The "Rainbow Valley" is located an hour's drive south from Alice Springs in the direction of Yulara and Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
This small site is not well known to guides and tourists, as it is much less extensive and impressive than "Uluru" and "Kata Tjuta".
However it is an excellent stop not to be missed if you leave Alice Springs in this direction, because the geological formations of this site are really worth the detour and the solitude and the calm of the place make it an intimate and endearing to visit.
See also our proposed activity: Hot Air Balloon Ride at Sunrise in Alice Springs
As its name suggests, the "Rainbow Valley" is best known for the palette of colors and minerals that stand out on the cliffs of this part of the "James Ranges".
The different colors were formed by the water that was present millions of years before the desert, and which oxidized the iron contained in the sand.
Erosion then made it possible to bring out and disappear the softest rocks, revealing new colors again.
The tones therefore range from black-brown to red, white, yellow and cream!
A small path of 2km round trip allows you to pass at the foot of the cliff and reach the "Mushroom Rock".
This huge, wind-eroded mushroom-shaped red rock, impressive in size and color hues, is located on the other side of the main rocky outcrop.
Finally, the scenery and nature around the "Rainbow Valley" are also very interesting.
You will see a lot of varied vegetation, as it is one of the few places in the Desert that seems able to attract and retain rainwater for a few days.
The land is therefore more fertile and you will surely also see small animals typical of the Great Desert of Central Australia.
The "Rainbow Valley" is an important place for the Aborigines of the region.
Part of the site is exclusively reserved for men and the other part, narrow cliffs on the right, belong to female mythology.
Finally, another very well-known phenomenon in “Rainbow Valley” (but which we unfortunately could not see!) takes place following violent and heavy rainfall.
For a few hours, a huge lake forms, in the middle of the desert, just in front of the main wall of the valley.
The water then perfectly reflects the colors and shapes dug by erosion and you can see two “Rainbow valleys” just one above the other (see photo link).
The “Rainbow Valley” is accessible from the Stuart Highway thanks to a dirt road of 22kms.
This sandy road is often in good condition, but bad weather or the passage of other vehicles can damage the track and having a 4×4 is often recommended to take it and get to the site.
It is possible to camp at the foot of the "Rainbow Valley" (if you picked up your permit in Alice Springs).
Camping areas have been set up near the car park, toilets, a water point and of course a barbecue are also available.
Description of the Rainbow Valley (official tourist site of the Northern Territory)
The "Rainbow Valley" in the water!, Photo of the Rainbow Valley lake during the rainy season