Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most famous landmarks. At 550 million years old, this big rock stands at 348 meters and is more than 9 km in circumference.
A true emblem of the country, the monolith of vibrant colour stands spectacularly in the middle of the Australian desert. A sacred mountain for the Aboriginal people (the Anangu, who are also the owners), Uluru is the main attraction of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Whether you want to get close to the incredible geological formations of the park by taking one of the many hiking trails or simply admire their changes of colour at sunrise or sunset, you are guaranteed to be blown away by its splendour.
Ayers Rock or Uluru?
The rock was called Uluru long before Europeans arrived in Australia. The word is the correct name from the language Pitjantjatjara and has no English translation.
In 1873, explorer William Gosse became the first non-native to see Uluru. He named it Ayers Rock in honour of Sir Henry Ayers, the prime minister of South Australia at the time.
Ayers Rock was the most used name until 1993, when the rock was officially renamed Ayers Rock / Uluru – the first site in the Northern Territory to have received the double name.
In 2002, these names were reversed at the request of the Alice Springs Regional Tourism Association and the rock took the official name of Uluru / Ayers Rock, which it still has today.
This means that you can use Uluru or Ayers Rock to refer to the rock. However, in the national park, one always uses the original name: Uluru.
How to get to Uluru
Although it may be in the middle of nowhere, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is actually very easy to reach. The nearest town is Yulara, located 20 km before the entrance to the park. It acts as the base for exploring the park and welcomes more than 400,000 visitors a year. This is where you will find all the hotels and tourist facilities for your visit. There are numerous transport options for accessing the park, such as:
Yulara has its own airport, called Ayers Rock / Connellan Airport (airport code AYQ).
You can reach Yulara directly from several Australian cities including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide and Alice Springs. The approximate flight times are:
- Alice Springs – Yulara: 45 minutes
- Adelaide – Yulara: 2 hours
- Darwin – Yulara: 2 hours 15 minutes
- Sydney – Yulara: 3 hours
- Melbourne – Yulara: 2 hours 30 minutes
- Brisbane – Yulara: 3 hours 15 minutes
If you are coming from abroad or from another Australian city, your flight will probably be connected via one of the cities above. The airlines serving Yulara are Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar.
If you do not have your own vehicle, it is possible to travel to Uluru or Kata-Tjuta by bus. You can book one of the many sightseeing tours or buy a pass for the hop-on hop-off shuttles run by the Yulara resort. You will not find any taxis or public transport.
From Alice Springs, various bus companies operate daily to Yulara. Like Emu Run ($169) or AATKings ($200).
By car / campervan
Many visitors arrive at Uluru as part of a road trip in the Australian outback.
The famous Red Center Way is a multi-day drive from this amazing region which includes Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Watarrka (Kings Canyon), Tjoritja (West MacDonnell Ranges) and Alice Springs.
Uluru is 465 km from Alice Springs by road. If you drive directly, allow around 5.5 hours. The road leading to Uluru is paved, so unlike most of the Red Center, it is not necessary to have a 4WD vehicle to access the national park.
Join a tour
Alternatively, you can choose to visit the park by joining a tour. Uluru Aboriginal Tours is a tour operator run by the Aboriginal community that offers multiple excursions that will allow you to learn more about this mysterious rock. You can also join a tour departing from Alice Springs. Discover the sacred lands of the Aboriginal people, learn the culture and customs of Australia’s oldest people and come back transformed from this unique experience.
It is also possible to take a helicopter flight over the sacred rock, a unique experience! And for the more adventurous, why not try a parachute jump over Uluru? Chills guaranteed! In short, there’s something for everyone !
When is best go and how long for?
Climate / Season
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are incredible at any time of the year. However, the climate in central Australia does vary season to season.
The best time to visit is between May and September, when the maximum temperature during the day is usually between 20 and 30 ° C. The cool weather makes walking safer and much more enjoyable as it also rains very little during this time. Nighttime temperatures can be very cold in the winter, so ensure to pack warm clothes with you.
August and September are also popular months to visit as you’re able to observe beautiful wildflowers in bloom at the park.
The period from October to March can be extremely hot, with daytime temperatures above 35 ° C. However, the hot weather also brings storms and rain, which can be a major advantage as they fill the water holes and start the Uluru waterfalls which can be spectacular!
If you visit the park in summer there are two things you must be aware of. Firstly, make sure to stay safe by drinking lots of water and not walking after 11 am. Secondly, Summer also brings a lot of flies into the desert, so you should consider wearing a fly net which you can buy on arrival.
How long should you stay in Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park?
To access Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, you will need to purchase a Pass. This pass costs $38 and is valid for 3 days. Three days are enough to walk around Uluru, explore the Kata Tjuta and admire the sunrise and sunset from the various viewpoints of the park.
Where to sleep in Uluru?
The pass to enter the park being valid for 3 days, you will have to find accommodation not far from the national park in order to avoid traveling too much each day and wasting time.
There is no accommodation in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Attention, it is strictly forbidden to camp in the heart of the national park.
Most of the accommodation (campsite, hotel, apartment, etc.) is located in the Ayers Rock complex in Yulara. In addition to accommodation, you will find shops, restaurants and many places to visit on site. Ayers Rock Campground will offer you all the necessary facilities for a comfortable stay (from $45 without power in a tent). If you want a little more comfort, you can book either a hotel stay (The Lost Camel Hotel from $330 per night for 2 people) or an apartment (Emu Walk Apartments from $420 per night). night for 4 people with one bedroom, count $680 for two bedrooms).
Another option, if you continue to drive on Hwy/State Route 4, less than 1 hour from Yulara, the town of Curtin Springs offers the unique experience of camping on a busy cattle station in full operation.
Activities to do in Uluru
Important note: since 2019, climbing the rock is prohibited. Indeed, Uluru is a sacred place for the aboriginal people.
There’s nothing like taking one of the many walking paths to immerse yourself in the natural beauty and rich culture of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Most trails are wheelchair accessible and the difficulty ranges from easy to moderate.
This 2 km walk goes from the Mala car park to the Kantju gorge. You can do this free walk, guided by rangers every day. The walk departs at 8 am from October to April and at 10 am from May to September.
You enter the caves where the Mala (red hare-wallaby) camped when they first arrived at Uluru and discover the cave where they prepared their meals. The Malas are the ancestors of Anangu and their story is one of the most important in Tjukurpa.
Admire the beautiful examples of rock art along this walk before arriving at Kantju Gorge, a place of deep peace surrounded by vertical walls.
This walk is 10 km of track which follows a complete tour of Uluru. It is ideal for experiencing Uluru up close and the best way to discover the various plants, animals and geological features of the park.
You can do all of Uluru’s basic walking trails (around 3-4 hours) or simply focus on one of its sections, depending on your time, fitness and weather conditions.
We advise you to start the hike from the Mala carpark and go clockwise.
Note: you will find along this trail, several emergency radios in case you need help (injury or sunstroke) as well as drinking water on the one hand and other of the site.
If you prefer, you can also rent a bike from Outback Cycling to ride around Uluru. The store is located right next to the cultural center.
Valley of the Winds (Kata Tjuta)
Your visit to Uluru would not be complete without visiting Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) which is 35 km from Uluru. These rock formations have 36 red sandstone domes reminiscent of giant heads extended over 35km2.
The Valley of Winds walk is a 7 km circuit in the heart of the rocky massif and will offer you breathtaking views. Allow around 3 to 4 hours to complete the entire loop.
For a shorter option, you can walk to one of the lookouts and return. However, doing the full circuit is actually easier than getting to the second lookout (Karingana) and coming back.
Watch the sunset and the sunrise
Uluru-Kata Tjuta is known worldwide for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets. As sunlight plays with the landscape, the rock formations change colour before your eyes.
The national park has five observation areas dedicated to the experience and to encourage photography of this beautiful scene. However, there are many other quiet places around the park to admire the sunrise or sunset.
These sunrise and sunset viewpoints are located in such a way that the sun’s rays will hit the rock formations directly at the right time of day to give the impression that the rocks are changing colour.
Discovering Aboriginal Culture at Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Center
Begin your trip to the Cultural Center by supporting the local community and deepen your understanding of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Located 1 km before Uluru, the center is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.
Here, you will learn about Anangu Aboriginal culture and the park’s natural environment through free exhibitions and presentations with the Anangu community and park rangers. There are also displays, a visitor information desk, Aboriginal art galleries and numerous community-owned shops and facilities. Allow at least two hours to explore and fully appreciate the cultural centre.
You should also know that there is a festival called “Tjungu Festival” which is celebrated in honor of Aboriginal culture. It is held at the end of April and this for 4 days. You will discover gastronomy, art, music and films.
Also read : Uluru & Kata Tjuta: 2 days Itinerary