Uluru (formerly known as Ayer’s Rock) is the monolithic heart of Australia’s Outback, a vast red rock that epitomises the untamed otherworldliness of the country’s Northern Territory, and the undoubted highlight of visiting the Red Centre region.
You might be thinking that it’s just a rock in the middle of nowhere – what’s the big deal? So much of the magic of Uluru is being in its presence, witnessing its colours shift and ebb at sunrise and sunset, and watching the stars emerge overhead as night falls.
Here are some facts that might convince you to take the long trip to Australia’s red heart.
1. The rock as we know it today was created over a period of 600 million years. This means it was there, in some form, since before single-celled organisms emerged from the sea to evolve into animal life. Europeans didn’t discover it until 1872.
2. Uluru started life as sand washed inland by a river system. Today it stands 1,100 feet over the red plains around it, which makes it taller than the Eiffel Tower.
3. What we see above ground is only a fraction of the whole rock. Underground it reaches some 8,200 feet down (although nobody really knows for sure). To put that into perspective, the deepest London Underground station (Hampstead) is a mere 192 feet below the city surface.
4. Uluru is 5.8 miles around the base, meaning it would take Mo Farah approximately 25 minutes to complete a single lap (although he probably wouldn’t appreciate the running conditions).
5. The site is sacred to the indigenous people, who have lived around Uluru for around 10,000 years. This means they were living there while the mammoths were going extinct in Eurasia and North America. Although it isn’t officially prohibited, the indigenous people ask that visitors do not climb the rock.
The Best Ways to Experience Uluru
There are so many different ways to experience Uluru, but these are our top five:
1. Walk all or part of the base. You can either do it yourself (take plenty of water) or take a guided walk to learn more about the stories from the traditional owners.
2. See it from atop a camel. Uluru Camel Tours offers a range of different options, but all tours are escorted by guides who tell you all about Uluru, the wider region, and how camels came to play such an important role in the development of outback Australia.
3. From the air. Uluru Skydive offers tandem jumps, giving you a very different perspective on Uluru, Kata Tjuta and the National Park.
4. By bike. Outback Cycles offers bike hire or guide-led cycling around Uluru.
5. By Segway. A very different way to travel around the national park! Uluru Segway Tours offers guided trips of different durations.
Note: As of October 2019 tourists will no longer be able to climb Uluru due to the wishes of the traditional owners.
How to Get to Uluru
The best way to visit Uluru is to take a tour from Alice Springs, though longer tours are also available from Darwin, the NT’s capital. If you’re short on time, you can fly to Alice Springs or Uluru in a couple of hours from most other Australian cities.