabit it and the areas surrounding. It is filled with culture, history, knowledge and adventure – a recipe for the perfect holiday destination. Channel those inner Nicole Kidman vibes and pack your linen neutrals, a solid wide brim and a pair of hiking boots for a weekend of adventure like none other.
Things to Note:
Uluru is a very accessible place. The cultural centre surrounds all accommodation spots and is just a short drive from the park. You can easily get around without cars as tours all begin at accommodation sites and there are free airport transfers.
What to Do:
The Cultural Centre
Open 7am to 6pm daily, you can start your journey with visitor guides, tours, cafes, artworks, souvenirs, picnic areas and environment information. There are free cultural and nature presentations at 10am on weekdays and a free daily ranger-guided Mala Walk at various times.
The art installation next to Uluru that began in 2016 has, once again, been extended until December 2020 due to demand. Named ‘Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku’ which aptly translates to ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ the art phenomenon was created by Bruce Munro. Munro poetically says the inspiration started as “a landscape of illuminated stems that, like the dormant seed in a dry desert, quietly wait until darkness falls, under a blazing blanket of southern stars, to bloom with gentle rhythms of flight.”
You’ll drive through the bush in the pitch of night with hoards of other busses. The great expanses of a dark black sky above you are illuminated not only by the Milky Way but also by the most incandescent stars you have ever seen. Upon arriving at the Field of Lights, somehow, the beauty of the sky dims in comparison to the installation before you. Seven fields of 50,000 handmade lights are a symphony on the desert sands, ebbing and fluctuating deep and gentle shades. As you walk through the designated paths you will be in a world of wonder at the spectacle that surrounds you. Wait till light cracks and you’ll see the shape of Uluru start to appear behind the lights.
Sounds of Silence
Dinner in the desert is not something you’d forget quickly. Dining under a canopy of stars, the desert night will create an electrifying ambience. Your own storyteller will share tales of Aboriginal culture, and a traditional dance performance will show you a new appreciation for the Oz outback.
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Arrays of different walks through the park are available in different difficulties and lengths. We recommend the 7.4 kilometre Valley of the Winds tour. While difficult, this four-hour full circuit tour makes sure you won’t miss a thing. We can guarantee you will never feel more immersed in nature than in those four magical hours. You’ll make your way through rock formations, past local flora, idyllic grass expanses and many inhabiting Australian animals.
The base camp of Uluru is a pretty incredible vantage point. Spanning over 10 kilometres, what better way to take it all in than on a high tech Segway tour around the red dusted pathways? There is no better place to learn to ride a Segway, devoid of cars and people on footpaths (yes, Segway tours on West End footpaths are never a good idea).
For a more nature-centred tour, hop on a camel! Whip out the sunglasses, scarves and wide-brimmed hat because there is no better-suited form of transportation in the desert. Starting from $80 you can hop on your handmade saddle (that takes a whopping 30 hours to make in-house), and ride your way around the national park. This is a more camera-friendly option with both hands available to take photos!
The Car Sunset Viewing is the only place to watch the colour changes on Uluru at sunset (which means silhouette at sunrise). Enough said.
Sunrise at Lookout
Uluru is thrown into silhouette at the Kata Tjuta Dune viewing spot, while the peaks of Kata Tjuta slowly illuminate nearby with the soft warm morning light. It will make the cold and dark early wake up well worth it.
Climbing the Rock
An answer has been thrown back and forth with questions still arising. Yes, while legally it can be climbed, it is considered disrespectful to the locals, but more importantly extremely dangerous. The local Ananhu do not climb the rock but are concerned with climbers attempting in the extreme climate. So go at your own risk!
Where to Stay:
Longitude 131 is perhaps the most exotic glamping spot you could think of. This desert basecamp at Uluru-Kata Tjuta is what dreams are made of. Waking up in a luxurious ‘tent’ or the Dune Pavilion every morning with the sun silhouetting Ayers Rock is a pretty magical rise. From $1,500 per night, this is one to save up for to make your Uluru escapade simply unforgettable. If that breaks the bank a little too much, opt for a simple cabin nearby!
Immerse yourself in Australian history, creation stories, indigenous traditions and red soil. The heart of Australia is now a simple flight away.
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