6 Must Have Experiences at Uluru, Australia

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia is the iconic giant red rock in the smack middle of the country, also known as Australia’s spiritual hub. Most Australians, let alone tourists, don’t get a chance to travel to Uluru. Because it sits in such a remote location, getting to Uluru is not easy. But if you do make it there, you will be blessed in many ways – 6 actually! I was lucky to make it to Uluru on my third visit to Australia and my timing couldn’t have been better. I got to witness the first ever drone show that showcases indigenous stories under the beautiful desert sky. Aside from that, there are other must have experiences while you are Uluru, and here are my top picks.

Dine Under The Stars

I had one of the most unforgettable dinners in my life with a view of Uluru. Tali Wiru, meaning ‘beautiful dune’ in local Anangu language Pitjantjatjara, encapsulates the magic of fine dining under the Southern Desert sky. Located in the middle of the desert, this open air dining experience taps into all of your senses.

When I arrived, I was greeted by friendly staff with a glass of champagne, while a musician played the iconic Australian musical instrument – didgeridoo. I took my first view of Uluru – standing at a distance as the sun was setting. There was also the domes of Kata Tjuta towering above the flatlands.

At the deck, up to 40 guests sat at tables of 4, as we ate a 3-course menu prepared using native ingredients. The best part for me was looking up at the sky and seeing the most number of stars I have possibly seen. After dinner, we learned about the night skies and heard traditional stories while sitting by the fire and drinking hot cocoa.

wake up to see sunrise in Uluru
Sunrise at Uluru is worth waking up for, even if you don’t look so good!

Wake Up To See The Sunrise

I spent only two full days at Uluru, and each day I watched the sunrise and the sunset. You simply cannot pick one over the other timing-wise, as both are so varied. As the suns rays fall over the rock, its color changes from black, grey, to pink, yellow, red and brown. There are a few lookout points from where you can get great views of Uluru.

A guided walk will help you understand the deeper connection of this place.

Go On a Guided Mala Walk

One of the best ways to learn about Uluru is by taking a walking tour with a traditional owner. Local elder Sammy Wilson pointed us to some of the important historical and cultural facts along an easy boardwalk to Kantju Gorge. We visited waterholes and rock art sites, and learned of Uluru’s cultural significance to Anangu. But most importantly, the indigenous guides tell tjukurpa (creation stories) that only they are allowed to share. One of them is called the Mala story, which is what is depicted at Wintjiri Wiru.

This experience is only offered through SEIT Outback Australia which prides itself in immersive journeys to the beautiful culture and history of Uluru and Anangu. 

must experience drone show in Australia
The magical Wintjiri Wiru sound and light show.

Watch The Drone Show

Wintjiri Wiru is the newest experience that opened at the Ayers Rock Resort in May 2023. This is the world’s-first sound and light show that combines ancient Anangu storytelling with state-of-the-art drone and laser light technology. 

We traveled by bus to a stunning viewing platform located near the resort. A short boardwalk through the desert led us to an open-air deck with intricate designs created by local artist Christine Brumby. Then we had drinks overlooking the sunset. There was Uluru on one end of the horizon, and Kata Tjuta on the other. Once we took our seats at the stadium-style benches, we each had a picnic basket filled with gourmet delicacies. There was cheese, fresh baguette, fruits, salad and desserts prepared by the resort’s chef. It was magical!

As the darkness fell, around 1,100 drones took flight, while lasers, projectors and field lights filled up the amphitheater. The audio narrated Mala story is accentuated with a light spectacle. I felt like the stars were dancing above me, while the sounds of the elders echoes in the stillness of the darkness.

If you feel awkward that a high-tech experience may disturb the sanctity of a spiritual site, ask they locals. The Anangu people were consulted every step of the way to ensure that they were comfortable with the drones and were able to craft their story as they wanted to be told. Some of them were delighted that modern technology was being used to carry on their stories, which is especially important for their own kids (who are also on devices now).

Wintjiri Wiru is a must have experience on your next visit to Australia!

shop for dot painting in Australia
Purchase art created by local artist Christine Brumby.

Shop for Indigenous Art

During your stay at Uluru, make sure to visit The Gallery of Central Australia (GoCA), which is adjacent to the Desert Gardens Hotel. Here you can see indigenous paintings made by artists living in the western and northern parts of Australia. Among these, you will find the traditional vibrant dot paintings. You can also shop for scarves, jewelry, bags, books and original artwork to take home. 

The Gallery operates as a nonprofit that works with artists to set up art communities through which they can source materials and get exposure for their work.  

Walk Among A Field of Lights

Another experience worth waking up before dawn for is the Field of Light Sunrise tour. Artist Bruce Munro’s open-air exhibition, aptly named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara is his largest work to date. In pitch darkness, you will see over 50,000 spindles of light covering more than seven football fields. The colors of the lights change constantly, overing a spectrum of ochre, deep violet, blue and gentle white.

In the morning, there was hardly anyone there, so I felt very peaceful walking through the lights. Once the sun started rising, you could see Uluru’s majestic shadows in the backdrop.

Also, nearby in Watarrka National Park, you can visit Munro’s new Light Towers installation (opened in April 2023).

Watch the magical sunrise from the viewing deck.

Getting To Uluru

Given its geographic location, most tourists to Australia often don’t make it to Uluru. There are only a few flights that come directly into Ayers Rock Connellan Airport, which are primarily from Sydney (4 times a week). There are also flights from Alice Springs, Cairns and Darwin. 

You can also fly into the nearest town of Alice Springs and then drive 460 km to get to Uluru. If you are a road tripper, plan a multi-day camping and driving trip across the outback.

listen to didgeridoo in Australia
Watch and learn about the iconic Australian instrument – didgeridoo.

Where To Stay

While there are very few hotels and campsites near Uluru, you can find something at every price point. I stayed at the Sails in the Desert luxury boutique hotel, which had large and comfortable rooms with balconies overlooking a garden and pool. The on-site restaurant offered good selection of fresh and healthy dishes using local produce. There was also a cafe, bar and gift shop in the lobby area.

Walk from the hotel to the adjacent Town Square Lawn, where you can partake at complementary guest activities. Listen to the stories of Aboriginal culture and tradition, learn about hunting weapons, didgeridoo, and the local Pitjantjatjara language. 

where to stay at Uluru
Stay in luxury at Sails in the Desert hotel.

Guidelines for Visiting Uluru

When you visit any indigenous spiritual sites, make sure to be respectful of the land and the cultural values. Stay on marked trails and don’t walk into reserved, private or ceremonial areas.

Whenever possible, be silent and allow others to focus on their meditative or spiritual journey as they go observe Uluru.

Also, do not take photographs of sacred carvings and images. When taking photos of videos of people – such as guides, elders or artists – make sure to ask for their permission first. Don’t use drones. The best way to enjoy your time at Uluru is by putting your devices away and soaking in the energy with your mind, body and spirit.

Uplifting Stories Of People I Encountered During My Travels

Travel is the best teacher there is. This saying is used in many different contexts. When we travel, we step back in history, discover a new culture, try different foods, but most of all, encounter all kinds of people. Through my travels, I have realized that there is goodness in everyone, no matter how different we may seem on the outside. You may not share the same race, religion, economic situation or political opinion, but have one thing in common – humanity. Over and over, I have met people randomly that moved me. These are their stories. Hope they uplift you too and allow you to see the beauty in everyone you meet.

As travel is largely on hold and many of us are going through tough times, I want to share with you some uplifting true stories of chance encounters and random generosities that I encountered during my travels.

encounter with a child in Greenland
Ina’s story inspired me to write my book – Beato Goes To Greenland

Thriving in Isolation

I had never felt more isolated than this. It took a few planes and a private boat ride to get to Ipiutaq Guest Farm in southern Greenland. Navigating icebergs, a humpback whale, and snow covered mountains, I arrived at a very private, family-run, sheep farm that had just opened its doors as a guest house with 2 bedrooms. There wasn’t even a dock for the boat. My husband and I literally had to throw our bags over a cliff & climb slippery rocks from our boat on to land!

The farm was run by a young French-Greenlandic couple, their 7-year old daughter, Ina, and an agriculture intern. This little girl was so isolated, yet filled with the world’s knowledge! There was no internet, phone, TV, or even a school or a neighbor, for miles and miles. The closest human was 40 minutes by boat in the summer and traveling by dog sled in the winter.

Yet, this little girl, Ina, could converse in 3 languages. She read lots of books and had long mature conversations with me. During our stay, I bonded with Ina. We hiked, picked herbs, had picnics, chased her dogs, licked glaciers, and watched the northern lights at midnight. Her life of isolation seemed sad at first (a 7 year old should be playing with kids her own age), but enriching at the same time (she was resourceful, outdoors and learning about life).

When I said goodbye to Ina, she cried. I wanted to give her something she would remember me by, so took off the red ruby earrings I was wearing. She still cherishes them, I hear. But this girl in isolation gave me the biggest gift. She inspired me to write my book series.

Couple of years later, I wrote my first children’s book – Beato Goes To Greenland, based on Ina. I didn’t tell her about this, though her mom and I have been in regular contact since my visit in 2014. It took a few months for Ina to receive my book by mail (traveling from Atlanta to southern Greenland). When she opened it, she was confused to see herself in the illustrations. This little girl had never imagined someone would write about her, let alone draw stark images of herself. She turned to the page that showed her with her two husky dogs and started crying. Since I last visited the dogs had been bitten by wild fox and had been put to sleep, her mom informed me. Such was the connection Ina had with her animals, as they were her closest companions at the isolated farm in Greenland.

Random Hospitality

I first met Anwar at Delhi Haat, a popular marketplace in New Delhi where vendors from all over India come to sell their handicrafts. Anwar, a young man from Kashmir, along with his brother, ran a pashmina store in the busy marketplace.

Now, for those of you who don’t know, pashmina is a finer version of cashmere, and the wool comes from a rare goat that is commonly found in the mountains of Kashmir, a region in northern India.

Over a vivid display of scarves and shawls, Anwar and I started friendly negotiations, as it is commonplace in India to bargain. He would say “this color looks great on you!” making it difficult for me to choose just one or two shawls. I would smile and joke that my husband is going to be mad when he finds out how much I spent! I ended up buying 9 pieces and he told me he could mail more if my friends in US liked them. We kept in touch through WhatsApp though I never did mail order any more items.

A couple of years later, I was in Kashmir for work, so I messaged Anwar to see if I could purchase more shawls from him. He was very excited to hear that I was in his hometown and wanted to arrange for my stay, sightseeing, etc. I thanked him for his offer but said I would come to his shop if that was ok.

uplifting encounter in Kashmir
Anwar and I at his pashmina storeroom in Srinagar

So my friend and I drove over to a small storeroom located at the entrance of his family home in Srinagar. We took off our shoes (as is customary in many Indian homes), and sat on the thick wool carpeted hardwood floors. Anwar brought out homemade Kashmiri kehwa (saffron tea) and snacks. We chit chatted a bit, then browsed through his inventory.

After our personal shopping experience, Anwar asked us to join his family for lunch in the main house. It was still late morning, so we politely refused. Then he asked if we wanted to see where the Pashmina shawls were made. This definitely peaked my interest.We left our car and driver at his home, and drove with Anwar through improvised parts of Srinagar, visiting homes of people who have worked in this business for generations.

One of the artisans had a tiny room where he worked and slept. He had his handloom machine, a floor fan, and a wooden bed right beside it. We visited people who dyed the wool, stenciled designs, and embroidered elegant patterns. We also shopped for carpets, leather and silver filigree shops – this time Anwar doing the bargaining for me.

Anwar spent an entire day giving us a behind the scenes tour of the artists in Srinagar. After that, he insisted on buying us lunch. It felt strange to be sitting at a restaurant with this shawl vendor I had randomly met in Delhi a few years ago, but the love and generosity he showed us, was what uplifted me the most. We never know when we meet someone if there is any reason for our meeting, or if we are ever going to see them again. Yet we continue to reach out to strangers welcoming them with all our hearts.

If Not Now, When?

I went to Australia last year for a travel conference. I arrived in Perth on a weekend and had Sunday morning to myself. So, I took a ferry from Perth to Rottnest Island. This is a popular place for Western Australians to go for a day trip and camping weekends. The ferry was packed with people carrying beer filed coolers, ready for a sunny day at the beach. I was able to get a seat on the inside, facing an elderly Indian couple.

After a few minutes of exchanging friendly glances, the older lady could not resist to speak to me. I seemed to be the only other Indian person around. She asked me where I was from, who was I traveling with, where all I was going to in Australia, etc. Now it’s typical for Indians to be that nosy! She told me that she and her husband had come from Mumbai. They owned a vegetarian Indian casual restaurant there and that they loved to travel.

Story of Indian elderly couple in 
Australia
Exploring Rottnest Island with adventurers from India

I could see that her husband had read many travel guides about Australia and was carrying a hand written itinerary. He wrote it in Marathi, the native language of Maharashtra (state in India). The pages were filled with names and addresses of hostels, Indian vegetarian restaurants (as the couple followed a strict diet), ferry schedules, and sky diving confirmations. Since they were out for a month-long vacation, they had pages and pages of travel details.

This traditional old Indian couple could have been my parents age. They didn’t fit into my profile of adventurous travelers. My brain immediately started judging them. Had they not heard of smart phones or computer print outs? Should they be skydiving, bungee jumping, walking on bridges, or staying at hostels at their age? What do their kids think about all of this?

Needless to say, I had an interesting conversation with them during the rest of the day. They told me they were in their 60’s and didn’t want to hold back on life anymore. “If not now, then when?” the lady said. So they decided to take a month long trip to Australia and do all the recommended activities that first time visitors would do.

When we stopped for a break on the island, they offered me homemade gujjia and besan ladoos (traditional Indian snacks), as well as a lunch they had packed from a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Perth. We took selfies, exchanged cards, and shared memories that I will cherish forever. Most of all, they broke many stereotypes that I had of older people and Indian travelers. It set an uplifting tone for the rest of my three weeks in Australian.

Do You Know About This Mediterranean Island in Australia?

Until recently, my awareness of Tasmania was limited to the Hollywood movie – Lion. I envisioned it to be a cold, remote wet and dark place, with rough seas and bare mountains, leading on to Antarctica.

But I was absolutely wrong!

Tasmania feels a lot like the Mediterranean, because of its climate, scenery and produce.

Light lunch made with local ingredients at Prospect House

Located 150 miles south of mainland Australia, the state of Tasmania is similar in size to Ireland or Sri Lanka, and there are countless offshore islands. It’s true that Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

At first glance, Hobart looks like a smaller version of Auckland, New Zealand. There are Victorian houses, English cottages with wrought iron balconies, a downtown with modern buildings overlooking the harbor, neat looking shops and restaurants along brick roads.

View of Hobart from my room at MACq01

There are lots of unique places to stay in Hobart. In the historic Hobart waterfront, MACq01 is a luxury hotel that looks like a shipyard from the outside, and a museum on the inside. Throughout the halls and across the walls of the hotel you’ll find engaging pieces of history, tales and fables that make up the remarkable history of Tasmania.

The Maylands Lodge is a 12-room heritage home located in the suburbs of Hobart, converted into an upscale hotel, with large suites overlooking a stunning garden. If you want the feeling of staying at an aristocratic home, where you can sit by the fireplace in a gorgeous living room, play a game of chess, or have a glass of whiskey after dinner, book yourself at Maylands.

View from my cabin at Freycinet Lodge

Freycinet Lodge was one of the most unique places I have stayed at. My wood cabin located inside the National Park, had amazing views of Richardson’s Beach, forest and wildlife. With all glass on the sides and roof, indoor fireplace, outdoor tub, it felt like a private and upscale log cabin. On a clear night, you can see some of the best starry skies in the world, right from Freycinet Lodge.

The food scene in Hobart is trendy. Because there’s a big university, you will find students packed in bakeries, ramen, kebab and dessert shops. Even the hotels serve excellent quality farm-fresh food. Tasmania is a small island, yet everyone has a backyard garden or a farm producing their own olives, fruits, nuts, wines and more. The waters are abundant in seafood, and Tasmanian wines and gins are rated some of the finest in the world.

Tasmanian Wild Seafood Adventures

I had quite a few unique experiences in Tasmania, one of which was a half-day tour on a catamaran to catch my own seafood. It was just me and two guys from Tasmanian Wild Seafood Adventures who dove in the ocean to catch mussels, oysters, periwinkles and more. They cooked a feast for me onboard!

Par Avion: Wineglass and Wildlife tour

Another adventure was flying on a 6-seater air plane over the breathtaking Freycinet Peninsula, Wineglass Bay, the seal colony of Ile Des Phoques, to Maria Island, where we landed among wild kangaroos and wombats. There was wine and seafood picnic spread in the national park, as well as free time to walk around and explore.

Lorraine and I taking a break at Pooley Wines

I also visited a couple of wineries and drove past a dozen of them in Tasmania. There are regular wine tours and tastings at Moorilla Estate, adjacent to

Outdoor art at MONA

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), one of the oldest vineyards on the island. I also made a stop at Pooley Wines to taste their light and refreshing Riesling and Chardonnay.

Lunch at The Agrarian Kitchen

One of the best meals I had in Tasmania was at The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery. The chef, who was teaching cooking classes from his home until recently, sources ingredients from a community of local growers, farmers and fishermen, as well as grows himself.

Fall colors in April

In April, leaves were turning colors and daytime temperature was in the 60Fs. Tasmania looked a lot like Tuscany in the Fall time.

What Do To If You Have Only 48 Hours In Sydney

Whether you have a long layover in Sydney, or are planning a weekend getaway, this urban capital of New South Wales is full of exciting choices for food, drinks, sightseeing and adventures. Here are some highly recommended things to do in Sydney based on my recent visit. sydney harbour

Travel like a celebrity. From the airport, ride in style with Astra Limousines. The fleet of luxury cars include Ferrari, Maserati, BMW and Mercedes, driven by friendly chauffers. If you’re heading in and out of Sydney frequently on business or travels but are based in the city, you may find a need for Parkhound Sydney airport parking for a dedicated space to keep your vehicle while out of the city.

Check in at Pier One Sydney Harbour, a contemporary hotel nestled alongside the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and centrally located in the heart of The Rocks, so you can walk to most attractions. The lobby looks like an upscale cabin, and the rooms are spacious with modern amenities. Breakfast is served in a homely setting at The Gantry, where you can grab yogurt and juice from the refrigerator, eggs and farm dishes from the kitchen counter, and fresh baked breads and homemade jellies off the buffet table.
Book your stay at Pier One through TripAdvisor

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Acquaint yourself with the city through an aerial tour with Sydney Seaplanes. Taking off from Australia’s first international airport at Rose Bay, this 15-minute ride will give you breathtaking views of the beautiful Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House, Sydney skyline, million dollar mansions, world famous Bondi Beach, and stunning sandstone cliffs rising abruptly from the sea.

catalina restaurant sydneyA Sky/Fly package will include lunch at neighboring, Catalina Rose Bay Restaurant, where you can continue to watch seaplanes take off throughout your meal. This iconic family-run establishment is known for serving the highest quality of locally sourced meat, seafood and wines. Enjoy house specialties like oysters on the shell, sushi, snapper and caramelized figs with salted caramel. Taste the light and dry Australian rieslings as you bask in the crisp Sydney sun.

After lunch, take a stroll at Bondi Beach, the city’s only in-town beach where residents flock to. At any time of the day, you can find people surfing the waves, walking their dogs, and exercising. Though the beach is not very long (a 10 minutes walk from end to end), it is a spot to catch the action in the summer.

Head over to see some of the touristy spots of the city – Royal Botanic Gardens, Circular Quay and The Rocks. Guided tours are offered at the Sydney Opera House, and the outdoors cafes are a great place to take a break as you watch the sunset.

sydney opera house

Visit the neighborhood of Potts Point, home to some of the trendiest cafes, restaurants and boutiques that are comparable to those in New York City or Paris. Don’t be surprised if you run into a superstar or two, as many of them live in this area. Grab a cocktail at MONOPOLE, a swank bar featuring over 500 rare and boutique wines.

Dinner at Missy French is a must. The classic French dishes are cooked using local ingredients, with a slight modern twist imparted by local celebrity chef, Josephine Perry. Try the flavorful grilled garlic prawns, goat cheese salad, and tender trout. All of the desserts, including the luscious creme brûlée are to die for.

After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, start the day with a thrilling adventure at the Sydney Tower Eye. Experience bird’s eyes views of the city from the observatory, or go outside for the Skywalk. You will be tied to a harness as you feel the Pacific winds in your hair, walking 268 metres above. Sunset is perhaps the busiest and the loveliest time to be here.

It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best lunch spots downtown is at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. CHISWICK at The Gallery boasts a contemporary dining room, casual bar area with a large communal table, and views overlooking Woolloomooloo and Sydney Harbour. Menu includes an extensive wine and cocktail list, small plates and few mains.

CHISWICK at The GalleryExplore the souvenir shops at Darling Harbour and Circular Quay Eastern Pontoon, from there you can catch a whale watching excursion. The Fantasea Adventure Cruising takes you on an unbelievable adventure to spot hump back whales. Note, the waters can be quite rough at times and sea sickness is not uncommon.

The CBD area is a good place to people watch as they hustle through crowds after work. On George St, you can see a mix of British and Romanesque Revival architecture, as well as old colonial buildings and glass skyscrapers. If you’re interested in staying in the CBD area, be warned, it can be a little pricey if you don’t book early. So make sure to check out these qantas hotel deals sydney cbd, and you could save yourself a pretty penny!

sydney downtown

While there are many cool restaurants in Sydney, an unusual dinner experience can be had at the Sydney Seafood School. Located at the Sydney Fish Market, which is the second busiest seafood market second to Tokyo, beginner to advanced classes are offer daily. After a hands-on class taught by some of Australia’s celebrity chefs, cookbook authors and restauranteurs, you will be able to enjoy your meal with newly made friends. If you come early in the morning, you can also see the seafood market and trading in action.

There is so much more to do in and around Sydney, and this brief narrative no way serves to summarize a complete list of attractions. If you have anything else to add to this brief Sydney travel guide, please leave a comment below for our readers.