There are bucket list experiences and then there's Uluru. No matter how many images you've seen, little can prepare you for the soul-stirring experience of basking in its vivid ochre glow for the first time. Mesmerising and life-changing, a visit to the Red Centre is a defining experience for all.
As looming stone structures rise up from barren, sunburnt plains, your heart will skip a beat as you begin your descent into Ayers Rock Airport. But, the natural wonders don't begin and end with Uluru. Equally impressive – and about 10 times the size – is Kata Tjuta (also known as the Olgas), a group of ancient stone monoliths. Together, these geological wonders are the namesakes of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
No doubt you'll be eager to give the camera a workout, but be mindful. The local Anangu tribe request any visitors to Uluru do not photograph certain sections, for reasons related to traditional beliefs, and rangers will point out these sites. Walk or cycle the 10-kilometre perimeter of Uluru, but think twice about climbing it. Not forbidden but certainly discouraged, its safety and environmental concerns make the 'to climb or not to climb' dilemma a simple decision. Instead, there are myriad ways to experience Uluru and Kata Tjuta's awe-inspiring splendour.
Start at the Cultural Centre where you can see and purchase traditional artworks, and learn about creation stories and the connection the Anangu have with the land. Then, dust off those walking shoes. Hike through Walpa Gorge at Kata Tjuta; and see Mutitjulu Waterhole, and examples of Anangu rock art, at the base of Uluru, a watering hole and home of a wanampi (ancestral watersnake).
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Their sheer beauty of these dusty rock faces is revealed in terracotta hues as the sun rises, and amplified as the sun sets in spectacular shades of crimson, gold, purple and blue. There are five viewing areas to choose from, but remember that some are reserved for tour groups from 4pm. For the ultimate 360-degree view of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta, head to Talinguru Nyakunytjaku where you have the choice of three shelters, two viewing platforms and a few kilometres of walking tracks to find a spot for that perfect shot.
Whether your penchant for luxury is 5-star service or simply a bed and roof over your head, Ayers Rock Resort features accommodation options for all budgets. Located just beyond the border of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, you have a wealth of options from this sprawling complex.
Get bird's-eye views with an Outback skydive or hop on a camel's back for a different perspective. And if you think bush tucker is all witchetty grubs, you're only partly mistaken.
Take the SEIT Bush Tucker tour from Ayers Rock Resort where you'll learn about the traditional delicacies of the land. Then of course, there's the revered Sounds of Silence experience, a dinner like no other served beneath a sparkling carpet of stars. A smorgasbord of indigenous-influenced fare, from the grassroots to the decadent, is fit for even the most discerning palate.
Pack a jacket! The aptly named Valley of the Winds and Walpa Gorge at Kata Tjuta turn into blistery wind tunnels, so if you're planning to visit before the sun hits, wear layers.
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