It’s the symbol of the Australian Outback. A monolithic 348-metre mound of blood orange sandstone thrusting from an otherwise flat and desolate expanse of desert. Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, has been a sacred Aboriginal site for some 10,000 years and, unsurprisingly, today it enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status. Tens of thousands of tourists flock to the rock each year to soak up its transfixing magnificence, to delve into the local Aboriginal history, to check another destination off their bucket list, and to embark on the hike of a lifetime.
Yet as with many wonders of the natural world (and many things Australian), simply reaching Uluru is a feat in itself, never mind hiking around its 10.6 km circumference. Located in the southwest corner of the Northern Territory, the rock is most easily accessed from the famous town of Alice Springs, which is approximately a five hour drive away, so it is by no means an attraction that lends itself to spontaneity.
The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is teeming with outdoor activities from scenic flights to camel tours, but one of the best ways to enjoy the area and of course the iconic Ayers Rock, is to amble one of the many hiking routes. Here is a selection of some of the most popular:
The Bucket List Hike: Uluru Base Walk
One of the most popular hikes in the area, this 10km loop around the base of Uluru brings you up close and personal with the rock, the surrounding acacia woodland and the local wildlife. Some of the best base walk tours are led by the local Anangu people and last approximately 3.5 hours making them suitable for almost anyone (even wheelchair users as the path is flat the whole way).
The Short Amble: Liru Walk
For something a little shorter, Liru takes you from the Cultural Centre to the base of Uluru in roughly 1.5 hours. If you are short of time or walking isn’t you cup of tea, this is the perfect mini-hike, showering you with those all-impressive views of the rock. The path weaves through some interesting woodland which will capture the attention of plant-lovers.
The Cultural Meander: Mala Walk
This 1.5 hour walk to the Kantju Gorge whisks you away from the crowds and immerses you in a more tranquil atmosphere, complete with plenty of aboriginal rock art. It is the perfect choice for a late evening stroll as when the sun begins to set, the spellbinding Kantju Gorge becomes ablaze in an otherworldly shade of orange.
The Breath-taker: Valley of the Winds Walk
If you fancy a longer and astonishingly scenic circuit then the Valley of the Winds walk is for you. It consists of a 7.4km loop in which you will meander through peaceful bush, and arrive at two separate lookout points with exceptional views of the rock formations known as Kata Tjuta. This walk also serves up glimpses of unique plant and animal life so keep your eyes peeled. The route can last up to four hours and involves some strenuous sections so go prepared.
Finally, whichever route you take, don’t forget to always take sun cream, plenty of water, and wear a pair of sturdy shoes.