Australia & NZ
24 Hours in Uluru
The Red Centre of the Australian Outback is without parallel on the planet. Indeed, this glib bit of descriptive analysis is one of the few occasions where truth meets hype head on.
It’s simply not kosher – and completely illogical frankly – to visit the heart of Oz without a thorough pilgrimage to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (formerly Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park). The home of the indomitable icon and symbol of Australia – that most famous of mammoth monoliths, Uluru – is one of those bucket list destinations that rewards hearty efforts and inspires quiet awe.
The Northern Territory town of Alice Springs, or simply Alice, is the primary gateway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta though you can feasibly and easily make the drive up from Coober Pedy via Adelaide (some 1,500 km in all). You can fly in too, to Yulara/Ayers Rock Resort airport, from the likes of Sydney, Cairns, Perth and Alice. The drive from Alice is 445 km long.
Where to stay: Crowne Plaza Hotel Alice Springs
With one day and one night in Yulara/Ayers Rock Resort/Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, it pays to choose your accommodations wisely. You can go the straightforward luxury route, certainly, and stay at the terrific Sails In The Desert Hotel Ayers Rock, which offers spa rooms and receives overwhelmingly positive reviews.
The Longitude 131 Lodge Ayers Rock, however, is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. Seriously. The luxe Outback resort delivers a plush brand of rugged comfort that blends seamlessly with the natural environment. Eco-progressive, Ã¼ber-posh and with private sunset and sunrise views of the big sandstone rock … which is what you came to see in the first place.
That big sandstone rock is much more than a colossal monolith, of course. There’s a reason Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the cultural category. When you enter the confines of the park, you’re on hallowed Aboriginal ground. To the Anangu people, the traditional owners of Uluru, the rock formations, or bornhardts, that make up Kata Tjuta (365 km southwest of Alice) and, indeed, the contiguous landscape, the land itself is inseparable from ancient, mystical belief systems. In light of all this, the designation of “park” seems rather poor and puny. It behooves outsiders to remember this and show some proper manners in return.
Example. Unless you want some wickedly evil karma to visit you in your next life, do not climb the rock. Not only is it unbelievably bad form and the worst kind of loutish behaviour, it’s also hazardous to your health. Three dozen people have been killed trying to scale Uluru. So step off, keep your hands to yourself and just gaze at the thing with intense reverence. OK?
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is open throughout the year and as early as 5am (all in all a good time to get in, before the oppressive midday sun clubs you over the head). The main activity within the park – other than to gape at the copious landscape eye candy – is to follow one or more trails, made so much more memorable, with a park ranger or Aboriginal Anangu elder. For a rare double whammy and relatively new thrill, be sure to visit the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku observation area for extraordinary vistas of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta at the same time.
You can’t legally camp in Australia’s foremost national park so check out our Uluru Guide for prime hotel tips.