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Holiday Guides for Oceania - Australia

Ayers Rock Holiday

With its Aboriginal heritage and raw natural beauty, Ayers Rock is nothing short of breathtaking.

Rising majestically out of the Australian outback, Ayers Rock has become an essential detour for millions of holiday makers, determined to watch its colours change spectacularly as the sun rises and sets on each new day. But Ayers Rock is far from being just a pretty lump of stone in a barren landscape - it has long been a scared site for the Anangu tribe of Aborigines who even today hold true to special powers.

Uluru - the rock's Aboriginal name - is the star attraction of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory. Straddling what were the ancestral lands of the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara tribes, measuring an impressive 2.2 miles in length and towering 348 metres above the dusty ground, it has proved a natural draw for holiday makers since the first European set eyes on it in 1872.

Those looking to view the rock from all angles can take the 9.4 kilometre trek around the base marked with numerous Aboriginal paintings along with boards explaining their significance. And whilst most is out in the open to be gazed upon and admired, some areas have been designated as sacred by the Anangu people and these are clearly marked as off limits to inquisitive visitors.

The two kilometre Mala Walk leads you through some of the places where the Mala (hare-wallaby people) prepare for their ceremonies whilst telling the story of their Tjukurpa - the traditional law that explains existence and guides daily life. The one kilometre Mutitjulu Walk leads to a permanent waterhole whilst recounting the clash between the ancestral snakes, Kuniya and Liru en route.

Although climbing Uluru is strongly discouraged by the indigenous because the climb crosses an important dreaming track, those holiday makers who choose to scale its heights can enjoy a fantastic panoramic of the Olgas and the surrounding area. There are ropes on some of the steeper sections but the climb requires a good level of fitness and a head for heights on the three hour trek. Climbing on the rock is also forbidden once the temperature rises above 35 degrees and in the searing heat of the Australian outback this can often be a regular occurence.

Those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground can nevertheless watch as the rock undergoes dramatic colour changes with its normally terracotta hue gradually changing to blue or violet at sunset to flaming red in the mornings as the sunrises behind it.

But the rock also extends some 1.5 miles underground. The Anangu Aborigines believe this space is actually hollow but it contains an energy source and marks the spot where their 'dreamtime' began. They also believe that area around Uluru is the home of their ancestors and is inhabited by many ancestral 'beings'.

But in case you're worried about encountering spirits in the night, the Ayers Rock hotel, a short drive away provides a wide range of budget and luxury accommodation as well as a number of restaurants and shops.

Uluru is very much one of the natural wonders of the world - overwhelming in size, seeped in legend and dazzling in colour - which no photo can truly do justice to. Despite the fact it's stuck a long way from anywhere, this is one detour you would be very sorry to miss.