Australia's Uluru glows intensely at dusk and dawn.
How does a single chunk of rock become an icon for a whole continent, a sacred touchstone for Aboriginal culture, and a gathering place for visitors from all over the world? Uluru—also known as Ayers Rock—deserves its lofty status for myriad reasons.
You first marvel at its sheer size: The steep sides, grooved from rain, rise more than 1,100 feet above the central Australian desert, and the base measures nearly six miles around. Move in closer, and your vision is engulfed by blazing reds and oranges.
When you reach the rock itself, you see cave paintings and petroglyphs created by the Anangu people over millennia. Thorny devil lizards scurry near the pathways, Australian kestrels and peregrine falcons soar overhead, and dingoes prowl in the distance.
This World Heritage Site, now reachable by direct flights from Sydney, speaks to all of us.
Photography by Martin Harvey/Alamy
This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.