Ask Lonely Planet: Mystic Uluru pinnacle of Outback trips

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Driving the Lasseter Highway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Photo / Tourism NT
Driving the Lasseter Highway to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Photo / Tourism NT

My wife and I are keen to see something of the Australian Outback (especially during a mean New Zealand winter). We realise the Outback is huge and wonder if you can provide us with a worthwhile two-week itinerary. We would be happy to rough it a bit and would not expect fancy hotels. In the likelihood there's just too much to cover, we would opt for the Outback in Western Australia.
- Winston Howard

Lonely Planet's Asia-Pacific travel editor Shawn Low writes:

Two weeks is a good amount of time to spend in the Aussie Outback. You can, of course, choose to explore the Northern Territory or the desert up in Western Australia. The former is a quintessential Aussie experience but the latter will be less touristy.

If you go with the Northern Territory, you will probably fly into Darwin. From there, you should head steadily southwards towards Uluru. Having your own car will help. Failing that, some tours offer good access to the region.

You could also get into Adelaide and travel by the Ghan. This famed train takes you north towards Darwin, stopping at Alice Springs and Katherine en route.

After spending two days in Darwin, head towards Kakadu National Park. This enormous swathe of land stretches more than 200km south from the coast and 100km from east to west. Go on bushwalks, a rainforest walk and do some camping. Or take a river cruise. The Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are only accessible via 4WD during dry season.

Head towards Katherine and Alice Springs and finish up at mystical Uluru.

Yes, it's that huge hunk of red rock in the middle of the desert.

With regards to accommodation, there's everything from hostels to motels and even high-end boutique hotels.

* For this week's best letter Winston Howard will receive a copy of Lonely Planet Discover Australia ($59.99).

Nostalgic return

My husband and I had a wonderful travel experience as part of our OE on the Greek island of Patmos 37 years ago. At the end of this year, we celebrate our 40th anniversary and, next year, we would like to make a nostalgic revisit to Patmos. We also want to go from there to Turkey. On that same OE, we travelled in Turkey but only got to Istanbul, Gallipoli and Troy so now would like to explore more. Can you provide some information about getting from Patmos to Turkey and which places in Turkey we could include in an itinerary of about three weeks.
- Lynne Robinson

Lonely Planet's Shawn Low writes:

Congratulations in advance for the celebration of your 40th anniversary. If you aren't on a budget and want to zip around quickly from Greece to Turkey, your best bet is to get back to Athens. From there, you can fly to Istanbul in just over an hour.

The other option involves combinations of ferries and buses (sadly, none direct from Patmos). Depending on which part of Turkey you wish to get to, you can find a ferry from six Greek islands. See here for more information on ferries between the two countries. You could also try to get the train from Thessaloniki to Istanbul.

In Turkey, you could start in Istanbul and head along the western coast. Stop at Gallipoli (for a World War I pilgrimage) before moving down towards Pergamum and Ephesus. Both are superb classical cities, now ruined, but evocative nonetheless.

After Ephesus, visit the ruins of Hierapolis at Pamukkale. Returning to the coast, head along the chichi Bodrum Peninsula or the Datca and Bozburun peninsulas, where the mountain towns and fishing villages are best explored by scooter.

Find your way to the 509km-long Lycian Way. Hike for a day through superb countryside to overnight in heavenly Faralya, overlooking Butterfly Valley.

Get to Goreme, your base for can't-miss Cappadocia, a surreal landscape of cratered rocks dotted with tuff cones. The region is also home to Byzantine underground cities at Kaymakl and to Derinkuyu.

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