Urulu is often considered the burning heart of Australia. It is a beautiful place with a great history. You could easily stay a week without realising how much time has passed. But as time is always a limiting factor: here is a suggested itinerary for two days in Uluru-Kata Tjuta based on our own experience. This should allow you to make most of this exceptional place.
National Park entry
Entry into the park costs 25 AUD per person and is valid for three days. Once you have the tickets you no longer have to go through the main ticket window. Time the terminal on the left of it.
Where to sleep?
Yulara is the tourist village located a few kilometres from Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Here you will find all types of accommodation: from the basic campsite without electricity (25 dollars a night) to the luxurious hotels for 250 dollars a night. At the campsite you have access to showers, a kitchen area, barbecues fridges and washing machines. All for free.
Saying at Yulara will also give you the right to buy alcohol, with a paper license that you must show every time you buy something.
There is another free option. North of Yulara is a free campsite. If you do not have Wikicamp, just pass Yulara, the mechanic’s road, the airport and after 9km you will see on your right a small sandy road. Do not hesitate to take the road as it is accessible to 4×4 as well as 2WD vans. If yo u have a 4×4 you can ride the dunes which offers a breathtaking view of Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. If your vehicle can not deal with this kind of off roading climb on foot and mount your tent up in the dunes! The nights can be a bit chilly, but seeing the sunrise, sunset as well as the Milky Way stretching over Uluru will make you forget everything.
You will understand that this is where we stayed!
REMINDER: Camping is allowed but keep in mind that this is aboriginal land wilderness not a bush party place! Yes I can assure you some come to the campsite with subwoofers that would put festivals to shame and leave leave their toilet papers and bottles on the ground.
Where to eat?
In Yulara you have an IGA supermarket, restaurants, cafes and everything you might require to stock up. There is also a gas station, keep your IGA receipt if you shop there as it entitles you to a discount of 4ct on the next full tank!
If you are lazy one night and what a barbecue we tested the Outback Pioneer Kitchen. For 30 AUD you will have an assortment of meat (kangaroo, emu, crocodile) and access to the salad bar. For vegetarians only take the salad bar for 20 AUD. The salads are good and varied. Basic, but fantastic. It also has live music. The atmosphere is good and the staff is friendly. We do feel that is is a very touristy place.
Budget Tip: Only one person can order at the counter and share the plate with you. There are no pounds of meat, but with salads, you can have a great meal for $15 per person.
Day 1: Kata Tjuta (Mount Olgas)
Approximately 30 kilometers from Uluru are the Kata-Tjota (or Olgas). These rounded rock formations, less known than their neighbour, are no less impressive.
Walk through the valley of winds
The whole calk is 7.4 kilometers and is very well marked. There is a bit of elevation it is perfectly feasible for most levels of fitness. You will have the chance to be in the heart of the rocks with breathtaking views, where only the birds come to disturb the silence. I advice you to do this walk in the morning to evade the heat. Make sure to bring water. Two spots for drinking water are available along the walk. Drink a lot, we did not realise it, but we sweat!
If you do not want to do the whole loop, no problem. There are two viewing points along the way: The Karu Lookout (2.2 km round trip) and the Karingana Lookout (5.4 Km round trip).
Shaded picnic tables are available right next to the car park for lunch. If you feel like it you can then follow the Walpa gorge (2.2 km round trip, very easy)
Yulara and its activities
If you have walked enough for the day, Yulara offers plenty of free activates such as discovering the ‘bush-tucker’ (food from nature), learning about planting and using plants, astronomy exhibitions and theatre.
For opening hours and the locations of these activities ask for the program at the Cultural Center or at the reception desks.
Sunset at Uluru
If you stay at the resort for the night there is a walk that will take you to a lookout from where you can see the sunset on Uluru.
Sunset on the Kata-Tjuta
Only thirty kilometres from the resort you will find an alternative for the evening. There is a beautiful lookout (Sand Dunes view) to see the sunsets on Kata-Tjuta (with Uluru in the distance). As the shadows of the trees grow longer you will see the rocks turning all shades of red. At this moment everything is ablaze, even the sky!
Day 2: Uluru
The ‘base walk’ in the early morning
My advice would be to get up early, before sunrise, to do the Uluru base walk. This 10 km walk is all around Uluru and features great explanations of the sacred places (you are not allowed to take pictures here!). We were there in August (winter) and wild flowers covered the park making for a truly beautiful sight.
Seeing the sunrise at the foot of the rock with nothing but silence and a tea thermos has something magic about it. As mentioned I strongly recommend getting up early as the site fills up very quickly. The feeling of loneliness and immensity that filled us is really worth it!
Free guided tour
The advantage is that you are well awake and fit to take the ‘free guided tour‘ led by a ranger. I can highly recommend it! The appointment is at 10am from the Mala walk. The tour takes around four hours total. Three hours for the guided base walk another 45 minutes to an hour for the ride with the ranger.
Our guide Nick is a great enthusiast. He could answer all our questions with passion. We were a large group (about 20 people) with a guide who transmits his passion and RESPECT for the site to all of us. I do not want to give any orders, but do it, really!
Evening at the free camping spot
And now two days have already passed!
Do not hit the road at night to get back though. Spend a last night at the free camping ground to enjoy the breathtaking views of Uluru at sunset. You will be much less close to the rocks compared to the Sand Dune View of Kata Tjuta. However, you will be able to see both formations. Once again, a beautiful display of colours awaits you.
A good night’s sleep later you will be ready to hit the road, north, south, east or west, whatever! I hope you will be as blown away as we have been. Safe travels!
Important: Climbing Uluru
As you may have noticed I did not mention the famous climb of Uluru, considered by many as a ‘must’ activity. I have no right to prevent you from doing anything of course but I implore you: please abstain. Uluru is a sacred place for the aboriginal people who still live here. Ascension is an attack on the belief of these tribes. Nick (the ranger of the tour) even explained to us that some did not hesitate to consider Uluru an outdoor toilet with a panoramic view. I do not think anybody would consider relieving themselves on the roof of the Vatican or a mosque. Unfortunately, Uluru does not, in their eyes, deserve the same respect.
If by 2020 only 20% of people coming to Uluru decide to climb the mountain despite all the signs and guides advising against it the path will be closed. Please refuse the climb. There are so many other wonderful things to see in respect of the Aboriginal culture. Australia offers a sufficient number of trek and climbing opportunities!