The Red Centre is a ruddy sprawl of desert wilderness in the middle of Australia – a desolate and seemingly endless landscape of dunes and shrubland, with iconic Uluru towering imperiously at its heart.
Named, with typical Australian pragmatism, for its striking red soil and location at the frontier-land heart of the country, the Red Centre is sparse on greenery, big on breath-stoppingly impressive natural features. It’s the classic idea of Outback Australia – an arid, rocky land criss-crossed by dusty tracks, with the rich thwang of the didgeridoo in the air and the ancient myths of the Aborigines written into the earth. Uluru (no longer known as Ayers Rock) is the region’s most famous tourist tick-box – and deservedly so – but there’s far more on offer. The domed rock formations of Kata Tjuta (aka the Olgas) are a similarly inspiring sight, the urban hub of Alice Springs (286 miles from Uluru) has all the appeal of a modern town, together with a strong sense of Aboriginal culture, and, at night, the Red Centre sky is a star-spangled canopy that’s impossible to forget.
With temperatures rocketing as high as 45ºC at the height of summer (December to February), it’s far from the best time to visit the Red Centre. Winter in the desert can bring some exceedingly cold nights, although the days normally remain warm and clear. In general, September to November or March to May are the most pleasant periods.