What exactly is Ayers Rock?
In brief, it’s a very large piece of rock situated in the desert of the Australian Outback. Of course, as you may know, it’s so much more than that. Absolutely unique, it’s a monolith of red sandstone rising out of the flat desert landscape, and is known to the indigenous Aboriginal people as Uluru, a very sacred place. How large is it? It is 348 metres/1130 feet in height and the bulk of it lies underground. How far under, no one knows exactly, but it is thought to be around 2.5 kilometres/1.5 miles. To walk around the circumference is approximately 10 kilometres/6 miles and takes around 3.5 hours. The surface is made up of valleys, ridges, caves, and weird shapes that were created through erosion over millions of years. It is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One special aspect of Ayers Rock is that it changes colour depending on the time of day and the time of year. Sunrise and sunset are particularly magical times to view the Rock, when its terracotta hue morphs into a violet/blue tinge.
Where is Ayers Rock?
Ayers Rock is situated in the Uluru National Park, a five hour drive from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, approximately 465 kilometres/290 miles by road to the south west. You can also fly to Ayers Rock with regular flights being available from both Alice Springs and other Australian cities. Accommodation is available in the small resort town of Yulara, 20 kilometres/12 miles to the north.
3-Day Alice Springs and Ayers Rock
How Did it Get its Name?
White men did not come onto the scene until the 1870s, when William Gosse named it for Henry Ayers, the then South Australia Chief Secretary. However, Uluru is the Aboriginal and official name.
Importance of Ayers Rock/Uluru to the Aboriginal People
Ayers Rock/Uluru is believed to have been created at the beginning of time by the ancestors, or spirit people, of the Aboriginal people. For the Aboriginal people, the word Dreamtime represents the essence of their society, culture, traditions, and spirituality. The English language can never capture what Dreaming or Dreamtime is all about. Its stories are linked to the creation process and spiritual ancestors of the Aboriginals.
Dreamtime is the core of everything and of the many sacred Aboriginal sites in Australia, few are as important as Uluru. It is a place of great power and to the local Aboriginals, the centre of the universe and the home of Mother Earth. They would prefer visitors not to climb their sacred site. Ayers Rock has some amazing rock paintings of the Anangu, the local indigenous people, which are seen as a record of Dreamtime. The rock’s caves, cliffs, and fissures contain countless rock carvings that tell the story of their ancestors. The Anangu believe that by simply touching the rocks they can communicate with Dreamtime and receive blessings from their ancestors.
10-Day Northern Territory Indigenous Highlights
Climbing Ayers Rock
Climbing the rock is controversial for more than one reason. The climbing path is about 1.6 kilometres/1 mile long and can be treacherous. The first part has a chain to hold on to. It is very strenuous and takes about two hours to complete. The Ayers Rock climb is often closed because of strong winds or high temperatures.
Other Interesting Activities at Ayers Rock
The sky above the Rock is one of the most impressive skies in the world to stargaze, and is something that just has to be experienced. This is due to the lack of artificial light in the Outback which could interfere with the dark night sky. In addition, the southern hemisphere offers some spectacular sky objects such as the Magellanic Clouds and the famous Southern Cross constellation. The Milky Way has so much power that it is even visible when the moon is shining.
One of the most popular scenic flights to take in Alice Springs is the round trip to Ayers Rock. You cross the Finke River and then peer down on to the Kings Canyon as you head to the rock. After taking in the aura of this amazing monolith, you then head back to Alice Springs, with the setting sun of the red desert as your backdrop.
Consider a camel ride while here. A one-hour ride starting at the Ayers Rock Resort offers magnificent morning photo opportunities, insights into local flora and fauna, and an Outback breakfast of damper and billy tea. At sunset, you can spend an hour meandering through the rich red sands watching Ayers Rock bask in ever-changing light and colours as the sun slips slowly out of view.
8-Day Indigenous Rock and Reef
4-Day Ayers Rock, Kings Canyon, Olgas, & Alice Springs
Camel to Sunrise or Sunset
Dine under the Stars at Ayers Rock
Imagine sitting outside under a blanket of stars in full view of Ayers Rock, all while enjoying fine dining. This is possible at the Sounds of Silence restaurant where dinner is served on a viewing platform, while the sun sets and darkness falls. A resident star gazing expert is included to tell you all about the night sky.
Visit the Nearby Olgas
Not very from Ayers Rock are The Olgas, 55 kilometres/34 miles away. The Olgas are a group of large ancient rock formations and are located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. They consist of 36 domes spread over an area of more than 20 square kilometres/12 square miles and are believed to be around 500 million years old. They stand shoulder to shoulder, forming deep valleys and steep-sided gorges. The highest point is called Mount Olga. Once again, like Ayers Rock, The Olgas are sacred to the local Aboriginals.
4-Day Cultural Explorer
So, if you’ve decided to visit this region, known as “The Red Centre”, know that you will come face to face with some of the world’s best and dynamic nature. Prepare to be amazed!