The massive monolith known as Uluṟu / Ayers Rock is an iconic image synonymous with Outback Australia. Formerly referred to as Ayers Rock, the different colour permutations of this huge sandstone rock formation juxtaposed against the sky at sunrise and sunset offer an unforgettable, life-affirming experience not to be missed.
Certainly the spiritual heart of the Red Centre, Uluṟu / Ayers Rock is located within Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park around 440km from Alice Springs. Rising 348m against the mostly flat desert scrub and 3.6km long, the sheer size of Uluṟu / Ayers Rock will astound visitors, no matter how many times you've seen its hulking presence. The Cultural Centre is the ideal base to start your journey. Designed in the shape of two snakes representing the Creation Ancestors Kuniya and Liru, the centre offers a contextual understanding of the rock and its importance to Aboriginal culture, as well as information about the natural environment surrounding Uluṟu / Ayers Rock.
The landscape and appearance of Uluṟu / Ayers Rock changes dramatically with the seasons and from day to night. At sunrise, the rock changes from charcoal in the darkness to deep red to a burnished orange glow before settling into the ochre-red tone. At sunset, this show is reversed. The best vantage points include the 30-minute, 500m Dune Walk Lookout and Talinguru Nyakunytjaku - a 3km walk to viewing platforms and shelters. To walk around the rock, Uluṟu / Ayers Rock Base Walk is a 3.5-hour, 10.6km trek through claypans and scrub to see the indigenous flora and fauna and rock art of the area. Start at Mala carpark first thing in the morning to avoid the heat. As Uluṟu / Ayers Rock is a sacred site, visitors to the park are asked not to climb the rock. A free, 90-minute guided ranger tour from the base of Uluṟu / Ayers Rock is also available daily.
To visit Uluṟu / Ayers Rock you'll need to purchase a three-day pass for AU$25 for adults with free admission for children under 16 years. It's a 4.5-hour drive to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park from Alice Springs. Follow the Stuart Highway for 10.5km and turn right onto Lasseter Highway. Continue a further 260km to the entry station of the park.