Watching the morning sun hit the sheer walls of Uluru is one of Australia’s most magical sights, but there’s plenty more to enjoy in the spectacular Red Centre…
Nothing quite prepares you for a trip to the Red Centre. This vast tract of land, the very heart of the Northern Territory, is home to some of Australia’s most dramatic landscapes: the rippling peaks of the West MacDonnell Ranges, the jagged depths of Kings Canyon and, of course, Uluru, the isolated monolith that is one of the country’s most iconic sights.
Most visitors arrive by air from Darwin or Adelaide to Alice Springs, but others stop off while travelling the Explorers Way, a spectacular 1,800-mile, north south route that bisects the continent and joins the two cities.
Arriving by car, Alice feels almost surreal; an explosion of life rising up out of the silent desert. While white settlers arrived in the 19th century, the Arrernte Aboriginal people have lived here for thousands of years, and 21st-century Alice is a key destination for experiencing and understanding Aboriginal culture.
For many, the highlight of a trip to the Red Centre is a visit to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to two sacred Aboriginal sites – the 36 rock domes of Kata Tjuta, and the iconic, rust-hued Uluru.
While both are extraordinary for their size – Uluru reaches a height of 350m and has a circumference of nine kilometres – what makes the sites even more spectacular is their total domination of the landscape. Around and beyond them, the desert plains stretch away into the distance.
The scale of the Red Centre does make a vehicle essential, but it’s also a great place to explore, in part, by camel or even on foot. Whether you follow the spectacular Kings Canyon Rim Walk, with breath taking views of sandstone cliffs, or hike through the shady gorges that link the West MacDonnell Ranges, walking allows you to soak up the unique atmosphere and sense of nature at its most raw and powerful.
In a country of extraordinary natural landscapes, the Red Centre stands alone. The light that flames off the richly coloured soil has a luminous intensity, the sheer scale of the peaks, gorges and canyons are jaw-dropping.
Whether you come to walk, photograph or experience the art and culture of Aboriginal people, this swathe of the Northern Territory is an unforgettable slice of Australia.
SEEING THE RED CENTRE
In Alice Springs, visit the Desert Park to see the hidden life of the Outback and get up close with kangaroos and emus. The old Telegraph Station, which used to relay messages between Adelaide and Darwin, shouldn’t be missed either. The Araluen Culture Precinct has galleries of indigenous art, while Todd Mall has a wonderful food market. If you can, book a stay at Ayers Rock Resort to see Bruce Munro’s stunning Field of Light installation – 50,000 spheres that come to light as night falls, on display until December 2020.