Visiting the Outback of Australia is not complete without a stop-off or several night stay in Australia’s “Red Heart,” where rising from the desert floor you’ll find Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Standing nearly 348 meters high, most of Uluru’s bulk is hidden deep underground. Sacred to the Anangu Aboriginal peoples indigenous to the region, Uluru still plays a part in Anangu cultural ceremonies, traditional landowners of the area. Situated in central Australia in the southern most part of the North-western Territory, Uluru is surrounded by waterholes, natural springs, rock caves and ancient Aboriginal paintings.
Uluru is accessible from nearby Yulara, a mere 11 kilometres away and offers accommodations for the rustic at heart to the sophisticated-minded traveller. Approximately 335 km or 208 miles southwest of Alice Springs, the largest local town, Uluru provides an escape from everyday life and gives you a chance to experience the raw beauty of Australia’s Outback at its heart.
A geological sandstone formation literally meaning “island mountain,” Uluru stands as mute testament to a once large mountain range in the heart of Australia. Because of the way it was formed, Uluru lacks scree slopes and jointing and parting of bedding surfaces, which is why it has survived through time. It is one of two major features of the Uluru-Kata Tiuta National Park.
Archaeological diggings east and west of the region indicate the Anangu’s ancestors settled the region nearly 10,000 years ago. First mapped by the Europeans in 1872 while constructing the Australian Overland Telegraph Line, many Europeans tried to settle near Uluru, which resulted in conflict between the local peoples and the Europeans. This ended in 1920 when part of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was declared an Aboriginal Reserve. The site was turned over to the Anangu in 1985 but leased back to the National Parks and Wildlife Agency for 99 years. The site is jointly managed by the Anangu and the National Park agency.
The Anangu believe Uluru to be inhabited by the spirits of the region’s creators, referred to as Tjukuritja or Waparitja and ask tourists not to take rocks from the area. There’s a legend that those who take rocks from the unusual sandstone formation will be cursed and suffer great misfortune. It’s been reported that several who took rocks from the area, quickly mail them back to whatever agency will take them in an attempt to remove the curse.
The art found in the caves of Uluru was painted by the Anangu to illustrate stories they told to the region’s people and children. Visitors can gain access to several rock shelters along the Mala and Mutitjulu walks and view this sacred and historical art first hand.
The Talinguru Nyakuntjaku viewing area opened in October 2009 and located about 3 kilometres of the east side of Uluru has 11 kilometres of roads and 1.6 kilometres of specially built walking trails. The viewing area offers stunning new views of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta from an area of the park not previously accessible. Within the area you can see Uluru against the wider desert landscape from several viewing platforms. A variety of networked wheelchair-accessible walking tracks have shade shelters modelled after the traditional Anangu shelter, a “wiltja” and also includes a large performance area nearby.
Uluru Cultural Centre
The Uluru Cultural Centre in Yulara is a great starting point for any adventure in Uluru. With its unique architecture blending with the land and surrounding region, a trek through the cultural centre provides the visitor with a variety of experiences and insight into the cultural and spiritual importance of Uluru to the Anangu. Because of this, certain areas with the centre cannot be photographed in honour of the Anangu. The Centre serves as home to the Ininti Café with light refreshments and souvenirs and Maraku arts where you’ll find a variety of arts and woodwork. You can also visit the Walkatjara art centre where you can watch Anangu artists at work. You’ll find a variety of ceramic art, paintings and functional craft works from Anangu artisans at the centre.
In nearby Yulara, choose from rustic or high-end accommodations available at one of the region’s many resorts and hotels. Guests are pampered and catered to at the local mud spa or crystal clear swimming pools. Award-winning night dining awaits under the stars and comes complete with gifted storytelling by talented “startalkers.” Yulara accommodations include caravan parks, hotels, lodges, resorts and campgrounds, suited to every budget.
To travel to Uluru via Yulara:
- Take a flight from Alice Springs, Cairns, Perth or Sydney direct to Yulara.
- Travel by Greyhound bus.
- Rent a car, campervan or motorhome and drive.
More than 65 tours are available in the National Park region including:
- Harley motorcycle tours.
- Desert sunrise tours complete with a “Bushman’s Breakfast.”
- Base walk around Uluru that highlights the history and geology of the region.
- Travel the area by camel back and enjoy “Billy” tea and beer-baked bread.
- Take a tour by 4WD and visit the Mutitjulu waterhole at the base of Uluru.
- Take part in a dot-painting art workshop hosted by local Aboriginal artists.
- Be guided by Aboriginal guides and retrace the path of the Liru Ancestors through the bushland near Uluru.
Whatever adventure you take part in at Uluru, you’ll leave Australia’s red heart with memories to last a lifetime.