Ayers Rock is one of the most extraordinary landmarks in Australia. Located in the southwest corner of the Northern Territory, close to the geographic center of Australia, Ayers Rock is a true monolith, a giant chunk of sandstone reaching towards the sky in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Rising up 1,148 feet high above its barren surroundings, it’s a striking site. Amazingly, two thirds the length of the rock is actually buried beneath the sands. There are other similar rock formations in Australia, the Olgas and Mount Augustus in Western Australia, but Ayers Rock stands alone as the only whole rock of its size. Which is why it was made a World Heritage Site. Living in the region some 10,000 years ago, Aboriginal tribes named it Uluru. It wasn’t until the 1870s that white men came onto the scene and renamed it Ayers Rock, after Henry Ayers, the former South Australia Chief Secretary. Today, the land surrounding Ayers Rock is owned by the Pitjantatjara Aboriginals.
Visitors to the Rock can attempt a climb it or hike the 6.5-mile footpath around its base. The best time to see the rock is at sunrise or sunset, when its terracotta tint transforms to a violet-blue hue. There is nothing in Australia as identifiable as Uluru. No matter how many images you may have seen, nothing compares to seeing it for the first time, a mighty pillar of sandstone emerging on the horizon, colossal and solitary. Adding to its mystery, at the base of Uluru are sacred sites, but the knowledge of their particular significance and entry to these areas is restricted by Anangu Law. The change in seasons also dramatically alters the landscape surrounding Uluru. The shifting light creates the allusion of an ochre-brown colored rock face, marked by pitted dark shadowy areas in the afternoon sun. At the setting of the sun, the colors change to a burnished orange, slowly darkening and deepening to reds before fading to a charcoal black. At the dawn of the morning, the colors begin their dance again.