The cultural experiences and tours on offer in the Northern Territory have been 65,000 years in the making, and promise a connection through new experiences on country.
Below we have outlined how you can pick the right one for you and your family and then you can read the 8 best Aboriginal tours in the NT.
Australia is something of a mecca for culture vultures. (Image: Tourism NT/James Fisher)
Go with Aboriginal owned and operated
Boasting the oldest continuous culture in the world means Australia is something of a Mecca for culture vultures.
The significant history and learnings from Indigenous culture is writ large across the Australian landscape, possibly nowhere more so than in the Northern Territory. Here you will find myriad tours and experiences on offer generously sharing insights and stories.
A good rule of thumb when deciding which tours to book is to do some research and choose ones that are indigenous-owned and/or -operated.
Hearing tales of the Dreamtime, learning about bush tucker, and seeing the landscape through the eyes of the people who have been nourished by it, literally and spiritually, for millennia is a singular experience that is totally unique to Australia.
There are a myriad of tours and experiences on offer generously sharing insights and stories. (Image: Tourism NT)
Permission to travel
Another thing to look into before heading out on tour is whether you require an access permit.
Many tour operators include this in the ticket so remember to check when travelling outside Darwin, Alice Springs and Uluru.
Most art centres located within Aboriginal communities have restricted access; you can find out where permits are required and lodge an application by contacting the Northern Land Council (which oversees the Top End and covers Arnhem Land and the Katherine region) and the Central Land Council (Tennant Creek and regional Red Centre).
It’s also worth double checking when art centres are open and tours are operating before departing as many have seasonal and cultural closures throughout the year.
History and learnings from Indigenous culture is writ large across the Australian landscape. (Image: Tourism NT/James Fisher)
The privilege of experiencing indigenous culture first-hand comes with responsibility, and by that we mean it’s important to respect community rules and beliefs. Traditional owners may not want you to photograph or explore a sacred site, such as parts of Uluru and Kakadu National Park.
If you’re unsure, ask around.
Journey across Cahill’s Crossing on the East Alligator River into the fascinating landscape of Arnhem Land. (Image: Tourism Australia/James Fisher)
Your tour guide and hotel staff should be able to tell you, otherwise don’t be shy in asking a few locals.
Respect the land and the people when travelling, especially when venturing into a remote region such as Arnhem Land.
If you want to take a great holiday photo of a family or group of locals, ask if it’s okay first, especially if children are present.
If you’re hiking to a waterfall, 4WDing in a national park, touring rock art sites, or pitching a tent somewhere outside of a holiday park, remember to always take out exactly what you took in, especially in regard to rubbish.
The most ethical way to purchase is from Indigenous-owned and operated art centres. (Image: Tourism NT/Shaana McNaught)
Show your support
One of the most rewarding parts of venturing onto indigenous-owned or -operated territory, or joining an Aboriginal tour is having the opportunity to support small communities.
Many tours include a visit to an Aboriginal arts centre or a dot painting workshop, and you will often be able to purchase a painting or two direct from the creator or a gallery showcasing local works.
Not only will you know you’re getting an authentic and ethically-traded “souvenir”, but you’ll also be spending your tourist dollars where they really make a difference.
Explore the Northern Coastal Wetlands, spotting wildlife and learning about this unique area. (Image: Tourism Australia/James Fisher)
Picking the right Aboriginal tour
The Northern Territory has a swag of great Aboriginal cultural tours, no matter whether you’re sticking to the cities, going remote, travelling with young children or solo.
Check out eight of the best Aboriginal tours in the NT.