Guide to Uluru (Ayers Rock)

One of the world’s most renowned natural landmarks is Australia’s Ayers Rock, otherwise known as Uluru. In the heart of Australia’s outback, this iconic structure has a vast history. With the honour of being named the world’s largest rock, and the immense cultural significance that it plays with the indigenous people of Australia, the magnificence of Uluru cannot be understated.

The unmitigated remoteness of this destination has done nothing to curb the insatiable enthusiasm of people from around the world to come and visit the rock and to view it standing magnificently above the flat, arid landscape that’s spread out around it in every direction.

More than 250 000 people visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park each year, which reflects the incredible allure of this spectacular landscape, despite it being hundreds of kilometres from the nearest major town and closer to 1000 km from any of Australia’s main cities. Although this may seem like a setback, it does wonders to make this destination a truly special one, almost untouched by rampant tourism this spectacular rock lies well off the beaten track.

It certainly is true to say that a trip to Australia would be incomplete without visiting Ayers Rock and exploring the majestic folds of sandstone that provide a breathtaking backdrop for a great holiday photograph.

How Was Uluru Formed

How Was Uluru Formed?

Although Uluru is famous for its size, and bright red colour, many do not know how or why this rock formed.

The Significance of Uluru

Uluru isn’t just a large rock which Australia’s have dubbed a natural wonder for a tourist. It, in fact, has a vast and cultural connection to both the land and the people of Australia. It is a world heritage site, due to it being a sacred site for the local Aboriginal community of Uluru, named the Anangu people. They believe the rock to be a living thing, a type of church for them and the resting place for their fallen ancestors. This relationship has lasted the entire existence for aboriginal people, stretching back 60,000 years. Even to this day, the community undertake a number of traditional rituals at the rock to maintain the balance of the land, and to continue on their ancient customs.

The Aboriginal Dreamtime Story on Uluru

Australia is home to the Aboriginal people, the oldest continuous culture on Earth. Uluru is a very significant part of the indigenous culture and history. Their explanation on how Uluru formed resolves around their 10 ancestral beings. As each these ancestral spirits from the Dreamtime had a hand at creating the rock. The southern area of Uluru formed due to the war between the poisonous and carpet snakes. The north-west side of Uluru formed from the hare people, otherwise known as Mala. The indigenous community regards Uluru as a living form, and it is especially sacred to the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people. They consider this structure a dwelling for past spirits to live in.

The Geologist’s Explanation on Uluru

Uluru Close Up

The birth of Uluru dates back around about 500 million years ago, a similar time when the Australian continent developed. Uluru started underwater and began with two fans, one made of sand, whereas the other composed of conglomerate rock. Due to the movement in the world’s land plates, the pressure resulted in these two fans condensing into rock. Australia dried up, and became land, leaving the formation of Uluru we know today. Uluru made from Arkose, which is a coarse sandstone. The reason for its amazing red colour is due to the rusting of the iron minerals within the rock. Ranging from 3.6km long and 1.9kms wide, this extraordinary rock is an Australian tressure.

Uluru’s Features

The Southern Side of Uluru

Uluru’s southern side features a series of sharp gorges scattered with large dips. The large holes are due to erosion on the arkose rock, with continuous rainfall filling up the shallow holes until they become deeper and deeper. This has gone on for centuries, with the rock slowly cutting away to make this unique appearance.

The North-West Side of Uluru

Similar to its south side, Uluru’s north-west is also shaped by erosion. Here you can see parallel ridges which outline the sedimentary layers of rock. Wind, as well as rainfall, has caused these parallel crests.

The Smooth Rock Surface

The smoothed section of Uluru is not a natural occurrence, but all due to humans. The path up to the top of Uluru has been the same route for hundreds of years. With herds of humans travelling up and down this section of the rock every day. The millions of feet have caused an erosion themselves, slowly forming the smooth shaped rock with every passing year. This activity is now frowned upon and is due to be banned at the end of the year, however, this slow erosion is still being taken place today until the tours are shut down for good.

Uluru’s Flaky Surface

The entire rock of Uluru displays a flaky orange exterior. This is all due to a chemical decay of the minerals present in the Arkose rock. Arkose is typically a greyish colour, but when the oxidation of the iron mineral present is exposed, the rusty flaky residue causes the colour to change into a rust red.

How to Travel to Uluru?

Located in Australia’s southwest area of the northern territory, Uluru is within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It is around a 5-hour drive from Alice Springs, or about a half an hour drive from the town Yulara. Tourists from all over the world come to see this amazing landmark, either travelling alone or on organized tours. You must buy a national park ticket to enter, which lasts for 3 whole days.

However, once getting there, choosing the right way to see it is another challenge in itself.

Enjoy the rock at sunrise/sunset

Uluru Sunrise

A great time to travel to Uluru is watching the sunrise or sunset over the rock. Seeing the striking sunrise or fade from view will create a picturesque and unforgettable experience. You will be able to watch as the rock is set ablaze by the fiery red light of the sun, creating a sight so stunningly beautiful it will instantly become the highlight of your trip to Australia. Uluru is famous for its iconic rusting orange look. Standing out against the blue skies and deserted landscape. However, this colour can enhance even more still, turning an enchanting bright red when the sun The sunset and sunrise light enhances the rock, creating a truly everlasting experience which no one forgets anytime soon. If visiting during sunset, you can enjoy a glass of sparkling wine, or a dinner set up a bit away from the rock. In contrast, the sunrise lets you watch the outback awaken with the changing sun.

See it from Above

Got money to spare? It might be all worth spending a little more cash when you see the Uluru from a bird’s eye view. Hop on a helicopter flight and whizz through the clouds as you take in the brilliant red rock from above. The helicopter flight can help you truly understand the vast range of the Australian outback, as the desert land stretches out as far as the eye can see.

Camp Nearby

If you have time to spare, why not immerse yourself in the outback? As an alternative to trudging in and out in a sleek bus, only seeing the dry desert from the comfort of your window seat. Set off on a multi-day camping trip! Here you can discover all the nearby wonders, with native animals and unique wildlife strong enough to survive the scorching sun! Camp under the stars and wake up every day ready to do more, as Uluru slowly comes more and more into focus with every passing hour.

The rock is not only impressive from far, but the closer you get the more you will come to realise that the natural beauty of this site is unparalleled. There are several waterholes surrounding the rock that have fed animals, plants and the Pitjantjatjara people for thousands of years. You will have the chance to take a stroll along some of the trails around the rock, and you’ll find a few viewing platforms along the way that are the perfect place to stop and appreciate your surroundings.

There is no doubt that Uluru is one of the world’s most iconic monolith, and is a must-see attraction during your visit to Australia.

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