Ayers Rock – or Uluru, as it’s known to the Aboriginal owners of the land – is one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks. Found in the middle of the red sandy outback in the Northern Territory, Uluru / Ayers Rock is sacred to the Aboriginal people. It is said that the Red Centre, the area around Alice Springs where you'll encounter Uluru, is the spiritual epicenter of Australia.
In 1993, a policy was adopted that allowed official names that consist of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. So in 1993, the rock was renamed Ayers Rock / Uluru and the order of the dual names was officially reversed to Uluru / Ayers Rock in 2002.
Uluru / Ayer’s Rock is more than just a big boulder and it should be on your Australia travel must-see list. There are many things to do while you are there from hiking around the rock to learning about Aboriginal culture.
There are unique places to stay in this special place that seem to blend into the dunes and rock formations. At Ayers Rock Resort, you’ll experience the sacred rock and all its wonder through some of their resort-based experiences and tours.
Sails in the Desert has an emphasis on Indigenous culture. Yet, the hotel has resort amenities with an expansive gumtree lined swimming pool and modern dining, bar and lounge options where you can enjoy cocktails, music, and Indigenous-inspired cuisine. Sails in the Desert's Mulgara Gallery features Indigenous art and culture. And after a day of hiking in the red rock desert, you can enjoy one of the Red Ochre Spa's treatments.
The most unique hotel in the resort area is Longitude 131° with 15 glamping tents complete with king-sized beds that face Uluru / Ayer’s Rock for an amazing view of the sunrise over the sacred red rock.
Admire the Rock's Sheer Size
When you see Uluru / Ayer’s Rock in pictures, it’s hard to imagine the sheer size of this natural phenomenon. As one of the largest monoliths in the world, Uluru / Ayer’s Rock towers over you at over 300 meters (or around 1,000 feet) high and 2 kilometers, (or over 1.2 miles), wide.
This sandstone rock dates back about 500 million years, to around the same time the Australian continent was formed. The name Ayers Rock was chosen by Ernest Giles, an Anglo-Australian explorer who named it after the South Australian Premier at the time, Sir Henry Ayers. However, Uluru is the traditional and cultural domain of the Anangu people who certainly pre-dated the arrival of Giles.
Walk, Hike, or Ride Around the Rock
Uluru / Ayer’s Rock is even more impressive up close; its seemingly smooth surface is covered in divets, scars, and caves. While it’s considered incredibly disrespectful to the Anangu people to climb Uluru / Ayer’s Rock — and climbing the landmark is now prohibited — it’s highly recommended that you take the time to explore around it. Walking around the rock is a 9-kilometer, or close to 6-mile, round-trip so remember to wear good walking shoes and pack a bottle of water.
Take a Camel Tour
The outback has plenty of secrets hiding in its endless red sand, from some of the most diverse wildlife in the world to hidden rock formations and oases. The best way to explore the outback is from the back of a camel, as they are perfectly suited to the hot, dry conditions. Uluru Camel Tours offer daily tours including sunrise tours, day trips, and sunset rides around Uluru / Ayer’s Rock and the Olgas, a group of large, domed rock formations.
Experience Aboriginal Culture
The Anangu people are the original inhabitants of Alice Springs, and as a result, they have endless knowledge of the area. Whether you’re interested in bush tucker (native food), traditional Aboriginal artwork, or simply understanding the spiritual and historical connection that the Anangu people have to Uluru / Ayer’s Rock, there’s a tour that can give you an even deeper appreciation of this incredible part of Australian culture.
Whether you’re staying at the Ayers Rock Resort or any number of other accommodation options, you’ll likely have access to some free Aboriginal displays, such as dancing, boomerang throwing, traditional dot painting, or bush tucker tours. You may find yourself joining in and learning to do things like throwing a boomerang.
Being situated in the middle of the desert has its advantages—namely the lack of artificial light pollution, giving you an unbelievable view of the stars. You can choose to do your own stargazing or, if you prefer having someone else point out the formations, the Ayers Rock Resort offers a stargazing tour.
Dine Al Fresco
The Sounds of Silence, run by the Ayers Rock Resort, offers an unforgettable fine dining experience at the Red Centre. Watch the sunset over Uluru / Ayer’s Rock while enjoying gourmet canapés and sparkling wine, then dine under the breath-taking night sky as you enjoy a bush tucker-themed buffet, complete with crocodile, kangaroo, and barramundi. As the sky darkens you'll listen to their resident star talker decode the southern night sky and a didgeridoo performance.
Take to the Skies
Seeing Uluru / Ayer’s Rock from the air is a sure way to fully understand just how mind-blowingly big it is, and the best way to appreciate the vastness of the Aussie outback. Professional Helicopter Services offer scenic flights over Uluru / Ayer’s Rock, the Olgas, and other incredible landmarks. Their helicopters are specially designed to ensure you get the best possible view, so you’re guaranteed to take home some life-long memories.