Today’s #TravelTuesday destination is Northern Territory, Australia, courtesy of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Page-A-Day calendar.
- Uluru and Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and the Olgas): Never mind how many times it has appeared in movies or on postcards: The great red monolith of Uluru (Ayers Rock) still stirs those who visit it. The sandstone formation rises 1,142 feet above the desert plain and has a circumference of nearly 6 miles. Revered as a center of spiritual power by the Anagu Aboriginal peoples—whose ancestors are believed to have lived here as long as 40,000 years ago—the orange-red rock subtly changes color during the day, seeming to glow from within at sunrise and sunset. Rich deposits of iron mean that Uluru actually rusts when it rains. Climbing the rock is discouraged because of its religious significance to the Aborigines, who have jointly managed the surrounding 511-square mile national park since 1985. Maintain your respect—and your knees—and opt instead to walk the trail at its base.
- Where: 200 miles/322 km southwest of Alice Springs.
- Best Times: May-March and September-November for pleasant weather.
- Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land: The 8,000-square-mile Kakadu National Park is half the size of Switzerland, yet still remote and little known outside Australia. For now, its rugged frontier feel remains intact, while the resident population of 15-foot “saltie” and smaller “freshie” crocodiles still laze undisturbed in the shallows of its rivers and surrounding marshlands. In 1981, Kakadu received the rare double honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural wonders as well as for culture: 5,000 rock paintings dating as far back as 50,000 years grace its sandstone caves.
- Where: 150 miles/241 km east of Darwin.
- Best Times: May-September for dry season, though some prefer the greenness of wetter months, November-April.
- The Tiwi Islands: All but unknown to the outside world, Bathurst and its sister island Melville, are the ancestral home of Australia’s Tiwi Islands, who originally came from mainland Australia and were isolated some 7,000 years ago when sea levels rose. As a result, the Tiwi (or “We People”) developed a rich culture and language distinct from other Aboriginal groups, maintaining religious customs that absorbed bits of Catholicism introduced by missionaries in the late 18th century. Despite the island’s size—at 2,234-square-miles, Melville Island is Australia’s second largest—their population is a sparse 2,700.
- Where: 50 miles/80 km off the coast of Darwin.
- How: Darwin Day Tours leads 1-day tours from Darwin. Tel: 61/8-8923-6523; www.darwindaytours.com.au
- Best Time: May-September for nicest weather.
Read more on 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and the calendar line here: