This ruddy sprawl of desert wilderness is a seemingly endless landscape of semi-arid scrubs and sand dunes, weathered mountain ranges, rocky gorges and some of Aboriginal Australia's most sacred sites. Floating in an outback waterhole, dining under a starry sky, watching the world's most famous rock change colours at sunrise and sunset are just some of the Red Centre's only-in-Australia experiences.
Surrounded by spectacular gum trees and refreshing waterholes, the friendly outback town of Alice Springs is the vibrant hub of central Australia and has all the conveniences of a modern city. Alice is an ideal base for exploring the Red Centre and, as a destination, has an abundance of entertainment and activities on offer. Try your hand at four-wheel driving or quad biking out in the desert, ride a camel through the outback, meander around aboriginal art galleries, visit the Todd Mall Markets, meet the local wildlife at the Alice Springs Desert Park, delve into the past at the historic Telegraph Station or see the home of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
For many, no visit to the Red Centre would be complete without seeing Uluru. Nothing can really prepare you for the immensity, grandeur, shifting colours and stillness of this World Heritage listed 'rock'. Rising from the desert plain, the site is visually stunning and your first view is something you'll never forget. The incredible desert landscape is even more impressive in real life and is best viewed at sunrise or sunset to see it change from brown to orange to red to purple. Don't miss the Field of Light, which is in place until 31 March 2018, an art installation of more than 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted glass spheres that bloom as darkness falls over Australia's spiritual heartland.
About 20 miles west of Uluru is the equally impressive, but less well known, Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Thirty-six magnificent, variously sized boulders sit shoulder to shoulder forming deep valleys and steep-sided gorges, which many visitors find even more captivating than their prominent neighbour. Challenging and rewarding bushwalks provide excellent views of the surreal domes and varied terrain.
Other notable sights include the often overlooked, yet spectacular yawning chasm of Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park. Walkers are rewarded with breathtaking views on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk which skirts the canyon's rim before descending down to lush pockets of ferns and prehistoric cycads to a tranquil pool and onwards through a swarm of giant sandstone outcrops. The majestic West MacDonnell Ranges, west of Alice Springs, is an extraordinary landscape of weathered peaks, behind which are rocky gorges and waterholes that are great for cooling off on a hot day.
GMT +9.5 hour
Alice Springs or Ayers Rock airports are approximately 3 hours flying time from Sydney. Ayers Rock Resort is about 5-6 hours drive from Alice Springs.
The Red Centre has a desert climate with an average maximum temperature of 35ºC between October and March, while winter months see an average of around 25ºC. Spring and Autumn see warm days and cool evenings.
Travel to the Uluru sunset viewing area where you will enjoy nibbles and a complimentary glass of wine as the sun sinks over the western horizon and the evening sky brings out the many shades of colour for which Uluru is famous. We recommend that you photograph Uluru every five minutes to really capture the gradual colour changes of the rock. Availabledaily from Uluru. Amandatory AU$25 National Park entry fee is payable locally.
Transfer by coach to a remote desert location with majestic views of Uluru to this incredible art installation by internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro. Enjoy a self-guided walk and see more than 50,000 slender stems crowned with frosted glass spheres that bloom as darkness falls over Australia’s spiritual heartland. Available daily from Uluru. A mandatory AU$25 National Park entry fee is payable locally. Minimum age 4.
Stop at the historic Telegraph Station, which marks the original site of the first European settlement; visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service to learn how this marvellous facility operates; and, visit the School of the Air where you may be able to listen to the children take lessons over the air. At the Alice Springs Reptile Park see lizards and snakes before the tour concludes with panoramic views of Alice Springs and the MacDonnell Ranges from Anzac Hill. Available daily (March-November) and Monday, Thursday & Saturday (December-February) from Alice Springs.
Rise early to travel to the base of Uluru where you have breakfast and then commence your guided base walk as sunrise approaches, walking from Kuniya Piti, a sacred site at Uluru. Next up is the Mala Walk, with a visit in to Kantju Gorge, followed by the Lungkata Walk and Mutitjulu Waterhole. Your guide will indicate the natural features of the landscape, Aboriginal rock art and relay traditional stories. Available daily from Uluru. A mandatory AU$25 National Park entry fee is payable locally.
Rise early this morning to watch the first rays of the sun set the Red Centre alight, then travel to the mystical domes of Kata Tjuta. En route, enjoy panoramic views of the southern side of Kata Tjuta, before arriving at the base of Walpa Gorge. Spend some time exploring the gorge and the unusual conglomerate rock formations. The walking trail through Walpa Gorge follows the natural creek between two of the tallest domes of Kata Tjuta. Available daily from Uluru. A mandatory AU$25 National Park entry fee is payable locally.
Travel to King’s Canyon, stopping en route for breakfast. Climb to the rim of the canyon for marvellous views of Watarrka National Park, then follow the rim stopping at look-out points. Time permitting, you may choose to descend into the green oasis of the ‘Garden of Eden’. The circuit walk takes approximately 3 hours to complete, is rocky and steep in parts and is recommended for those with a good level of fitness. An easier, shorter walk to explore the boulder strewn canyon floor is available. Available daily from Uluru.
An unforgettable evening tour, which begins with an uninterrupted, three hundred and sixty degree view of this vast landscape. Ahead of you is the fabled Uluru; behind you are the domes of Kata Tjuta and, possibly the most spectacular sunset you will ever see. After a gourmet barbecue buffet, enjoy stargazing as the resident astronomer takes you on an unforgettable tour of the southern night sky. Available daily from Uluru. A mandatory AU$25 National Park entry fee is payable locally. Minimum age 11.
Pre-dawn transfer to the launch site and the ascent starts just as the morning light illuminates the rugged MacDonnell Ranges. Float gently across the vast expanse of the Central Australian outback, keeping your eyes peeled for wildlife, particularly big red kangaroos. After landing enjoy light refreshments including a glass of sparkling wine before returning to your hotel. Minimum age 6. Available daily from Alice Springs. An AU$30 insurance fee is payable locally. A 60 minute flight is also available. Please ask for details.
Head skyward for a 25 minute scenic helicopter flight to see Uluru at the closest regulated distance, giving you an unparalleled perspective from within the national park. From Uluru you will then fly towards Kata Tjuta where you explore the northern side of the majestic domes which gives you access to an area otherwise off-limits from the ground. Available daily from Uluru.