DURATION: 5 days
BEST FOR: Iconic natural landmarks, high-end retreats, ancient connections
ROUTE: Alice Springs • Kings Canyon • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
WHY DO IT: Get intimate with the NT’s most gloriously photogenic geology on walks and drives rich in Dreamtime stories
Each one of the trio of super-sized landmarks looming out of the Red Centre’s infinite ochre plains is unmissable in its own right. Driving west from Alice Springs, the first you’ll reach is Kings Canyon, an enormous chasm at the western end of the George Gill Range. The main draw here is the 6km Rim Walk, which leads up and around the canyon past sandstone mounds and towering rock-walls; tackle it at dawn to absorb the sunrise. The adjacent resort is well equipped with everything from hire bikes to bistros.
Impressive though it is, of course, Kings Canyon is essentially an hors d’oeuvre to what comes next: one of the planet’s most imposing landmarks. Uluru matches the hype, and then some. Aboriginal peoples have roamed the land here for more than 20,000 years, and there’s a genuine magnetism about the 348m-high monolith.
The entry ticket for the national park allows you unlimited access for three days, and you’ll likely need them all. Whether you’re making the 10km walk around the base of The Rock, visiting its interpretative cultural centre, gazing at its changing sunset colours or relaxing in the luxury-heavy resort town that has sprung up nearby, you’ll find it a unique place to visit. Uluru is an icon that doesn’t disappoint.
This is also true of the third of the region’s main attractions: Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas. The indigenous name translates as ‘many heads’ – an apt moniker for the maze of 36 colossal domes comprising the formation. Just 53km from Uluru, it offers two excellent walks – a desert-flower-strewn stroll through Walpa Gorge, and the remote Valley of the Winds trails.
Going off-road is a great way to experience the Red Centre. If you’re keen, rent a 4WD vehicle: recommended trails include the Mereenie Loop or the Finke River Route. Prior 4WD experience is advised.