Uluru is located in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT), a province that hosts the great Australian Outback i.e. Australia’s vast remote interior. Honestly, what I loved about Uluru, was the contrast it offers from Sydney or Melbourne. It’s a far cry from civilization as I know it. The Australian Outback is a rugged territory, with an atypical vegetation, and a museum of Australia’s rich Aboriginal culture.
Some learnings that I picked up are as follows:
Overview, and population: With temperatures around ~35-45 Deg. C around the year, the outback, is essentially a desert.
It’s also very sparsely populated. The Australian government projects NT’s population to be ~300,000 in 2021. This means that NT’s population in future, will roughly be only 6% of Sydney’s total population in 2015! A vast territory (~20% of Australia’s land mass), hosting only a fraction of the Australian population – is a fact, that came as a surprise to me! In fact much of this population growth is in the capital city of Darwin and not in the remote outback. So in the coming days – the outback will become even more remote by registering a decline in it’s population.
In other words, the outback, will soon become an unvisited Australian backyard!
Uluru, and Alice Springs, are the few cities that will survive to present a glimpse of this unvisited Australian backyard. In coming years, this will increase their relevance from a historical, and cultural perspective.
Australian aborigines: NT also hosts the highest percentage of Australia’s indigenous population. The Aboriginal people are those who lived in Australia, prior to the arrival of the British. Their numbers declined due to the spread of Small pox, that emerged with the arrival of foreign people, and seizure of their lands, and water resources.
Post 1960s, the Aborigines have been more successful in asserting their rights, and identity. What makes the Outback, interesting from a racial profile is that, much of the land ownership (~50%) is still with the indigenous population. This is much higher than other Australian regions (~2%).
However, despite this, Alice Springs, figures as one of Australia’s most dangerous towns. Most crimes involve the Aborigines as offenders, and victims. The crimes are either property crimes, or assault – with most victims being women.
Now, with a bit more context – here is my list of Top things to do in Uluru
Sunset in Uluru: I was fortunate enough to see both sunrise, and sunset in Uluru. Honestly, the Rocks looks prettier during sunset. If you manage to grab a glass of wine, with the AAT King Tour, the sight is even prettier 🙂
Visit Kata Tjuta: Another rock formation exists near Ayers. The Kata Tjuta, or the Olgas are less touristy, and make for a great walk. Catching the sunset view here is a great idea! We even saw indigenous Kangaroos in our journey around the Olgas.
Visiting the Cultural Centre: Essentially a museum, housing important information on the indigenous Australian population.
When to visit: Ideally August, when the temperatures are cooler. I visited Uluru in December. Not only was it too hot, there were many persistent flies as well. The flies were so persistent that we had to keep our face covered with a scarf, or a fly net, at all times.
Where to stay: Any hotel in Yulara is good. As we booked late, per Lonely Planet’s recommendation, we stayed at a community camp site called Outback Pioneer. Other good hotels are Desert Gardens Hotel, that are quite affordable if booked early.
Compared to those in Alice Springs, Yulara’s hotels are expensive. But these hotels are definitely worth it, given the proximity to Uluru and facilities. All Uluru tour operators have pick ups from the hotels. Hotels in Alice Springs, make sense if you have a car to go to Uluru.
Below is a sample of the barbecue at the Outback Pioneer:
Airport: You have a choice to fly to Alice Springs or the Ayers Rock Airport. My suggestion is to pick a flight from Melbourne or Sydney, that lands at the Ayers Rock Airport. This airport is the closest to Uluru. What’s best is that all Uluru hotels have free, convenient pick up and drop facilities from it.
Planning: Trips to Uluru, and Kata Tjuta can be arranged via the hotel reception, should you choose to stay in Yulara. Personally, I feel that a dining experience under the stars is over-rated, as you can get a similar experience with a glass of wine, and light snacks!
No. of days: Ideally 2 nights, 3 days should be sufficient for Uluru. If you have the time, a visit to Alice Springs, to get a bit of the Outback flavour, may not be a bad idea.