Australia’s vast interior is practically impossible to see in one trip, but The Ghan train is as good as it gets. Named after the Afghan cameleers who traveled the same route, it is one of the world’s greatest (in every sense of the word) train journeys. The famous train traverses from North to South through never-ending expanses and out-of-this-world scenery. The classic Ghan route is between Adelaide and Darwin and takes three days, but for a longer excursion, the 14-day Ultimate Territory Tour is the one to book.
Board The Ghan in Adelaide and head towards Alice Springs, a historic town in the heart of the Outback. Spend your first night on board The Ghan before arriving in Alice Springs for a tour that includes the 1,995-ft Anzac Hill. Spend the night in Alice Springs, then travel the Mereenie Loop through the immense Western MacDonnell Ranges (or West Macs, as the locals say). Visit Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge before arriving at Kings Canyon, your abode for the next two nights.
Explore the majestic Kings Canyon, which is some 400 million years old, with a choice of walks (the 4-mile rim walk has the most spellbinding views of Watarrka National Park). Venture through Kings Creek Station before arriving at Uluru (Ayers Rock), a massive sandstone monolith that is sacred to indigenous Australians. Dine beneath the stars with a chilled glass of wine while listening to the sounds of a didgeridoo. A resident expert will decode the infinite Southern night sky for you while you dine on a delectable bush-tucker inspired dinner. You’ll spend two nights at Sails in the Desert, an apparent mirage in the desert with billowing white sails. On day six, be sure to wake up early — see the sunrise over Uluru and watch the colors of nature paint the landscape; it seems to glow. Later on, learn about Anangu culture on a guided tour and admire rock formations.
Head back to Alice Springs (with a stop at Mount Conner, a flat-topped monolith estimated to be 500 million years old) to explore at your own pace — visit the botanical gardens, have a pint at Alice Springs Brewing Co, or take to the skies in a hot air balloon. LISTYou’ll spend two nights at Alice Springs before boarding The Ghan again to head north towards Darwin.
Arrive in Darwin and explore the Northern Territory’s capital — visit the myriad National Parks for a refreshing dip in natural pools and waterfalls, or head to the city’s museums and art galleries. Board the Charles Darwin, a catamaran, for a Territory-style dinner, and take in the bewitching Darwin sunset. The following day, head to Kakadu National Park. Cruise along Yellow Water Billabong (thought to be named for the shade of color it turns when churned up by water buffalo), part of the South Alligator River floodplain. The area is rich in wildlife, flora and fauna, and is one of the best spots for fishing in all of Australia.
On your penultimate day, explore the World Heritage area of Ubirr, known for its staggering collection of Aboriginal rock paintings. You’ll climb up through ancient ‘galleries’ to see for yourself (as well as marvel at the views over the surrounding wetlands). Join the Guluyambi Cruise and, with special permission of the traditional owners, experience the privilege of going ashore in Arnhem Land. Stop at Marrawuddi Art Gallery before returning to Darwin, where your Australian adventure comes to an end.
Platinum Cabin from $9,935.
This article appears in the 29 Nov 2021 issue of the New Statesman, Winter 2021/22