Posts Tagged ‘travel bucket list’

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 29!

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

29. Cross the Arctic Circle and see the Midnight Sun

What would you do if you have a few extra hours of sunlight each day? Would you be motivated to make the most of it and do some late-night exercise, socialise with friends or just enjoy the outdoors? Well, what if the sun never set and you had 24 hours of sunlight each day for a couple of months? For those who live in parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Russia, the United States and Canada that are above the Arctic Circle, days that are full of sunlight are not so uncommon.

Before jumping straight into the phenomenon that is the Midnight Sun, let’s talk ‘Arctic Circle’. The Arctic Circle is one of Earth’s major circles of latitude in which the area northward will have the sun above or below the horizon for a continuous 24 hours at least once a year. This area north of the Circle is known as the Arctic and it’s generally a pretty cold place to be with the lowest recorded temperature hitting a cosy -68 °C! Brrrrr!

Due to the extreme weather conditions, the Arctic is not a very populated area of the world. Some of the most inhabited areas belong to Russia, with around 500,000+ Russians calling the Arctic home.

The Midnight Sun is a spectacle that many people from around the world travel to see as it’s something that is so strange and incomprehensible. As the Earth has a slightly tilted axis, during summer the North Pole faces the sun and creates lengthy periods of sunlight. On the contrary, during winter there are extended periods of darkness.

The North Cape, or Nordkapp, in Norway is one of the more popular spots for travellers to go and see the midnight sun as it’s the most northern point in Europe and has around 76 days of midnight sun per year. That’s approximately 1,824 hours of continuous sunlight over a 2-3 month period! Norway provides an incredible backdrop for the Midnight Sun and all-day sunlight with picturesque mountains and fjords, amazing ocean views and beautiful fields of tundra.

It may be difficult for some to cope with days full of sunlight, but if a truly unique experience is what you’re after then crossing the Arctic Circle and seeing the Midnight Sun has to be on your list!

Topdeck Top Tip: Sunlight is a powerful thing! It is known that travellers to the Arctic Circle during summer can feel as though they have more energy and need less sleep. Before you go, prepare yourself for a change in your body-clock and get ready to make the most of the additional hours of sunlight.

5 tips for photographing the Midnight Sun via

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 26!

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

26. Sail the Mediterranean Sea

It sounds beautiful doesn’t it? Sailing the Mediterranean Sea… What are the first things you think of when imagining it? The crystal clear water, the warmth from the bright summer sun shining down or perhaps the incredible island landscapes you’ll see along the way? How about looking down to see schools of fish swimming beneath you or looking across the Sea to see the odd dolphin or two jumping out of the water? Chances are, whatever you’re thinking, unless you do it for yourself the thoughts will only be a fraction of the true experience!

There are many countries with a coastline along the Mediterranean Sea. Touching the African, Asian & European continents some of these countries include Morocco, Egypt, Cyprus, Lebanon, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, Spain & France. The number of stunning locations and islands throughout the Mediterranean are endless. For this week’s entry we’ll just focus on a few of the best locations to sail through and around – Croatia, Greece & Turkey.


With over 700 Croatian islands in the Adriatic division of the Mediterranean Sea, some of them have to be good, right? Correct! In fact, there are also some amazing coastal cities that deserve just as much recognition as the islands.

Starting in Split – Croatia’s second highest populated city, you’ll encounter some authentic Croatian lifestyle, red tiled houses, delicious food & a beautiful mountainous landscape. It’s not a bad place to dock yourself for the night! If you have an appreciation for good nightlife then Hvar is where you’ll want to sail to next. It’s not only an attractive town with great nightlife but it also has a long history. Stari Grad or ‘Old Town’ is situated on the island and is one of the oldest towns in Europe with civilization dating back to 3500 BC!

Another city on the coastline of Croatia is Dubrovnik which boasts spectacular views. You can take in these views by walking around the city walls, or hop on a gondola to the top of the mountain. Keep an eye on the old buildings here as you can still see post-war damage!


Sailing throughout the Greek Islands is truly incredible. There are around 3500 islands in Greece although only a very small portion of these are populated. The two islands that get most of the attention in Greece are Mykonos & Santorini however Paros, Corfu, Skyros and Hydra all deserve some credit of their own. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway for you and your partner – you cannot go wrong in the Greek Islands.

If time is not on your side then perhaps catching a ferry between the islands is the best option for you. Sailing from Mykonos to Santorini non-stop can take over 48 hours with the ferry taking just a few!


Although there may be fewer islands to sail around than neighbouring Mediterranean countries, do not discount Turkey for an incredible sailing adventure. Sailing around Turkey on a traditional Gulet boat is an amazingly relaxing experience, offering magnificent beaches with crystal blue water, ancient ruins, waterfalls and many other picturesque sights. Plus, you’ll have access to some of the world’s best Baklava! Is that not reason enough to get on a boat and travel there!?

Some of the places you’ll want to check out when on a Turkish Gulet cruise include the 12 Islands of Fethiye, Kas, The Sunken City of Kekova, Simena Castle and for those who want to let their hair down and boogie the night away - Smugglers’ Island!

Topdeck Top Tip: Pack as light as possible when heading out on a sailing adventure, don’t forget to fill your music player with your favourite tunes and take a good book! If you can think of something more relaxing than listening to your favourite music or reading a good book while sailing the Mediterranean Seas, we want to know about it!

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 24!

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Get soaked by Niagara Falls

Not sure about the hype surrounding Niagara Falls? Treat yourself to a little taster. Next time you turn your kitchen sink tap, turn it as far as it can possibly go until the water is pouring out exceedingly fast. Put on a hooded raincoat, get yourself as close to the running water as possible so water is splashing your face, hold for 10 seconds, stop, realise what you’re doing is absolutely ridiculous and take off your raincoat.

Perhaps one of the poorest comparisons ever made to the experience you’ll have at Niagara Falls, the above might be as close as you’ll come to experiencing the excitement in your own home.

In order of size, the Niagara Falls are made up of three waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls and the Bridal Veil Falls which lie on the international border of the United States and Canada. Unlike the above comparison, the three falls combined are quite impressive, and they have the numbers to prove it.

· Approx. 168,000 cubic metres flow from the Falls every minute.

· This per-minute flow is enough water to fill over 50 Olympic sized swimming pools.

· The largest of the three, the Horseshoe Fall, is roughly 57 metres in height and 670 metres wide.

· The fastest rapids at the Fall have been recorded to reach 68mph or 109 kph.

OK, enough with the numbers, we know why you’re here. You want to know if anyone has ridden down the falls in a barrel! What’s the point of a waterfall if nobody goes down it in a barrel, right? Well, wouldn’t you know it, there are a group of daredevils, stuntmen and women who have at one point taken the life threatening plunge. In 1960, a 7 year old child was involved in a boating accident and was swept over the falls. Amazingly, he survived with minor injuries and was the first person to survive after going over without any protection. Barrels aside, walking across the Falls on a tightrope is also an exciting prospect for stuntmen. See the video at the end of this!

Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls

The future of the Falls is a concerning issue as each year the Falls erode by an estimated 1 foot or 30 centimetres per year. At this current rate of erosion it’s possible that in 50,000 years the Falls will be transformed into a less thunderous flowing river. Nevertheless, for now the Falls are incredibly thunderous and an experience that must be had when on any North American tour.

The best way to see the Falls is to take a ‘Maid of the Mist’ tour, an inclusion on all Topdeck North American tours visiting Niagara Falls. The Maid of the Mist tour is North America’s oldest tourist attraction and has transported millions of passengers to get up close and personal to the waterfall since 1846. Getting soaked will never have felt so exciting, and it will make you look back to the time you had your face next to your kitchen tap and wonder what on earth you were thinking…

Tightrope Walker Nik Wallenda:

Maid of the Mist boat tour:

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 22!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

22. Watch a show on Broadway

Mamma Mia! If you’re in Chicago you’re in the wrong city and if you’re surrounded by Jersey Boys you’re in the wrong borough. Guys and Dolls, get yourself to New York and come to the Cabaret!

As if there isn’t enough to do in New York already, it’s also home to one of the most electrifying entertainment centres in the world – the theatres of Broadway. Broadway is actually a 24km long street running through the entirety of Manhattan and The Bronx, but the name is almost universally associated with the theatre district - encompassing 40 theatres, only four of which are actually located on the street of Broadway.

The 1940s ushered in the golden era of the Broadway musical when Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein combined their skills to create dozens of smash shows. With Rodgers composing the music and Hammerstein writing the lyrics, they created shows such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. West Side Story followed not long after, and musicals quickly became big business in the Big Apple.

As the famous line from Cabaret goes: “Money makes the world go round”, but that’s not to say that any musical showing on Broadway is guaranteed to rake in the big bucks. It’s a cutthroat industry, and during the past 50 years, 75% of Broadway musicals have failed to make a return.

Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, another famous musical writing team, combined to create Jesus Christ Superstar in 1970, one of the first examples of a rock opera. Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera opened on Broadway in 1988 and you can still see it today, over ten and a half thousand performances later!

Current hot tickets on Broadway include Kinky Boots, Wicked, the Book of Mormon, and Avenue Q, but with 40 theatres and fierce competition between shows, it’s a safe bet that you’ll have a memorable evening whatever you see. That’s showbiz, kids!

Topdeck Top Tip: You can bag a discount between 25 to 50% on Broadway tickets by lining up for same-day tickets at the two TKTS kiosks in Manhattan. One is in Times Square at 47th Street and Broadway, and the other is in the Financial District at the corner of Front and John Streets. The most popular shows are unlikely to be available, but tickets may be released several times a day, so it’s still possible to grab great seats by stopping by at 6 or 7pm when queues are shortest.

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 21!

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

21. Touch the Berlin Wall

It’s April 1945 and Berlin is a long way from the “utopian” capital of the world Adolf Hitler had planned. Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops surround the bombed-out city preparing for a final attack on the Nazis, which has only women, children, pensioners, and a handful of soldiers left to defend it. Hitler and his wife Eva Braun leave their bunker rarely, but when they do they close the curtains in their Mercedes-Benz to avoid seeing the reality of their shattered city. That same month, Hitler and Braun commit suicide and Berlin falls to the Russians. The Second World War is over - 60 million people have died, and Berlin is left devastated.

Two months later, three of the most important men in the world meet to discuss the future of Europe - British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US President Harry Truman and Soviet leader Josef Stalin. Over a couple of cigars, they agree to slice Germany into four quarters, each giving themselves (along with France) a piece of a very lucrative pie.

Crucially this story (pay attention here!), Berlin, as well as Germany, was split into four zones. The location of the city is bang in the middle of Soviet-controlled East Germany. This means that the French, American, and British sectors of Berlin were tiny islands of capitalism surrounded by a sea of communism. Check out where Berlin is in the diagram below -

The incredible events which followed are best explained in a timeline:

1948 – Conflict begins between the Soviets and the Allies regarding reconstruction and a new German currency. In response, the Soviets block off West Berlin, trapping its two million residents in their own city. The only way in and out of West Berlin is by air, and the Allies airlift in thousands of tonnes of food and fuel.

1950 – Tensions between the Soviets and Allies worsen – the name “The Cold War” is coined to describe the frosty relationship. West Berlin is prospering under capitalism, while life under communism in the East is grim. Thousands of residents begin moving to the West in search of more money and a better life.

1955 – By this time millions had defected to the West - mainly skilled workers and intellectuals (a so-called ‘brain drain’). In response, restrictions of movement between the two sides of the city increase.

1961 – On the 13th August a barbed-wire barrier was erected overnight between East and West Berlin. The following morning, families wake up separated, mothers split from their children, and workers cut off from their jobs. A few days later, a 91 mile concrete block wall is built. Residents of East were no longer allowed to enter the West - the “Iron Curtain” had fallen.

1963 – American President John F. Kennedy visits West Berlin and declares “”Ich bin ein Berliner” – a much needed morale boost to the residents. The Americans pump millions of dollars in aid into West Berlin. Attempts to flee into the West increase and the Russian guards at the wall are ordered to “shoot to kill”. It is estimated that approximately 5,000 people successfully made it to the West, however, up to 75,000 others were caught and imprisoned, and around 1,000 killed (the last person was shot in 1989).

1987 – Nearly fifteen years have passed since the wall was built when US President Ronald Reagan delivers a famous speech in front of the Brandenburg Gate. 25,000 Berliners cheered as he said: “General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalisation - come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

1989 - An announcement from the East German government that they’d start granting exit visas to anyone who wanted to go to the West was misinterpreted as meaning the border was now open. News spread rapidly and, within hours, thousands of Germans ran to the wall and starting smashing sections down with tools. East German border guards were unable to stop the rush of people to the wall. Thousands of families and friends are reunited after nearly three decades apart.

After the devastation of the Second World War and the segregation of the Cold War, Berlin has reinvented itself beyond belief since the fall of the wall. It’s now one of the most liberal, tolerant, safe, and hedonistic cities in the world, and one of the best travel destinations in the world. As you walk around this modern, thriving city, there are constant reminders of its unenviable recent history – a sprawling Holocaust memorial, the headquarters of the dreaded S.S. (now a fascinating free museum), and surviving sections of the hated Berlin Wall.

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 20!

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

20. See Africa’s ‘Big Five’

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa - for he has so much to look forward to.” - Rich Mullins

So much has already been said of the powerful effect Africa has on a traveller’s psyche that it’s difficult to write anything without repeating the same clichés. Perhaps it’s the thought that the entire human race can trace their origins to this continent, or the vastness of the landscape which puts the significance (or more to the point, insignificance) of yourself into perspective. Whatever the reason, for almost everybody, a trip to Africa is an introspective and life-changing experience.

I come from Scotland where, if we had a ‘big five’, it would probably be squirrels, deer, badgers, otters, and voles. Sorry guys – you’re all lovely but you wouldn’t last long in Africa! The wildlife in Africa has evolved over millions of years to reflect the challenges of life in a continent with intense heat, a lack of water and vegetation, and most crucially - other extremely dangerous animals to protect themselves from. This has created, over millions of years, the most amazing animals on earth.

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the astoundingly diverse wildlife of this continent than taking a safari through its national parks. Safari comes from the Swahili word for ‘journey’, and will take you deep into the natural habitat of the ‘big five’. This refers to the rhino, elephant, leopard, lion and Cape buffalo. The phrase was originally coined by big game hunters decades ago to refer to the difficulty in hunting these massive creatures on foot, but now, with huge efforts to conserve and protect these animals, it is more commonly used by safari tour operators to refer to five of the most incredible animals to spot in the wild. Africa overflows with a diversity of life and many other animals, such as the baboon, cheetah or giraffe, could easily be named on your own ‘big five’ list.

Some amazing facts about the ‘big five’ –


  • A lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away.
  • The lion is the only member of the cat family with a tasselled tail, which is often used to signal to other members of the pride. Messages range from directional “this way” commands to flirtatious “come hither” invitations!
  • A lion’s claws are not only very sharp, but also retractable, which helps maintain the big cat’s slice-and-dice capabilities by preventing injury during play.


  • Leopards can drag prey weighing up to three times their own body weight up into trees over 20 feet (6 metres) tall!
  • They have amazing hearing. Leopards can pick up five times more sounds than humans can.
  • Leopards don’t need to drink much water - they can live off the moisture in their prey.


  • Baby elephants are born blind and some individuals suck their trunks for comfort, similar to the way young humans suck their thumbs.
  • African elephants are the largest land mammals on the planet, and the females of this species undergo the longest pregnancy - 22 months.


  • Black rhinos can pick up small objects and even open gates and vehicle doors with their upper lips.
  • The rhino’s horn is made of keratin - like human fingernails and hair.
  • The world’s rhino population has decreased 90% since 1970 due to hunting.

Buffalos -

  • Buffalo are said to have killed more hunters in Africa than any other wild animal.
  • Buffalos have fantastic memories and are known to ambush hunters that have harmed them in the past.
  • Cape buffalo are known to kill lions, and can seek out and kill lion cubs as preventative punishment.

Check this out - quite simply one of the most amazing videos of all time! This shows an epic battle between cape buffalos, lions, and crocodiles at Kruger National Park in South Africa:

To visit Kruger and other incredible African national parks with Topdeck, check out our superb range of African safari trips -

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 18!

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

18. Hike on a Glacier

It’s a question as old as time: if Oprah Winfrey was a geological formation, what would she be? Let’s list her traits – extremely powerful, influential, and probably very slow moving. “Glacier”, I hear you say? Correct!

Cast your mind back to joys of high school geography. For me, it’s hard to remember anything apart from my teacher Mr Gordon’s questionable fashion sense and offensive breath. However I do remember that glaciers are huge bodies of ice which, with the help of gravity and their own sheer weight, carve out U-shaped valleys through mountains. Thanks Mr Gordon!

Unless you have enough free time on your hands to sit and watch a glacier for a couple of months - you probably won’t see much happen! Most move at a rate between zero and half a kilometre (0.3 miles) per year. The appeal of hiking on a glacier is the sensational surroundings of snowy peaks and epic, eroded cliff faces. The thought that a pile of snow and ice has cut through something so strong like a hot knife through butter is mind-blowing! There is something about being surrounded by the immense power of nature which puts things in perspective.

The Fox Glacier deep in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island is one of the most astonishing in the world – being one of the only glaciers to begin in a snowy Alpine peak and end in lush rainforest. The diversity of the scenery between the top and bottom shows you first-hand why New Zealand is one of the most spectacular countries in the world.

Topdeck’s new Canadian Rockies trip will take you to the Athabasca Glacier in the Columbia Icefield. This is the most visited glacier in North America for good reason, and we do it in style with an included ‘Totally Topdeck’ guided hike onto the glacier. Because of a warming climate, the Athabasca Glacier has been receding or melting for the last 125 years – leaving a surreal moonscape of rocky debris in its wake.

The Pyramids, Eiffel Tower, Great Wall of China – there are many immense man-made attractions in the world, but there’s something quite special about seeing one of nature’s own attractions. A hike on a glacier is a thrilling and oddly moving experience, and takes its well-deserved place at number 18 on Topdeck’s list of 40 things to do before you’re 40!

Topdeck Top Tip: Glaciers may be icy but don’t let that deceive you – UV rays are intensified when reflecting off the ice so you can become sunburnt very quickly. Make sure to wear high-factor sunscreen, along with decent footwear and warm socks!

Video 1: Helicopter ride over the Fox Glacier, New Zealand

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 16!

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

16. Drive the Great Ocean Road.

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world’s most spectacular drives, hugging the wild and windswept south-eastern coast of Australia. At 243 kilometres long, the road not only offers  some amazingly diverse scenery, but also heaps of unexpected delights – whale lookouts, mountain ranges, rainforests, historic port towns, and, perhaps most famous of all, the Twelve Apostles – craggy limestone stacks rising majestically out of the Southern Ocean. Breathtaking!

The Great Ocean Road is made even more special by its history. In 1919, one year after the end of the First World War, it was commissioned as a memorial for the 60,000 Australian servicemen and women who had made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives during the war. Around 3,000 servicemen who had returned to Australia after the war began work on the road. Construction was done by hand – the soldiers used picks and shovels to hack through dense rainforest. Many lost their lives around the steep coastal cliffs.

In 1924 an old steam boat became stranded near the shore and had to release its cargo to free itself, which included 500 barrels of beer and 120 cases of spirits. The diggers helped themselves to the abandoned alcohol which resulted in an unscheduled and well-deserved drinks break lasting two weeks! Drinks breaks aside, the road was officially completed in 1932, and became the world’s largest war memorial (by quite a distance!).

The new road opened sparsely-populated and isolated communities from Torquay to Allansford up to the outside world – bringing money and tourism into the whole state of Victoria. The relatively recent construction of the road means that this wonderful stretch of rugged coastline is, in many parts, unspoilt and untouched.

From the Lord Arch Gorge, a scenic bay engulfed by cliffs, to London Bridge, a natural arch created by the immense power of the sea – there is a new wonder around almost every corner. Top of the list of attractions is the astounding Twelve Apostles towering out of the sea - recently voted the best place in Australia to watch a sunset.

The Great Ocean Road is not only astoundingly beautiful, but also poignant and thought-provoking. It gives a small insight into what inspired Australian soldiers in the Great War when fighting to protect the beauty of their homeland. The Great Ocean Road takes its place easily on Topdeck’s list of 40 things to do before you’re 40.

Topdeck Top Tip: Don’t rush through the Great Ocean Road! It may be easily driveable in one day, but you’ll appreciate it much more by taking the time to explore and staying overnight in one of the quaint seaside towns like Port Campbell. While you’re there, try some of the deliciously fresh seafood.

This short clip shows some of the most spectacular highlights of the Great Ocean Road

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 14!

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

14. Gamble in a Famous Casino

Stepping into the Monte-Carlo Casino in Monaco is as close to stepping into a James Bond film as most of us will get. Billionaires and their bejewelled wives sit sipping cocktails while pushing inordinate amounts of money around the tables. The unflappable croupiers roll a dice or deal a card, and within seconds tens of thousands of Euros have changed hands. Nobody bats an eyelid, apart from the fascinated onlookers. An evening mingling with the rich and famous of Monaco is a truly unforgettable experience!

At barely two miles long and half a mile wide, Monaco is the 2nd smallest country in the world, but its generous tax laws (very generous – residents pay no income tax at all!) mean this tiny country is a haven for the rich and famous of European society. Everybody from Formula One star Jenson Button to former Mr. Bond himself Roger Moore reside here, but you won’t spot any of them in the casinos as residents of Monaco are banned from entering. James Bond had a flutter in the Monte-Carlo Casino in no less than three movies - Never Say Never Again, GoldenEye and Casino Royale.

While Monaco is undoubtedly the most famous gambling destination in Europe, it’s rivalled by a very different city in North America – Las Vegas. They say that everything is bigger in America, and the sheer size of the casinos in Sin City itself is something miniscule Monaco could never compete with.

Bellagio, built in 1998, is one of the newest additions to the Las Vegas strip. It features botanical gardens, a fine art gallery, and, of course, one of the most luxurious casinos ever built. The traffic-stopping fountain and neon lights show outside Bellagio is truly breath-taking, and epitomises the extravagant spirit of Vegas. The fountains dance to a soundtrack of appropriate music including Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas” and Frank Sinatra’s “Luck be a Lady”.

Gambling is far from the only attraction in Vegas. Surrounded by desert, the city is an oasis of world-class shopping, fine dining, and 24-hour nightlife.

Even if having a flutter isn’t your thing, the insides of the Monte-Carlo Casino and Bellagio have to be seen to be believed. Go in and transport yourself into a different world, where celebrities, billionaires, and us normal people brush shoulders and sit at the same tables! Good luck!

Topdeck Top Tip: Cameras aren’t allowed in the Monte-Carlo Casino in Monaco, and you’ll need your passport which they’ll scan upon entry. Remember the house always wins, so only bet what you can afford to lose!

The water fountain show outside the Bellagio in Las Vegas:

Catch a glimpse of inside the Monte-Carlo in James Bond’s ‘Golden Eye’ movie:

40 things to do before you’re 40 - Number 13!

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

13. Watch the sunrise over Uluru

The ultimate icon of Australia, Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) has an almost mystical presence. There’s something intangibly moving about seeing dawn’s first light settle on this geological marvel at the heart of the ‘Red Centre’.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Uluru is sacred to the Anangu, the Aboriginal people of the area. For them it is inextricably linked with their Dreamtime stories, and even in today’s modern world it retains a sacred place in their culture.

In 1873 Uluru was given a second name, Ayers Rock, after the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Henry Ayers. Since 1993 it has officially had dual-name status, and is now referred to in formal terms as Uluru/Ayers Rock.

Located 335km south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, Uluru sits in terrain which is unmistakeably Outback. In the area there are waterholes, caves, springs and Aboriginal rock paintings.

But it’s the flatness of its surrounds which makes Uluru stand out even more. What earthly business does this striking protrusion have in such a landscape? It all adds to the rock’s enigmatic appeal.

For overnight visitors to this great Aussie wilderness, there’s only one way to stay – in a swag (Aussie bedroll) under the stars! And camping close to this magical monolith gives people the chance to experience one of the most majestic views in the southern hemisphere; sunrise over Uluru.

As dawn’s first rays kiss the sandstone summit, Uluru stirs and awakens as if a living thing. Shades change imperceptibly with the sun’s steady migration, until the entire rock glows fiery red, as though the blood of the nation was coursing through it. Apt, you might say, for a landmark at the very heart of Australia.

A more contemplative and peaceful way to start a day you’d be hard pressed to find. If ever there was a reason to get up before dawn, then watching sunrise over Uluru is surely it.

Topdeck Top Tip: To climb or not to climb? The Anangu ask visitors not to climb Uluru, as it’s a sacred religious site to their people, but neither is there a law against it. Take time to read the reasons for and against so you can make an informed decision.

Lonely Planet visit Uluru:

A nice time-lapse video showing Uluru’s changing colours at sunrise:

And another: