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Top 6 Natural Wonders of the Red Centre

The Northern Territory's Red Centre Way is by far one of Australia's greatest driving routes. The very best of Central Australia can be found along this route. Here are six of the natural wonders worth a stop and stay along the way.

Top 6 Natural Wonders of the Red Centre

Thursday, 29 March 2018

The Northern Territory’s Red Centre Way is by far one of Australia’s greatest drives. It’s an epic journey from Alice Springs to Uluru via the West MacDonnell Ranges - or the other way around - and is rich in ancient culture, heritage and historical sites, brimming with unique flora and fauna, hidden waterholes and breathtaking vistas.

Here are six of the natural wonders you shouldn’t miss when driving the Red Centre Way:

1. Standley Chasm

Known to the local Arrernte people as ‘Angkerle Atwatye’, Standley Chasm is found just 50kms west of Alice Springs in the West MacDonnell Ranges. The narrow gap of the chasm was formed thousands of years ago by rushing floodwaters which has now left a natural rocky alleyway reaching up to 80m high. The best time to visit is on a sunny day around midday when the sun enters the chasm walls and lights up both sides as it passes above. For just a few minutes, the walls glow a rich red colour from the reflected sunlight and is a stunning site to see. Standley Chasm was traditionally a sacred women’s site for collecting bush medicine and performing sacred ceremonies.

2. Glen Helen Gorge

Located 132kms from Alice Springs, Glen Helen Gorge is a beautiful waterhole found where the West MacDonnell Ranges part slightly to make way for the Finke River. It’s a popular overnight stop for those driving the Red Centre Way and a great place to take a quick refreshing dip to cool off in the summer months. Traditional owners of the land believe that Glen Helen Gorge is the home of the Rainbow Serpent and regard it as a sacred spot.

3. Kings Canyon

Set in Watarrka National Park between Alice Springs and Uluru, Kings Canyon is a remarkable chasm with sandstone walls soaring 70m high. Home to a unique variety of plants and animals, the canyon can be explored by air or by foot. For the adventurous hikers, make the rocky climb to the rim of the canyon on the 6km Rim Walk. This walk begins with a challenging 500-step climb but the effort is worth it as you are greeted with breathtaking views of the national park at the top before descending into the green oasis of the ‘Garden of Eden’. For the leisurely walkers, explore the boulder-strewn canyon floor on the easier 2.6km Kings Creek Walk. You can also experience Kings Canyon on a day trip from Uluru

4. Mount Conner

Mount Conner (also known as Atilla and Artilla) is a distinctive flat-topped sandstone capped mountain standing 300m high and is often mistaken for Uluru by visitors travelling along the road from Alice Springs, earning it the nick-name "Fooluru". This horseshoe-shaped inselberg is located on the 416,000 hectare Curtin Springs Station, a private property not generally open to the public. SEIT’s 4WD Outback Adventure is the only tour permitted on this privately owned land and gives you the opportunity to learn about the pastoral history of the region, discover an ancient inland salt lake and see the perfect habitat for red kangaroos, rock wallabies and a vast array of birds and reptiles of the Red Centre.

5. Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Aboriginal for ‘many heads’, Kata Tjuta (also known as The Olgas) is made up of 36 weathered rock dome formations, extending 6kms into the ground and is the remains of erosion that began more than 500 million years ago. It is located within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and located 50km West of Uluru. It is a sacred Anangu men’s site under Tjukurpa (law) and many stories of Kata Tjuta are not known except to initiated men.

Abundant with unique flora and fauna, the best way to see and experience Kata Tjuta is by trekking the popular yet challenging 7.4km Valley of the Winds circuit which takes you through and into Kata Tjuta’s red rocky dome. For a shorter walk, there’s the 2.6km Walpa Gorge trail. Alternatively, you can join an AAT Kings guided tour or SEIT guided tour to gain a deeper understanding of this natural spectacle.

6. Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Rising 348 metres above the desert floor, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is undoubtedly the beating heart of Australia. No other place compares as you are drawn towards this living cultural landscape and its ancient Indigenous culture and spirituality.

There are plenty of ways to experience this ancient wonder. Walk around the 10.6km base on foot or hop on a bicycle, segway or the back of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. Explore the Central Australian desert like the early pioneers on the back of a camel, or take to the skies in a scenic flight for a bird’s-eye view of Uluru, Kata Tjuta and surrounds. Don’t forget to experience sunrise and sunset from one of the viewing platforms or by joining a guided sunrise or sunset tour. Whether guided or self-guided, you will leave knowing more about Anangu people and their culture and the ancient rock art, flora and fauna.

Ayers Rock Resort is the perfect base when exploring Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park with a range of accommodations, shops, restaurants and facilities; as well as free guest activities to learn more about Aboriginal culture and taste some bush tucker.

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Create your own itinerary using the My Itinerary planner. Start by browsing and adding experiences to your itinerary to help you plan your days. Then select accommodation that best suits your style and budget before finalising your perfect Uluru escape. You can easily save your itinerary and come back to it at a later date.

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1 Day Hop On Hop Off Pass

This 1-day Hop On Hop Off pass gives you the freedom to explore Uluru at your own pace for one day. From sunrise to sunset, hop on and hop off as much as you like throughout the day. Additionally, this pass also entitles you to one bonus transfer to and from Kata Tjuta within the same day.

Uluru Bicycle Hire (Departure 1)

Take a morning ride around the base of Uluru by bicycle. The 15 kilometre self-guided journey is easily made within 3 hours and can be enjoyed by the whole family. Stop and explore the pure beauty of this spiritual and unique wonder of the world at your own pace. Once you have finished your ride, you are free to explore the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. Includes return hotel transfers operated by Uluru Hop On & Hop Off. Children toddler seats and tag-a-longs available on request, subject to availability. Departure times: Return transfer from your accommodation by Uluru Hop ON Hop Off 7:15am December 7:45am February 8:30am March 9:30am October and November 10:00am September 10:15am 16-30 April and May 10:30am 1-15 April and June to August Duration approx. 4 hours

15min Uluru and Resort Postcard Flight (daytime)

Limited on time? Take to the skies on a 15 minute scenic helicopter flight that takes you past Ayers Rock Resort and onto breathtaking views of the desert landscape and the majestic Uluru, as well as Kata Tjuta in the distance. Enjoy this tour anytime throughout the day, excluding sunrise and sunset. Tour duration is approx. 1 hour
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Longitude 131°

Longitude 131° offers an exclusive experience of Australia’s spirited heartland.

Emu Walk Apartments

Ayers Rock Resort’s Emu Walk Apartments offer the luxury of newly renovated, fully serviced apartments with all the practicalities of home.

Ayers Rock Campground

Located within the Ayers Rock Resort, the well-equipped campground is an ideal base from which to experience the beauty of the living cultural landscape in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
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Bush Food Experience

Learn about Australian and local native bush foods with a tasting of seasonal seeds, fruits and spices. Your knowledgeable guide will describe how for centuries the Indigenous people used the bush for food.  You'll find out about the uses of certain plants, fruits, grains and spices and about traditional food preparation methods. Enjoy a cooking demonstration of a recipe using some of the ancient native bush ingredients. Tour duration approx. 45 minutes. 

Mani Mani Indigenous Cultural Theatre

Mani-Mani Theatre Company’s unique sound, lighting, 3D effects and performance take you on a visually captivating experience transporting you to the ancient lands of Central Australia where the story of Walawuru, Kakalyalya & Kaanka unravels. The symbolic story of Walawuru, Kakalyalya & Kaanka is a tale of love, jealousy and greed. Expressed through ‘Mani-Mani’, the local art form of storytelling, this contemporary Indigenous performance brings to life the ancient ancestral beings Walawuru the Wedge-Tailed Eagle and his two wives; Kaanka the black crow and Kakalyalya the white cockatoo. Walawuru is happy with his two wives but little does he know Kaanka is evil and very jealous of the kind and caring Kakalyalya. The word ‘Mani-Mani’ comes from the Yankunytjatjara & Pitjantjatjara language of the Anangu people of Central Australia. Anangu people would often tell stories by drawing symbols in the sand using a stick taken from a branch of the Mani-Mani tree. The stories were often about ancestors, real events in history and the Tjukurpa creation time. Please note: this tour will recommence 5 February 2018

Ecology & Museum Tour

Wintjiri museum provides an educational display highlighting local history, Aboriginal culture, geology, flora and fauna. On this interpretative tour of the museum your Aboriginal guide will introduce you to the region's unique ecology and classes of mammals and fauna types not found anywhere else in the world.  Gain insights into the Anangu land conservation and management practices as well as a brief historical overview; starting 30,000 years ago with the Aboriginal habitation to the early European explorers, and the development of tourism at Uluru. Tour duration approx. 45 minutes.
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3 Day Best of Uluru Itinerary

Experience everything Uluru and the surrounds has to offer with the top once-in-a-lifetime tours and activities on this 2 night Best of Uluru stay including: A Night at Field of Light Desert Awakenings sunrise tour Kata Tjuta Sunset Various guest activities

3 Day Culture Itinerary

Immerse yourself in the magic of this cultural living landscape with this all-encompassing 2 night cultural itinerary including: Sounds of Silence dinner under the stars Dot painting Desert Awakenings sunrise tour Various guest activities

3 Day Luxury Itinerary

Your 2 night Luxury and Indulgence stay is overflowing with experiences that will leave you with a lifetime of lasting memories. Includes Mayu Wiru intimate fine dining experience, an intimate Desert Awakenings tour, a helicopter ride and various guest activities to experience at Ayers Rock Resort. This itinerary is suited to couples or 2 singles wanting that indulgent Outback break. Includes: Tali Wiru fine dining under the outback sky Desert Awakenings tour Helicopter ride (requires a min. 2 passengers) Variety of guest activities
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