Tennant Creek

Before you go on a trip to Australia, you might be fantasizing about what the places looks like in reality. If you study a map of the country, you will soon discover that most of the country looks like desert. And the reality is the same. Even so, few tourists visit these areas. Instead, most of them go to the coast. There are probably some who get disappointed when arriving, realizing that many cities in Australia are like any other big city in the world. But you might dream of experiencing something else, like the hot deserts of the Northern Territory. You want to sit around a campsite fire, together with Australia’s indigenous people, listening to stories all night long. And perhaps discover some long hiking trails were you barely meet a single person.

Just remember that Australia is large, almost gigantic. Those hot deserts you dreamed of are waiting to be discovered. But it requires time and patience to get there. And one of those different areas you seek can be found around Tennant Creek, in the country’s centre. Tennant Creek is the fifth largest town in the Northern Territory and has over 3,000 inhabitants. In other words, the state is sparsely populated. The country stretches far, and the roads are often dead-straight, without the slightest bend. Located between Katherine and Alice Springs, the town is usually a resting place for long distance travellers travelling along the remote Stuart Highway.

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Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Think of Australia and the chances that you imagine Uluru is great, the iconic sandstone monolith located in the country’s centre. Uluru, also called Ayers Rock, is bright red. Gnarled, full of ridges and massively, protruding out of nowhere in Australia’s flat midpoint. Terracotta-coloured sand and loose dust are everywhere, caught in the wind, drifting afar. Intermingled with flies buzzing around. An ice-blue sky and low-growing pale green shrubs in beautiful contrasts. This is sacred land and home to the Aboriginal people Anangu who have lived here for over 30,000 years. This is a great place to learn more about the Aboriginal peoples’ history and culture, and about Tjukurpa, the Dreamtime, Aboriginal mythological beliefs. The monolith Uluru protrude 348 m out of the soil, but most of the rock is buried beneath the ground. Uluru can be found in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, in the area with the fitting named the Red Centre, in the southern part of the Northern Territory. It is one of nature’s true wonders that attracts tourists as geologists. Given its distant location and rugged terrain, you can rightly ask yourself whether the trip here is worth it, if sitting long hours in a baking hot car or on a bus, just to see a large, red sandstone rock really can be justified. The answer is yes.

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Alice Springs

Arriving to Alice Springs is special. Rarely do you get thrown into an unknown land in the same way as when you set foot in the desert town. Alice is lined with a varying nature despite the areas harsh climate that makes it warm all year round. In the south, Alice Springs is lined by the MacDonnell Ranges, in all other directions, red sand stretches into a seemingly endless rolling desert. The sand contains iron oxide, which gives it its red colour.

If you plan to get here by driving instead of by airplane, you should set aside a great deal of time to get to know the original Australia. What began as a telegraph station built in the 1870s in order to maintain contact between Adelaide and Darwin, rapidly grew to what now is Alice Springs. The town is in the centre of the country, located about 1,500 kilometres from both Darwin and Adelaide. With its 24,000 inhabitants, the town is the third-largest town in the Northern Territory. It’s easy to make the mistake of confusing Alice Springs with Uluru (Ayer’s Rock). Alice Springs is a six-hour drive from Uluru and thus a good base before visiting the iconic monolith. But stay any extra day in Alice if you have time, for there is a lot to discover here. Alice Springs has both personality and a lot of activities that are worth dedicating some time to. After all, it is a place that you probably will not return to because of its distant location.

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The Red Centre

Australia’s centre is its heart and soul dressed in red. A massive aorta that tirelessly pumps blood consisting of warm sand and soft dust. The country’s core, also known as the Red Centre, is a difficult and inhospitable part of the Northern Territory. A dry and hot landmass spreading out as far as the eyes can reach. The vegetation is sparse, and only the most persistent and toughest variants can survive. Rain is unusual and falls in minimal quantities most of the year. The sun’s rays cuts through the thin ozone layer to immediately burn the skin. Winding gravel roads continue kilometre after kilometre, only lined with hardy Eucalyptus trees. A veil of red-brown dust is constantly hanging in the air, quietly sweeping through the expanses. In the Red Centre, time seems to stand still. Minutes turns into hours and stress is a foreign concept. This is also sacred land for the indigenous people, making it an excellent place to learn more about Aboriginal culture and history. For over 40,000 years, Aboriginal people have lived in harmony with nature in these areas.

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Katherine & Surrounds

Katherine is a small-town in the northern part of the Northern Territory, strategically located next to the river with the same name, a river that meanders through an otherwise dry landscape. It is deserted, hot and grandiose, with a thick layer of ochre-red sand that lands everywhere. If you drive along the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Darwin, you should make a stop in Katherine. The town may look quiet, but here await great adventures in the nearby Nitmiluk National Park, which borders Kakadu National Park in the north. If you are in this part of the world, you are presumed to be nurturing a love for nature, for this is precisely the area’s greatest asset.

In Nitmiluk you can go canoeing pass nine of the thirteen majestic gorges that tower between the blue-green waters of Katherine River, its streams and waterfalls. Some rock walls are as high as 70 m. Put up your tent as the sun sets and spend a few days walking on foot along one of the many hiking trails. If you rather take it a bit slower but don’t want to compromise on the scenic experience, instead, try a boat trip with a local guide who will show you around and tell you more about the area’s history. But the very best way to get an overview of Katherine is by sitting in a helicopter, soaring high above the ground.

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Kakadu & Arnhem Land

Kakadu and Arnhem Land offer stunning scenery with magnificent views and adventures for everyone. The landscapes are full of contrasts and spectacular sights. This is a place to enjoy nature and to take part of the Australian culture. Kakadu is located 257 km east of Darwin and is Australia’s largest national park and the second largest in the world. To be able to see and do everything, a four-wheel drive is required, but there are alternatives suitable for those driving a non-four-wheel drive car. Kakadu is known for its wetlands, impressive waterfalls, rock arts, incredible hiking trails and campsites in the middle of nature among wild animals. Mobile coverage is rare, this is a place to lower your shoulders, inhale the fresh air and focus on the rich animal life and the vegetation. After a day of activities, people gather around campfires to share experiences and stories.

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Darwin has Australia’s northernmost port and is the largest city and capital of the Northern Territory. The dry season’s tropical heat is interspersed with heavy rain during the rainy season. The humidity is just like the temperature, high. Despite its beautiful surroundings, the history of the young city is lined with disasters ranging from cyclones to repeated bombing during World War II. After being ruined, the town has been rebuilt repeatedly. Its inhabitants have gone through these hard trials with bravura, and today Darwin is a prosperous city with an optimistic view of the future.

The city is often in business and industrial contexts called Australia’s gateway to Southeast Asia. This is because Darwin geographically is closer to Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, than Canberra, and has about the same flight distance to Singapore and Manila as to Sydney and Melbourne. The city also houses people of different descent. Immigration has shaped Darwin into an exciting melting pot of cultures. There are more than 60 nationalities and 70 different ethnic groups represented here. Its proximity to Asia and its cultural diversity is evident in the city’s atmosphere and is above all reflected in the great mix of restaurants. In Darwin, you can sample dishes from all corners of the world, making it a culinary destination.

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The Top End

At the top of the country’s centre, in the northern part of the Northern Territory you will find what embodies Australia. An ancient landscape marked by hot days under a merciless sun. It is the driest state in the country, a place that in contrast turns into a flooded place as the rainy season breaks loose. Temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius are not uncommon and the climate is rough and puts high demands on its inhabitants. The area is isolated and extensive, with dead-straight roads across sandy plains as far as the eyes can see. The Top End is a sparsely populated place that is straightforward and full of natural beauty. If you have plenty of time, there are countless national parks to discover. A trip here will not disappoint if you enjoy nature in large doses. Kakadu, Mary River and Litchfield national parks are only a couple of hours from Darwin. Or drive south towards the characteristic desert town of Katherine where the Nitmiluk National Park awaits. Discover cascading waterfalls and desolate wetlands. Stay a little longer and explore fascinating cave paintings, dare to get close to staggering high gorges and impressive termite mounds. But watch out for the saltwater crocodile that lurks under the water surface. They can grow up to six meters long and are much more dangerous than the freshwater crocodile.

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