Uluru is one of the world’s great treasures. It’s instantly recognisable as Australia’s greatest landmark and is of course a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is a 1,142-feet high sandstone monolith with a total circumference of almost six miles and sits alone in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, 463km by road (or a 45-minute flight) from the nearest town of Alice Springs, although visitors can stay in the very small resort town of Yulara. It’s important to note that there’s no camping at all in the park itself. You either stay in Yulara or you drive for six hours – round the corner by Aussie standards – from Alice Springs.
Aboriginal tribes living in the area 10,000 years ago named it Uluru which, strangely for a landmark of such importance, doesn’t have a meaning. It’s a proper noun in the local Pitjantjatjara dialect although some of the elders of the tribe use Uluru as a family name.
It was given the ‘western’ name of Ayers Rock by surveyor William Gosse who bestowed the honour in 1873 upon the then-Chief Secretary of South Australia Sir Henry Ayers and has become one of Australia’s foremost tourist sites and is almost literally in the geographical centre of Australia. Naturally grey, the rock gets its distinctive red hue from the iron content which has effectively rusted over hundreds of millions of years.
Uluru is sacred to the local Anangu people and when you visit you are asked kindly to respect their cultures and laws but you can both explore the base as well as climb the rock. It takes a couple of hours there and back but remember, if you go in the summer months the temperature can hit 45°C (115°F) so please be careful. It’s best viewed at sunrise or sunset.
Whatever you decide to call it, the massive red rock is the jewel in Australia’s crown and even though it’s almost literally in the middle of nowhere, it’s a ‘must see’ on any trip to Northern Territory.