Australia: six days in the Red Centre

The Red Centre, named after its characteristic red soil and sparse greenery, is Australia’s signature landscape, home to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), and Kings Canyon.

There are many organised tours of the Red Centre to suit all budgets, from camping safaris and bush barbies, to air-conditioned coach tours and deluxe desert resorts.

One of the best ways to see the Red Centre is from the air. Escorted tour operator AAT Kings offers hot-air balloon and helicopter rides as optional upgrades. Whatever your clients’ budget or preferred method of travel, suggest this six-day tour of must-see sights.

Day one: Alice Springs to Palm Valley

Heading west from Alice Springs, drive through the West MacDonnell National Park with its numerous gorges and waterholes. Marvel at the 100-metre rock walls of Stanley Chasm, explore the deep gorge and ancient waterways of Simpsons Gap, and go bushwalking among the black-footed wallabies of Ormiston Gorge.

Drive on to the thriving Aboriginal (Anangu) community of Hermannsburg with its ancient buildings, tea rooms and art gallery. Round off the day with a visit to the Finke Gorge National Park, which is home to the picturesque Palm Valley – the only place in the world where you’ll find the rare Red Cabbage Palm.

Day two: Palm Valley to Kings Canyon

Take the Mereenie Loop Road towards Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park, stopping along the way at Red Bank Gorge – a water pool surrounded by high rock walls.

Dip a toe in the ice-cold water of the narrow gorge before continuing on to the Tnorala Conservation Reserve (Gosse Bluff) – a huge crater formed by a meteor strike 130 million years ago.

Head on to Kings Canyon to discover the impressive 100-metre-high sheer cliff faces. Take the gentle, shady Kings Canyon Floor Walk, which is just over a mile along the boulder-strewn floor to the canyon’s natural amphitheatre.

Day three: Kings Canyon to Uluru

Rise early and set out on the more challenging 3.7-mile Kings Canyon Rim Walk – reliable footwear and a healthy heart are a must. Climb up to the canyon’s rim where you’ll enjoy the breathtaking views and discover the Lost City and Garden of Eden.

Continue on to Uluru via Kings Creek Station – a working cattle/camel station – where you can experience the outback on a camel trek or, depending on your sensitivities, chow down on a famous Kings Creek Camel Burger. Arrive at Uluru late afternoon.

As the sun sets, enjoy a glass of wine and watch the changing colours of the legendary rock.

Day four: Explore Uluru and Kata Tjuta

Take in the sheer size of this monolith by making the 348-metre climb to the top of Uluru or walk the 5.6 miles around its base, (get an early start to avoid withering in the midday sun).

Alternatively join a tour with a local Anangu guide to gain an insight into the rock’s spiritual interpretations. See the famous dingos and explore the many caves depicting Anangu rock paintings. A ride around Uluru on a Harley-Davidson promises a truly memorable experience and will make for excellent pub banter on your return.

Alternatively, take to the skies in a helicopter to appreciate the rich red landscape from above. As the evening draws in, watch the sun set over Uluru accompanied by the gentle drones of a didgeridoo. Dine under the desert sky and bright canopy of stars.

Day five: Uluru to Alice Springs

Set out on a sunrise camel trek to see the changing colours of Uluru for the last time. Drive on to the eerie Kata Tjuta, meaning ‘many heads’, which is made up of 36 domed rocks.

Take the 1.3-mile Olga Gorge Walk into the great chasm. Leave Kata Tjuta and head towards the Stuart Highway via Mount Conner. This 700-million-year-old rock tabletop is often mistaken for Uluru.

Head on towards Alice Springs via Rainbow Valley, just off the Stuart Highway. Time your journey to arrive in the valley late afternoon when rainbow bands of rock are highlighted in the massive sandstone bluffs and cliffs. Drive on to Alice Springs, ‘the hub of the Northern Territory’.

Day six: Alice Springs

Alice Springs is easily explored on foot. Australia’s most famous outback town has a lively centre and wealth of attractions. Visit the historic Telegraph Station, the Alice Springs Reptile Centre, and the Desert Art Gallery.

The Alice Springs Desert Park will teach you about the hundreds of plants and animals native to the Central Australian Desert. Learn how to play the didgeridoo at the Alice Springs Arts and Cultural Centre, and enjoy a panoramic view of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill.

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