Regarded geographically and sentimentally as the Red Heart of Australia, the Ayers Rock and Alice Springs region boasts some of the most incredible natural features in the world. Uluru - the Aboriginal, and now official name of Ayers Rock - is one of the most iconic and recognisable landmarks in the world. Standing 348 metres high with a circumference of almost six miles, its famed for its geographical uniqueness and spiritual significance, with many stories regarding its creation existing in the Aboriginal tradition.
Nearby lie the ancient Kata-Tjuta rock formations, or Olgas, a similarly fascinating feature of the region well worth a visit.
Alice Springs lies a short flight away, a town of remarkable heritage, history and culture. With a welcoming local atmosphere, manifested in the various street markets, music festivals, and Aboriginal art galleries, it is a destination which perfectly combines Australia's breathtaking natural beauty and world-renowned sense of hospitality.
Surrounded by picturesque desert, it's well worth booking a rural tour via helicopter, quad bike, or even camel. The town itself offers a number of internationally - inspired restaurants and cosy cafes, as well as attractions such as the Reptile Centre and month night markets - exciting themed gatherings at which indigenous art, clothing, jewellery and food can be bought.
The best time to visit the region is August and September for a variety of reasons. The heat is pleasant without being overwhelming, the crowds of tourists will have largely started to disperse, and the lack of clouds makes views of the stunning scenery all the more breathtaking.
A visit to the Ayers Rock region doesn't necessarily mean your break has to be centred around the rock itself. Although undoubtedly worth a visit, there are fantastic sights to be seen elsewhere in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
The cultural centre is a fantastic place to start, allowing you to learn all about the history and geographical features of the area before seeing them in front of your eyes. Ayers Rock is - of course - the centrepiece, a landmark of huge spiritual and geographical significance. The nearby rock formations of Kata-Tjuta (also known as The Olgas) are equally impressive, boasting a history of approximately 500 million years. Helicopter tours and guided hikes are highly recommended, as is a trip to Kings Canyon some three hours away - well worth the trip for its stunning sandstone walls and waterfalls.
Alice Springs is a town surrounded by breathtaking desert landscapes, and offers a true taste of Australia's Red Centre. Within the town itself lies a wealth of opportunities to learn about ancient Aboriginal customs and partake in exciting local traditions. As well as a series of fascinating Aboriginal art galleries, Alice Springs plays host to various markets at which traditional food, clothing, art and souvenirs can be bought. Additionally, enjoy a trip to the Reptile Centre, home to some of the deadliest and most fascinating creatures in the world.
As with much of Australia, the central region's cuisine centres around a pride in the best grilled and barbecued meats, exquisite fresh salads and fruits, and fantastic local beers or wines.
Yulara, a resort town half an hour from Ayers Rock, contains many vibrant cafes and bars filled with fellow travellers, as well as upmarket restaurants such as the succulent Arnguli Grill. Alice Springs features a range of options inspired by a variety of international cuisines; the Asian influence at Hanuman and Mexican menu of Loco Burrito proving especially popular.
There's no better way to experience Australia's famous hospitality than enjoying a glass of beer or wine in one of the many taverns and bars scattered around the region - while dining or drinking under the amazing star-filled skies can enhance such an experience immeasurably for no extra cost.
Visitors to Australia are often most impressed by the friendly locals and vibrant hotspots throughout the country, and - despite its relatively sparse population - the Red Centre is no exception. Yulara's reputation as a base for travellers exploring Ayers Rock guarantees a warm and friendly evening atmosphere, with many a story shared over barbecues and camp-fires. Night-time tours of the Ulura-Kata Tjunta National Park are a unique experience all of their own, the star-studded night sky casting new light on ancient rock formations and towering mountains.
Alice Springs offers a lovely laid-back vibe, although does provide a few livelier venues (and even a casino) for those after a slightly wilder night on the town. Its music scene is fantastic, often striving to include local acts and traditional Aboriginal music. The Bush Bands Bash is an annual music festival held in the town every September.
It is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct travel insurance and vaccinations and / or special medication for your destination. Please consult your GP for advice at least one month ahead of travel. It is essential that you meet the visa and passport requirements for your chosen destination. Visit the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (http://www.fco.gov.uk) website for up to date entry requirements listed by country.