There are some places in the world that are a privilege to experience; Longitude 131° is one of them. Exquisitely positioned in the Red Centre landscape to maximize uninterrupted views of Uluru, the sense that a stay here will offer up the sort of once-in-a-lifetime experience that is the modern definition of luxury is instantly clear upon arrival.
The central lodge, sitting atop an ocher sand dune, forms the heart of the property, the place where guests return to enjoy meals created from native ingredients, the open bar stocked with the country’s best wines and spirits, or just to relax looking out to a vista millions of years in the making.
From here the resort’s 16 tented pavilions fan out across the low scrub. Each is decorated with understated elegance, with giant beds looking out towards ‘the rock’, Indigenous artworks on the walls sourced from the remote Ernabella Arts Studio (special arrangements can be made for guests to visit the closed community to see the artists at work) and wide decks with all the requisites for serious lounging.
Next level luxury here comes in the form of the two-bedroom Dune Pavilion, which offers the double whammy of views towards both Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the distance. It also boasts one of the most perfectly situated bathtubs in the world (see photo beside for proof).
Of course, Longitude 131° is as much about the experiences to be had as the appointments it boasts: traversing Uluru on a base walk; walking Kata Tjuta’s Valley of the Winds in the crisp early morning air; sleeping under the stars on your deck (complete with nightcap); and, perhaps the ultimate privilege, learning the history of the proud people who have dwelt here for millennia.
A five-star hotel that rises out of the red dust, Sails in the Desert is an outback oasis of 228 elegantly appointed rooms and suites, diverse dining and bar options, and modern design with Indigenous elements.
Dine on brasserie-style fare at Ilkari Restaurant, sample Indigenous-inspired cuisine in the Walpa Lobby Bar and browse a vibrant range of Australian and Indigenous arts and crafts in the Mulgara Gallery.
The flagship property of Voyages Ayers Rock Resort, Sails in the Desert gives you a front-row seat to all of the unforgettable experiences the Red Centre has to offer (and is easy to reach, too: your stay includes return Ayers Rock Airport transfers). While there, take advantage of the resort’s program of complimentary activities.
Options include a bush food experience during which you’ll learn about Australian and local native bush foods through a tasting and cooking demonstration, and a guided garden walk through the grounds of nearby Desert Gardens Hotel to learn about the local flora and how it’s traditionally used in food and medicine.
Beyond this, Ayers Rock Resort hosts a number of special events against the majestic backdrop of Uluru, from the world-famous Field of Light to unique performances from Opera Australia to the completely idiosyncratic Uluru Camel Cup.
Its open-air dining experiences are out of this world, too: from dune-top dining with Tali Wiru to the iconic Sounds of Silence, which has been part of the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame since 1999. And, when you find yourself finally in need of a little R&R, retreat back to Sails in the Desert to sip a cocktail by the gumtree-lined swimming pool or opt for an indulgent treatment at the hotel’s Red Ochre Spa.
A trip to the Red Centre is unforgettable no matter what you do when you get there. But if you really want to up the ante, book yourself into Tali Wiru. Running seasonally each year, Tali Wiru – meaning beautiful dune in the local Pitjantjatjara language – is Voyages Ayers Rock Resort’s exclusive dune-top dining experience for just 20 guests each evening.
Travel out to a remote desert sand dune to kick off a magical four hours, arriving in time for Champagne and bush tucker-inspired canapes to the sounds of a didgeridoo as the sun sets over Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta: possibly the most quintessentially Australian welcome you’ll ever receive.
With a bounty of culinary awards to its name, Tali Wiru is all about creative uses of local Australian bush food and blends ancient flavors with contemporary technique: think local spinifex foraged daily or freeze-dried finger lime and Illawarra plums smoked the traditional Indigenous way.
As night falls, you’ll dine under the stars on a four-course menu matched with Australian wines. Hear tales of the southern night sky from a First Nations perspective and wrap up your magical evening around the campfire with a Ceylon Souchong tea infused with Australian native peach, cinnamon and honey – or something a little stronger.
Tali Wiru diners also receive a pass to Field Of Light to use during their stay at Ayers Rock Resort. And, if you really want to splash out, choose a rock-star arrival by helicopter.
Voyages Ayers Rock Resort launched this iconic under-the-stars dining experience some 25 years ago. The aptly named Sounds of Silence starts on a remote viewing platform with 360-degree views of fabled Uluru in front and the familiar domes of Kata Tjuta and the spectacular setting sun behind.
Champagne and canapes are served among the group where, for the next hour – amid the gentle drone of a didgeridoo – your attention is equally shared between the kaleidoscope of sunset colors thrown over Uluru and tasty morsels of smoked kangaroo with native pepperberry yoghurt.
Native Australian flavors feature on the three-course buffet menu, too, with dishes like barramundi with lemon myrtle cream, and native dukkah-crusted kangaroo with organic quinoa. Braised crocodile makes its way into the salad selection, while for dessert there’s desert lime cheesecake, apple and quandong crumble, and chocolate and wattleseed slice.
As dinner comes to an end, the resident astronomer or “star talker” takes you on a journey of the magnificent southern night sky, pointing out the Milky Way and the Southern Cross – one of the most familiar star patterns in the Southern Hemisphere and the asterism represented on the Australian national flag. You will also be invited to take a look through telescopes set up to see the ripples, curves and rings of Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon.
It’s hard to get a sense of Uluru’s magnitude with two feet on the ground, but from the sky it’s truly monumental. Charter a helicopter and soar over Uluru and nearby Kata Tjuta for uninterrupted views of the 500-million-year-old formations or get a glimpse from 12,000 feet on a tandem sky dive with Skydive Uluru.
Field Of Light Artist Bruce Munro’s solar-powered installation of 50,000 spindles of light twinkle and sway in the shadow of Uluru like a field of flowers in bloom at its base. See it at dawn as the sunrise glows on the horizon; at sunset at your own pace; atop a camel; or combine it with the award-winning Sounds of Silence dinner at a Night at Field of Light.
It’s not as famous as Uluru, but nearby Kata Tjuta is just as impressive. Walk among the series of giant sandstone boulders on the guided 1.6-mile Walpa Gorge walk or the slightly more challenging 4.5-mile Valley of the Winds walk with Seit Outback Australia.
You can walk Uluru’s 5.8-mile base but cruising around it on two wheels (with the crisp early-morning wind in your hair) is more fun. Slap on a helmet and jump on a Segway, hire a bike and cycle the pathway, or see it from the back of an iconic Harley Davidson with Uluru Motorcycle Tours.
After the incredible success of past performances, Opera Australia will return to Uluru from 20-22 May 2022 with an expanded program. Events will include Early Morning Opera atop a sand dune, a performance of some of Brahms’ most beautiful love songs as the sun rises, and the headlining Opera Gala, with performers illuminated by Field of Light’s 50,000 twinkling glass spheres.