8 must-see sights in Australia’s Northern Territory
From Uluru to Alice Springs, Darwin to Kakadu, Northern Territory has some of Australia’s most culturally significant sights and extraordinary natural wonders. Here are a few of our favourites, along with the Titan escorted tours we recommend for experiencing them.
Australia’s Red Centre
The red dirt and almost unimaginable scale of the Australian outback is as iconic as Sydney Opera House and the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a strange, mystical and spiritual place, and no visit to Australia would be complete without experiencing it. Standing in the Red Centre, surrounded on all sides by red sand dotted with spinifex and grey mulga trees, you feel humbled by its sheer size and silence. And then, to top it all, it gives you Uluru – one of the most jaw-dropping natural wonders on the planet.
Uluru is the spiritual (and literal) heart of Australia, and it towers over the surrounding red desert like a great sleeping giant. The rock was named Uluru, meaning Great Pebble, by the local Anangu people and has been revered as a resting place for spirits for thousands of years. Uluru has a powerful presence, with colours and shades that shift and change throughout the day, and a walk around its base (a nine-kilometre round-trip) reveals hidden caves, tranquil waterholes and deep vertical splits which turn into silvery waterfalls when it rains. Uluru is most beautiful at sunrise or sunset, when it appears to glow red against the dark desert sky. Lucky, then, Titan includes sunrise and sunset visits to Uluru on all our Australia tours.
The Field of Light at Uluru
Evening visits to Uluru add another dimension, when a nearby installation created by artist Bruce Munro spreads swirls of coloured light across the desert floor. The 50,000 globes on small, swaying steams are solar powered, channelling the energy of the outback into a gentle, entrancing light show. The Best of Australia includes entrance to the Field of Light installation on the final evening of your stay in Alice Springs – the perfect way to end to your Red Centre experience.
About 35 miles west of Uluru, Kata Tjuta is a cluster of 36 gigantic red sandstone domes rising from the desert floor. It’s less well-known but just as impressive as Uluru, and it has huge spiritual significance to the Anangu people, the traditional landowners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta means ‘many heads’ in the local language, and countless Dreamtime legends are woven into and around the landscape here. Dreamtime is when Australia’s First Nations people believe life was created and it is deeply rooted in the art, ceremonies, songs and stories of Australia’s Northern Territory.
Located halfway between Darwin and Melbourne and a few days’ solid driving on one road from both (unless you fly), Alice Springs is the capital of the Red Centre. Known as ‘the biggest little town in Australia’ (or just ‘Alice’), it’s the gateway to treasures including Uluru and Kata Tjuta. But Alice itself has lots of interest too, exuding true Aussie spirit in galleries devoted to indigenous art and museums telling stories of everything from flying doctors to the first pioneering settlers and the history of central Australia from big bang to present day.
You’ll stay in Alice on all our escorted tours of Australia, and on Grand Tour of Australia and The Best of Australia you’ll get a glimpse of real life in outback Australia with visits to the Telegraph Station and Royal Flying Doctors Service Base.
Darwin wears its titles proudly: Capital of the Northern Territory and Gateway to the Top End. Australia’s only tropical city, it’s actually closer to Bali than it is to Bondi beach. You’ll notice cultures, flavours and tastes from Southeast Asia, layered with the pioneering spirit of early settlers and the rich, soulful presence of ancient Dreamtime tales.
Take our Grand Tour of Australia between April to October and you’ll be able to browse and buy arts, crafts and souvenirs at Darwin’s Mindil Beach Sunset Market, so named for its sunset views over the Timor Sea. The dream was to recreate a Southeast Asian night market in Australia’s Northern Territory and with its exuberant street performers and enticing food stalls, it does exactly that.
Nitmiluk National Park
Spanning the sinuous Katherine River and cascading Edith Falls, Nitmiluk National Park is best known for the twists, turns and sheer-sided cliffs along its 13 spectacular gorges. Grand Tour of Australia includes a gentle morning cruise through this sublime silent landscape, when the soft light and emerging colours show it off at its best. Don’t forget your camera - you might just snap a freshwater croc or a blue-winged kookaburra on the way.
Kakadu National Park
Rugged and remote, Australia’s biggest National Park was the outback backdrop for the blockbuster Aussie film Crocodile Dundee. It’s a wild place of steep gorges, craggy rocks, lush wetlands and cold plunge pools, and you can see ancient indigenous rock art on Kakadu cave walls. Bushwalking trails thread past waterfalls and billabongs, and if you’re sharp eyed you may spot kites, cormorants and kingfishers. More thrilling still, look out for saltwater crocodiles slipping silently into Yellow Water Billabong during the morning cruise on Grand Tour of Australia.
Although Sophie’s most memorable travel experiences include swimming with horses in the sea off Cape Tribulation, nearly driving off the edge of the Grand Canyon and bungee jumping out of a helicopter over Queenstown, her holidays are a little less adrenalin-fuelled now, often revolving around dog walks and surfing with her family and two dachshunds in Cornwall.
Sophie | About the author
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