Uluru in Australia

Lonely Planet Travel Editor Tom Hall is on a mission to discover 52 of the most awe-inspiring places to visit across the world. This week he delights in the striking Uluru (Ayer's Rock) in Australia.

Uluru, Australia

Uluru is one of Australia’s great symbols and a beacon for thousands of outback-bound travellers who head this way each year. In some ways it provides what you would expect. The monolithic red rock rises out from miles of arid desert.

It is, as brochures say, most mesmerising at dawn and sunset. The past few years have bought much-needed attention and interpretation of the rock and its surrounding significance to local aboriginal people.

A journey to Uluru is all these things and more. It is an astonishing place because of its location, size and significance. Simply getting here involves either a long flight or – preferably – a drive across the Gibson Desert from remote, thriving Alice Springs.

Making the most of your Uluru experience

The rock is impressive when glowing from afar but even more astonishing from close up. A stroll around it’s circumference at dawn, with kangaroos for company, is the best way to see it.

Take at least one night to sleep out under the stars, the most brilliant you’ll see anywhere. Wrap up warm: desert nights are chilly in September, even if days are sunny and warm.

Climbing the rock is a no-no for anyone who wishes not to offend aboriginal sensibilities, but you can get your hands and boots dirty on a stroll around Kaja Tjuta (the Olgas) and Kings Canyon, both popular stops on a journey around the Red Centre.

Getting to Uluru

A three-to-four day camping trip from Alice Springs visiting all these places will cost around £100. More comfortable and expensive tours are available from Alice and big southern cities.

A simple flight to Uluru from Sydney will start at around £250 return. There’s hostel, hotel and luxury lodge accommodation at Yulara, the resort near the rock.

Planning your visit to the Northern Territory

Find out more about the rock and the sights surrounding it at the website of Uluru - Kaja Tjuta National Park. Both Travel Northern Territory and Australia's Official Tourism Website have practical details and links to further information on planning a trip to Australia.

© 2009 Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd