Australia’s Sacred Uluru Monolith Is Closing to Tourists for Good This Weekend—So Tourists Are Rushing to Climb It

Thomas Schoch, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0
Thomas Schoch, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Tourists are rushing to the Australian outback this weekend to climb the continent's most iconic landmark one last time. As SBS News reports, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park will permanently close Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, to climbers on Saturday, October 26, acknowledging the wishes of the Anangu people.

Centuries before Europeans colonized Australia, the massive rock formation known as Uluru was regarded as a sacred place. It plays a central role in some Aboriginal creation stories and tribes have used the surrounding area as a site for ceremonies for millennia.

In the most recent chapter of Australia's history, Uluru has transformed into something else: a tourist attraction. People come from around the world to climb to the pinnacle of the rock. But members of the indigenous Anangu group say that visitors don't treat the site with the reverence it deserves, and have long called for climbing to be banned.

In 2017, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is jointly owned by the Anangu people and the Australian government, announced plans to ban climbers from Uluru. Since then, adventurers have been flocking to the site to cross it off their bucket list or scale it one last time. With the rock scheduled to close for good this Saturday, the site is busier than ever.

The controversy surrounding Uluru has been strong enough to inspire legends of a "curse" that befalls disrespectful tourists. Some hikers claim they've experiences streaks of bad luck after taking a rock from the landmark home with them. Mailing these cursed keepsakes back to the park has become so common that rangers have dubbed them "sorry rocks."

[h/t SBS]

The Most Popular Tourist Attractions in Each State

Hot air balloons drifting over the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Hot air balloons drifting over the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Greg Meland/iStock via Getty Images

In 2018, Americans took about 1.8 billion trips for leisure purposes alone, the U.S. Travel Association reports. But what types of attractions do they visit during those trips? Thanks to new data from Groupon and Viator, a TripAdvisor company, we now have the answer.

Map of the Northeast of the United States, showing a few of the most popular tourist attractions in that region

Groupon mapped out each state’s most popular travel experience and classified them according to price, type, and region. Tourists in the northeast United States tend to gravitate toward what Groupon describes as “exploration and discovery” activities, like the Founding Fathers Tour of Philadelphia, Maine's Portland City and Lighthouse Tour, and the day trip from Boston to Martha’s Vineyard.

Map of the Midwest region of the United States, listing a few of the most popular tourist attractions in those states

The Midwest is by far the cheapest place to vacation, with the cost of attractions in the region averaging about $48. Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and North Dakota are great states to visit if you’re looking for a top-ranked food tour, while South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois offer plenty of educational tours and experiences (including a movie site tour for Field of Dreams fans).

Map of the Southern region of the United States, listing some of the most popular tourist attractions in that area

Experiences in the South are fairly varied. Visitors have plenty of options, whether they’re looking for a historic tour of Asheville, North Carolina's Biltmore Estate (the largest privately owned house in the United States) or a day of thrills at Virginia’s Busch Gardens amusement park. Tourists in the South do seem to prefer watery activities, though—the region is popular for dinner cruises and dolphin watching.

Map of the Western region of the United States, listing some of the most popular tourist destinations in the area

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the West is easily the most expensive region for visitors, averaging about $176 per attraction. Tourists in this region tend to gravitate toward experiences like helicopter tours and hot air balloon rides, all of which push the region toward the pricey end of the scale. Still, if you’re looking for astounding natural beauty, there are few places with more variety than the American West.

Driving This Thanksgiving Holiday? Here’s the Worst Time to Leave, According to Google Maps

Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images
Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, cooking the turkey correctly or dodging political arguments with family members aren't the most stressful parts of Thanksgiving. It's having to share the road with millions of other travelers on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. If you're hoping to make this element of the holiday a little more tolerable in 2019, plan your day with data from Google Maps.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Google Maps recently published a roundup of Thanksgiving travel tips, including the absolute worst times to hit the road. You may think that leaving the day before Thanksgiving will give you a head-start on traffic, but according to Google, Wednesday is the busiest travel day of the week. Congestion peaks between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday in many parts of the country. If you have no choice but to travel on November 27, plan to leave earlier in the day before roads get too crowded.

It pays to leave the house early the day of the actual holiday. Around 6 a.m., roads will be clear in most major cities, with traffic gradually increasing throughout the morning and peaking as early as noon.

As people who regularly travel for Turkey Day know, getting to dinner on time is only half the headache. Traffic can be just as brutal on the way home. To make the journey as painless as possible, plan to leave first thing in the morning—ideally on Sunday, when most travelers have completed the trip.

Traveling for Thanksgiving is rarely as simple as driving to and from dinner. If you plan on making pit stops along the way, Google has travel information for that as well. According to Google search trends, "ham shops" are busiest at noon the day before Thanksgiving, and outlet malls reach peak traffic around noon on Black Friday. Here are some more stress-free travel tips for the holiday season.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]