Uluru Rock (Ayers Rock) is one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, featuring on picture postcards galore, not to mention many a traveller’s bucket list. Standing at about 348 metres high and with two-thirds of the rock underground, Uluru is one of the largest monoliths in the world. Its base is approximately 5.8 miles wide.
The history of Uluru Rock
Uluru Rock was first formed more than 600 million years ago, initially sitting at the bottom of the sea. The surrounding area has been inhabited by Aboriginals, the Anangu people, for around 10,000 years. In 1987, the site on which Uluru Rock sits (Uluṟu-Kata Tjuta National Park), became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Uluru is the name given to the rock by the Anangu people. It’s classed as a proper noun without any further meaning – it’s just the name of the rock and its surrounding area. It was an explorer called William Gosse who named the rock “Ayers Rock” after the eighth Premier of South Australia Sir Henry Ayers, when he sighted it back in 1873. Both names are used today.
Why you shouldn’t climb Uluru
You may have seen photos or videos of people climbing Uluru, but doing so goes directly against the wishes of the Anangu people. There is a sign near the base of the rock which expressly asks tourists not to climb, not just because of how sacred the site is, but also because of concerns around safety for visitors. (More than 35 people have died while climbing the rock.)
After much discussion, the board members of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park have recently decided that climbing Uluru should be banned. The ban takes effect in October 2019.
What to expect when you visit
Uluru Rock is situated around 208 miles south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory in central Australia. That distance is as the crow flies – it’s actually about 280 miles by road. When you get to Uluru, you’ll be greeted by the impressive sights of a vast terracotta-coloured plain and of course, the instantly recognisable gigantic rock itself.
Be aware that it will be dusty and there may be some bugs and flies around. Wear insect repellent and consider taking a mosquito net to wear over your hat just in case. Clothing-wise, be prepared for hot days and cold nights and wear comfortable shoes as well as plenty of suncream. Keep hydrated, as you may be out exploring in the heat for a few hours.
There are several things to do when you visit Uluru:
- Uluru Rock base walk - if you’re feeling energetic, you could go for a stroll about the rock’s base, which will take around 3.5 hours in total. You’ll see a diverse range of flora and fauna along the way.
- Visit the Cultural Centre – this is where you can learn more about the Anangu people and their culture and discover their connection to the land.
- Watch the sunset (or rise) – there’s nothing quite like the colourful splendour you’ll see across the sky, which provides the magnificent backdrop for Uluru. There are two dedicated viewing areas where you can watch from.
- Other excellent hiking trails – also at Uluṟu-Kata Tjuta National Park, you can take part in a guided Mala walk to Kantu Gorge and see the Valley of the Winds. Alternatively, take the Walpa Gorge walk to Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, a group of large domed rock formations (another incredible sight within this national park).
Ayers Rock: one of the most famous landmarks in Australia
The sheer enormousness and commanding presence of this rock is something that really has to be seen in person. Some people say there is an almost mystical feel to Uluru, which is reinforced by the beliefs and culture of the local Aboriginals.
Whether you call it Ayers Rock, Uluru or like the Aussies, the “Red Centre”, there’s no doubt that this place is worth the long drive through the outback for.