Glowing a brilliant red at both dawn and sunset (above), Uluru, a giant sandstone rock formation in Australia’s Northern Territory, provides nature’s version of an optical illusion. Though the rock itself is actually grey (which can be seen when it rains), its coat of red oxide combined with the reflection of the sun causes the inselberg (an isolated rock structure) to appear a different striking red or orange hue at different times of the day.
Also known as Ayers Rock, Uluru is located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The rock is made up of arkose and conglomerate, and is 1,141 feet high (to put it into perspective, that lump is taller than The Shard in London). There are many species of flora and fauna that live near Uluru, as well as the group of aboriginal people native to the area, the Anangu, and Uluru is a sacred site for them, as they believe that it is the home of their ancestors.
How to get there: About 280 miles from Alice Springs, Uluru is accessible by both car and plane. The drive from Alice Springs is about 4.5 hours. You can also fly into Ayers Rock Airport in Yulara, which is a 45-minute flight from Alice Springs, and just a 10 minute drive from the park. Many tour companies also offer organized tours with transportation.
What to do: Park passes are $25 (and free for children under the age of 16), and allow admittance to the park for three days. The park suggests multiple self-guided walks to choose from, all of which showcase the natural beauty of Australia’s Red Centre. To respect the Anangu people, make sure to walk around Uluru, not climb it. If you’re looking to learn more about the aboriginal culture and the rock’s history, take the free ranger-guided Mala Walk, which departs at 8am everyday.
When to go: August through October, spring in this part of Australia, is the best time to visit – expect warm temperatures in the 70s and 80s. But, the park is open all year long and is still suitable for walks and climbs, even during colder months.
Book it: If you’re aching to see Uluru, check out this five-night luxe Australian Outback tour that includes both a sunrise and sunset tour of Ayers Rock. Book by August 20th and you’ll save big!