Uluru is located in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT), a state territory that comprises of the Outback or the vast remote interior of Australia. It was through Uluru, that I got to learn more about the Outback, and the Australia’s Aboriginal culture.
More about the Outback: With temperatures around ~35-45 Deg. C around the year, the the outback, is essentially a desert.
And so it’s 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! In fact much of this growth is in the capital city of Darwin and not in the remote outback. So the outback will actually register a decline in population!
In other words, the outback, will soon become an unvisited Australian backyard!
And Uluru, and Alice Springs, are the few cities that will survive to present a glimpse of this unvisited large Australian backyard. For me, this will largely increase their relevance from a historical, and cultural perspective.
Australian aborigines: NT also hosts the highest percentage of Australia’s indigenous population, with respect to the total state population. The Aboriginal people are those who lived in Australia, prior to the arrival of the British. Their numbers declined gradually either due to diseases like Small pox, that emerged with the arrival of foreign people, or due to the seizure of their lands, and water resources.
Post 1960s, the Aborgines 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, which is way higher than other regions.
Despite such promising stats, Alice Springs however, also 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 the Sunrise, and Sunset in Uluru, and can say that the Rocks are prettier when the Sun goes down. If you manage to grab a glass of wine, with the AAT King Tour, that is an even better deal.
Visit Kata Tjuta: Another rock formation exists near Ayers. This is less touristy, and makes for a great walk. Grabbing the sunset here is also a great idea.
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 came site called Outback Pioneer. Other good hotels are Desert Gardens Hotel, which is quite affordable if booked early. Most hotels in Yulara are quite expensive, but definitely worth it, as they are really close to the Uluru and all tour operators have pick ups from the hotels. Other options include hotels in Alice Springs, but you may have to rely on a car to navigate the distance to Uluru.
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. Not only is it closer to Uluru, but also all Uluru hotels have free, convenient pick up and drop 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 overated, 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.