Photo Credit: Pete Edgeler

Planning a trip down under is no easy feat as it requires quite a bit of scheduling and time to fit in everything you want to see. Many visitors don't realize that Australia is equivalent in size to the contiguous United States or to Europe. It is nearly impossible to experience all that Australia has to offer in just a couple of weeks.

And like many big cities, most of the major attractions are along the coastline. But it’s in the center of the country that you can find a viewing experience unlike any other. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a trek from the major cities, but it’s an area of Australia well worth seeing. Like Chicago trapped in the Midwest, Uluru is Australia’s heartland.

But Uluru, the red center, itself isn’t a secret. 15 miles south of Alice Springs, visitors can experience Kata Tijuta, or the Olgas. From the outside, the Kata Tjuta look like smooth, dome-shaped rocks that are the size of small mountains. A closer look reveals they’re actually massive structures perfect for exploring -- a pleasant surprise in the middle of the otherwise stark landscape.

The cluster is easy to spot from Uluru too. As soon as the light show on Uluru's face completed, my wife and I jumped in our truck and headed for Kata Tjuta. To our surprise, we spent a good portion of the day exploring the area.

Here are some tips for exploring the area:

Get lost

Kata Tjuta is one of the top attractions within the national park. You would be short-changing yourself if you simply observed it from the viewing area. Plan to spend several hours exploring the area on one of the trails still available to the public. We chose to take the longer "Valley of the Winds" route. Midway through this five-mile hike an inner hidden gem reveals itself to you. Within these dry rocks is a lush valley of rolling hills, creeks and trees. It’s like an oasis in the middle of the desert.

Know your environment

This is real Outback country. It’s hot and there is very little shade during a hike. Make your trek easier by bringing a daypack stocked with several bottles of water and snacks to refuel. Plan to visit in the evening or early morning hours when the temperatures are less extreme.

Stay for the sunset

Hiking Kata Tjuta makes an excellent day trip to bookend with sunset views of Uluru. The red rocks are absolutely magical against the golden sky, plus those protein bars and apples can make for an awesome, impromptu picnic.