Flying into Ayers Rock Airport, it’s easy to see why indigenous Australians once thought the world was flat.
Stretched before me was an endless, arid landscape. The earth is scorched red and the country out here is harsh – hot, sandy, baron and yet incredibly beautiful.
The landscape is broken up by centuries old desert oak trees, set amongst the striking white salt lakes.
Welcome to Australia’s red centre.
Uluru, more commonly known by its European name, Ayers Rock, sits proud in the centre of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It straddles the Simpson Desert to the east, the Gibson Desert to the west.
Its climate is unforgiving with temperatures soaring up to 45-degrees Celsius in summer, with winters plummeting to chilly single digits. But the seasons are no determinant for the hundreds of thousands of global visitors to this sacred site each year in search of an authentic Australian outback experience.
The number one attraction by far is witnessing the dawn of a new day over the geological wonder. Tourists flock to large viewing platforms, jostling for prime position on the eastern side of Uluru pre-dawn. Their reward – a magical hour of ever changing colours as the sun peeks over the horizon, reflecting the mornings rays against both Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the distance.
Equally spectacular is sun set, where convenient roadside viewing areas give the perfect vantage point.
It may be remote in Australia’s red centre, but there are a surprising number of activities and attractions. During the day, enjoy one of the many free cultural demonstrations and activities around the town centre. Listen to Aboriginal elders share their unique and fascinating stories of the past and how they have lived off the land for centuries.
Other activities found in town square include art demonstrations, didgeridoo workshops, bush yarns and sign-posted garden walks that highlight the unique desert plant life.
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Keep an eye out for kangaroos and several bird species, and if it’s been raining, you may even spot the elusive echidna as it takes advantage of the abundance of ants that the rain brings to the surface.
Be sure to visit Kata Tjuta, a short 54-kilometres away, often referred to its European name – The Olgas. This massive landmark has towering cliffs and wide gorges that can be explored by foot. Along with Uluru, this area is sacred to the local Aboriginal people and is still used today for traditional ceremonies, initiations and a place for storytelling and education.
Other must-do activities include a sunrise or sunset camel trek through the desert sand dunes overlooking Uluru; dining under the stars at the Sounds of Silence dinner; walk or bicycle the base of Uluru; explore the many rock art displays that tell stories of life and legends; or take a helicopter or balloon ride over Uluru at sunrise or sunset.