Tourists travelling Down Under often question whether it is worth making the detour (which is at least 200km from any of the capital cities) to check out what is essentially a giant rock.
Even the keenest monolith enthusiasts wonder whether Uluru can compare to the lush grandeur of Sri Lanka’s Sigiriya or the splendour of America’s prized Grand Canyon.
To put it bluntly, if you are planning to do a fly-in, fly-out visit of the world’s favourite stone, you’re going to be disappointed.
24 hours is simply not enough time to truly appreciate the wonder that resides in Australia’s Red Centre.
Follow my guide to making the most of Uluru, and all the other stuff you should check out whilst touring that corner of the globe.
Located in one of the most remote deserts in the world, Uluru’s temperature ranges from a fresh -5 degrees Celsius on a winter morning, to a rather warm 45 degrees Celsius in summer.
So unless you are a fan of heat stroke and third-degree sunburn (yes, there is such a thing), we advise you plan your trip for Winter (June – August), and leave your fashion sense at the door.
If you don’t bring a brimmed hat (visors are not your ear’s friends when it comes to sun protection), a fly net (subverting hordes of flies and mosquitoes is worth looking like a demented bee-keeper for a few hours), sunglasses with a neck strap (so your Ray Bans don’t get knocked to the ground when you are busy flicking away the 20 million flies assaulting your face), old shoes (unless you like the red-dirt-stained look), and sunscreen, you are going to have a bad time.
Flights from Sydney to Ayers Rock take four hours, and usually arrive between 10am and 2pm, the ideal time to take in some of Australia’s famous carcinogenic UV rays.
You’ll probably be hot, dirty, and cranky within half an hour of stepping off the plane, so don’t push yourself to get out and do some exploring as soon as you arrive.
Unless you’re super-keen, leave the walk around the rock for the following morning, and take time to just appreciate the sheer inimitable magnificence of Uluru and the fiery outback sunset that engulfs it.
A sunrise walk around Uluru can be done solo, but a guide’s narration is the best way to fully grasp the cultural and spiritual significance of the monolith.
Your guide’s stories of the Aboriginal Dreamtime, explanation of the sacred rock paintings, and run-down of the native flora and fauna (traveller’s tip: don’t touch the Spinifex Grass: get a friend to, and film it) will transform the big rock into the mystical focal point of ancient land.
The walk can take two to four hours, depending on whether you are more of theolympic-power-walking type, or a dawdler stopping every few minutes for happy snaps.
If you were thinking about climbing Uluru (presumably to answer many long-standing questions you have about how hundreds of kilometres of desert looks 348m above the ground), think again.
Technically there is nobody stopping you from clambering up the rock, but for a bunch of cultural, environmental and safety reasons we can’t be bothered explaining here, tourists are strongly discouraged from doing so.
While you’re in town, you should rent a car and check out Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), an awe-inspiring group of domed rocks huddled together about 35km west of Uluru.
The Olgas are strikingly different from Uluru. The contrasting geology and opportunity to see frogs frolicking, lizards lazing and birds a-twitter makes this place a must-see.
Take the Valley of the Winds Walk, a slightly strenuous (read: hard) hike through the valleys surrounding The Olgas. The hike has numerous viewing platforms for those essential photos, and the climb into the gorge is not too steep. Just make sure to trade your flip flops for closed in shoes. The rocky ground shows no mercy to sandal-wearers.
Head back to Uluru for the evening, where you can sleep under the desert stars at the Ayers Rock Campground for only $36 a night (more if an air-conditioned cabin is the closest thing to camping you’re ever going to try).
In Uluru, it’s easy to wake up early and get started on the four-hour drive to King’s Canyon.
The rising Australian sun will slowly turn your tent into a makeshift oven.
The main attraction at King’s Canyon is the Rim Walk, a moderately strenuous (read: very hard) 3.5 hour hike that begins with a casual 500-step climb.
But it’s worth every step. Upon reaching the summit, you’ll have the perfect spot for that selfie on the edge of a 300m-high cliff you’ve always wanted.
The views of Watarrka National Park are breathtaking, and descending into the canyon and the flourishing “Garden of Eden” below is a once in a lifetime experience.
Travellers of the lazier variety may wish to explore the ever changing colours of the cliffs from the canyon floor, an easier shady walk that follows a trail between the two sheer walls of the canyon.
For your final night, head over to King’s Canyon Wilderness Lodge.
Here you can enjoy an authentic home-cooked Australian dinner (prawn cakes & salad for the entrée, delicious beef, kangaroo or barramundi for the main and a tasty berry pavlova for dessert) by lantern light.
Finish off your outback adventure here by relaxing on a log by the pit fire, listening to your hostess regale you with tales of the outback, and silently congratulating yourself for planning such a remarkable holiday.
As a treat for making your way through to the end of this article, Piece Out will impart on you one final, critical piece of wisdom.
Bring water… everywhere. Lots and lots of water.
Estimate about how much water you think you will need, and double it.
You’ll thank us.
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