Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) is undoubtedly one of Australia’s most famous landmarks. At 600 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, 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.
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.
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 4 × 4 vehicle to access the national park.
Visit Ayers Rock
We advise you to rent a car at the airport to make travel around the national park and from Yulara easier. As there are limited rental cars in Yulara but often high demand, ensure you book a few weeks in advance.
As noted earlier, all roads are tarred that circulate in the park so a 4×4 is not necessary, a normal car will be fine.
If you do not have your own vehicle to get around, it is possible to travel to Uluru or Kata-Tjuta by taking one of the many sightseeing bus tours or buying a pass for the multi-stop shuttles offered by the resort hotelier of Yulara. Unfortunately, there are no taxis or other public transport.
There is no accommodation in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, most hotels are located in the Ayers Rock Resort in Yulara. In addition to accommodation, Ayers Rock Resort also offers shops, restaurants and many tours.
You can also opt for the camping option as the Yulara complex offers a campground with all the necessary facilities for a comfortable stay. There are no campgrounds in the national park itself and camping is not permitted.
However, a little further, Curtin Springs offers a unique camping experience where you can stay on a busy cattle station.
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 Ayers Rock?
To access Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, you will need to purchase a Pass. This pass costs $ 25 and is valid for 3 days. However, you can request an extension (at no extra charge) for 2 additional days, allowing you to stay 5 days in total.
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.
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.
Activities to do
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 range from easy to moderate.
Uluru Base Walk
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.
You can also rent a bike at Outback Cycling to tour Uluru and approach the rocky surface. The store is located right next to the cultural centre.
The Mala Walk
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.
Valley of the Winds in 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. 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.
Article and photos: Fiona Berrocal