Uluru, Australia travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


After successfully negotiating the delicate phasing out of the climbing of Uluru, Ayers Rock Resort was in need of some other attractions to entice and dazzle visitors. It found it in the form of Field of Light, a stunning sculptural installation, designed by British artist Bruce Munro, that twinkles into life in the desert each night. The installation, consisting of 50,000 light bulbs on stems that sway in the desert breeze, was meant to be temporary but it proved so popular that the resort has poured a fortune into extending its life. See ayersrockresort.com.au


Whether it be by car, coach, on foot or on a Segway, there are plenty of ways you can circumnavigate Uluru these days at ground level. But no method is more pleasurable than exploring the Rock by bicycle on an at times sandy track that rings its 10 kilometres or so circumference. Outback Cycling rents out bicycles (and helmets) in the carpark of the (currently closed) Cultural Centre, conveniently close to the monolith. There's also the option of transfers from your accommodation or the Uluru Hop on Hop Off bus. See outbackcycling.com


If you want to wake up to a view of Uluru (and who wouldn't), the only way to make it happen is to secure a reservation at the iconic Longitude 131. This five-star luxury desert camp, set in rolling red dunes, delivers breathtaking views of the Rock not just from its tents but also its central lodge or Dune House building. Don't miss drinks and canapes on the deck, complete with an inviting jacuzzi, perched above the camp with views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta followed by an atmospheric al fresco dinner in the desert at Table 131. See longitude131.com.au


One sure way to connect with the traditional owners at Uluru is to join a dot-painting class where you'll be tutored by one of the resident artists. An English interpreter is usually on hand with all of the materials you'll need supplied. You'll also have the chance to buy examples of the artist's work. During the hotter days of the year, the morning and afternoon workshops are also a good way to stay cool with the classes held inside function rooms at Sails in the Desert. See ayersrockresort.com.au


After an extensive $50 million refurbishment, Sails in the Desert, Uluru's five-star hotel with its distinctive white spinnaker-like shade cloth roofing, has a new wind beneath its wings. The upgrade includes spruced-up rooms with new bathrooms and some renovated terraces, but the essence of this unique, almost 40-year-old stalwart of Australian tourism, remains intact. The in-house lkari Restaurant serves an easy-going, and excellent, evening buffet dinner while the Walpa Lobby Bar is perfect for a drink and a casual meal day and night. See ayersrockresort.com.au


Please refer to disclaimer (under Restrictions below) before publishing this image. You must get permission from National Parks to use this image of Uluru and Kata Tjuta Paddy Palin 2012 satsep21cover
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Most visitors to Uluru drive to the sunset viewing spots to witness the Rock at dusk. But the most novel way to do dusk in the desert is to board a camel train. The tour, which includes transfers from Yulara to a camel farm, not only provides spectacular views of Uluru as it changes colour in the fading desert light from atop a high-rise steed, but also view of Kata Tjuta, the domed rock formation, also known as the Olgas. After the one hour ride you'll return to the camel farm for drinks and snacks, including freshly-baked damper. See ulurucameltours.com.au


H3JXWM Aerial photograph of Kata Tjuta, SatJan30OneOnly

Aerial shot of Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory

Photo: Alamy

Kata Tjuta. Photo: Alamy

It's easy to be diverted by the majesty of the Rock on any visit to this part of Central Australia but do allow time for a drive to Kata Tjuta, a 45-minute drive from Yulara, the main town where Ayers Rock Resort is located. Meaning "many heads" in Pitjantjatjara, the rock formation is composed of three dozen, steep-sided domes, with its sunrises and sunsets rivalling those of UIuru itself. Kata Tjuta's haunting Valley of the Winds walk allows you to immerse yourself within the towering formations and wonder at the vistas of the surrounding desert. See parksaustralia.gov.au



Ayers Rock Resort also serves National Indigenous Training Academy (NITA), a residential program for young Indigenous Australians from all over the country. You can meet some of the trainees at work behind the counter or at the tables at Kulata, a cafe in the town square, where they learn a range of skills to prepare them for future careers. NITAvhas seen 500 Indigenous Australia complete qualifications in fields such as hospitality, tourism and retail. See voyages.com.au


Beginning with the innovative Sounds of Silence, the operators of Ayers Rock Resort have over the years since Yulara opened perfected the art of al fresco desert dining. These days you can combine an outdoor dinner with a sky show with a walk through Field of Light. In April, our favourite, the more pricey Tali Waru (meaning "beautiful dune") dining experience is set to return. The four-course dinner, with dishes infused with native herbs and spices, is served by expert Indigenous staff. See ayersrockresort.com.au


If you only learn one word, as spoken by the local Anangu people, during your visit it should be "palya". Belonging to the Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara language, the word is a little reminiscent of "prego" in Italian in that it can have multiple meanings such as a greeting or as "I'm feeling good/well', or "that's good".

Anthony Dennis visited Uluru as a guest of Ayers Rock Resort, Longitude 131 and Qantas on one of the latter's special "flights to somewhere".