Ayers Rock (Uluru) and Alice Springs
Ever wondered why countless vacationers would journey far and wide, just to look at a rock? Travel to Uluru to discover why, and experience the essence of ancient Australian culture. Also known as Ayers Rock or simply just “The Rock,” Uluru is a large sandstone formation in Australia’s Northern Territory and one of the country’s most recognizable natural landmarks.
A sacred part of Aborigine creation mythology, the majestic monolith is a treasured icon to local Aboriginal people, (the Anangu) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for both its cultural significance and geological uniqueness. As the symbol of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre, (called so for the distinct red-colored soil and sparse greenery in the region) Uluru rivals the Sydney Harbor Bridge and Opera House as the best known tourist icon in Australia.
Rising like an island out of the sea of barren desert, Uluru is the largest monolith on earth. Standing 1,142 feet above the desert floor, and spanning 1.9 miles from east to west, 1.2 miles wide, and 5.8 miles around its base, the rock sits about 280 miles south of the town of Alice Springs, in Kata Tjuta National Park.
Kata Tjuta, also known as Mount Olga, or colloquially as The Olgas, are a group of large domed rock formations, 36 in all, covering an area of nearly nine square miles. Mount Olga is the highest point in the area, measuring almost 3,500 feet above sea level.
Uluru has many caves and crevices to explore, some decorated with rock art depicting Aboriginal Dreamtime myths dating back thousands of years. Over the years, control of the area has traded back and forth between the Australian government and the Anangu, and though it is now entirely owned by the Anangu, it is leased out to and jointly operated by Parks Australia.
The Anangu people prefer visitors to respect Uluru’s cultural significance and to refrain from climbing the rock. However, those who insist on climbing must be in good shape, as it is .9 mile from the base to the summit with some very steep sections along the way. The climb can be dangerous, and it is closed when there is rain or high winds.
Alice Springs, the gateway to Kata Tjuta Park, is a thriving outback town famous for its remote location, rustic buildings, and an inordinately high ‘tourist to local’ ratio, as most people stop by for a night on their way to see Uluru. An oasis of civilization in an otherwise unbroken expanse of desert, the town is a hub for galleries and events featuring and celebrating local Aborigine artwork.
Those who travel to Uluru can reserve accommodations in the township of Ayers Rock Resort at Voyages Desert Gardens Hotel and Voyages Outback Pioneer. Upscale hotels in Alice Springs include Chifley Alice Springs Resort and Crowne Plaza Alice Springs.