Uluru at dusk.
Uluru (also called Ayers Rock) is a large rock formation in central Australia, in the Northern Territory southwest of Alice Springs, located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It is the largest monolith in the world, more than 318 meters (986 ft) high and 8 km (5 mi) around. It also extends 2.5 km (1.5 miles) into the ground. It was described by explorer Ernst Giles in 1872 as "the remarkable pebble".
Uluru is notable for its quality of changing color as the different light strikes it at different times of the day and year, with sunset a particularly remarkable sight. It is made of sandstone infused with minerals like feldspar (Arkosic sandstone) that lets it give off a red glow at sunrise and sunset. The rock gets it rust color due to oxidation.
It is sacred to the Aborigines and has many storied springs, waterholes, rock caves, and ancient paintings. Ayers Rock was the name given to it by European settlers, after the Premier of South Australia Henry Ayers. Uluru is the Aboriginal name, and since the 1980s it has been the officially preferred name for it (although many people, especially non-Australians, still call it Ayers Rock.)
Uluru is adjacent to an Aboriginal settlement, and to the tourist town of Yulara (pop. 3000). It is not far from Kata Tjuta (also called the Olgas). Special viewing areas with road access and ample parking have been constructed in order to give tourists the best views of both sites at dawn and dusk.
In 1985 the Australian Government returned ownership of Uluru to the local Aboriginal people, the Anangu, who then leased it back to the Government for 99 years as a National Park.
Climbing the rock is a popular attraction for a large fraction of the many tourists who visit it each year. A rope handhold makes the climb easier, but it is still quite a long and steep climb and many intended climbers give up part-way up. The Anangu regard the rock as sacred and would prefer that visitors did not climb it. They have not, however, attempted to have climbing banned, but have instead attempted to persuade visitors to respect their wishes and not do so.
Detail of Uluru
showing Skull Cave
Climbers ignore warning
signs at their peril