Could this be the most beautiful place in Australia? Well…I think it just might be. Uluru-Kata Tjuta park does not only offer an awe-inspiring landscape, but also an insight into ancient wisdom and the history of the Anangu traditional owners. I don’t get in awe for a lot of places, but when I say I was blown away by not only the beauty, but also the culture of this magnificent place, I mean it. The first time I laid eyes on Uluru was something I will never forget. This truly is the heart of Australia.
I’d like to start off this blog by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land and pay my respect to their Elders past and present.
Table of Contents
A Little History and Facts
Uluru rises 348 metres above the surround plain, that’s higher than the Eiffel Tower! The Anangu have lived and managed this country for millennia, with archaeological evidence showing that Aboriginal people have inhabited this part of Australia for more than 30 000 years.
Kata Tjuta is 546 metres above the plain and consists of 36 domes. Kata Tjuta is a Pitjantjatjara term that means ‘many heads’. This an extremely important site to the Anangu for mens business.
The first non-aboriginal people to see Uluru-Kata Tjuta was in 1872, when a party led by explorer Ernest Giles spotted Kata Tjuta during their travels. Explorer William Gosse become the first European to see Uluru the following year.
Ayers Rock (now Uluru), was first declared a national park in 1950. In 1958 both Ayers Rock and Mount Olga (Kata-Tjuta) were excised from Aboriginal reserve to form the Ayers Rock-Mt Olga National Park. This National Park was changed to Uluru-Kata Tjuta in 1977. It took more than 35 years of campaigning until the Anangu were recognised as the traditional owners of the park and handed back the deed to their homelands. The Anangu own this National Park and lease the land to Australia Government.
How to get There
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is located in the Northern Territory, 1943 km from Darwin or 440 km south-west from Alice Springs. There are three ways you can get to Uluru via flying, driving or a tour.
Yulara has its own airport (Ayers Rock/Connellan Airport), which you can fly directly to from a number of Australian Cities. Including, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide and Alice Springs. If you are flying internationally one of your flights will probably connect via one of these airports.
Many visitors who venture to Uluru-Kata Tjuta drive along the famous Red Centre Way road trip. I mean if your in the area why not explore all this place has to offer? This multi-day drive takes you to Uluru-Kata Tjuta, Kings Canyon, West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs and more. If you are not up for a multi-day road trip or don’t have the time, you can drive from Alice Springs which will take you roughly 5.5-6 hrs. The road is sealed all the way, so it’s accessible via 2WD or 4WD.
Don’t have a car of your own? You can hire your own from Ayer Rock Airport, Yulara or Alice Springs. There is a limited number of rentals, so be sure to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you’d prefer not to drive, sit back and enjoy the scenery, then a tour is for you. Tours cater to all groups and budgets, ranging from day trips to month-long adventures. Tours not your thing? There are also heaps of one way or return transfers from Alice Springs.
Best Time to Visit
Uluru-Kata Tjuta is amazing any time of year. However the weather in this part of Australia tends to vary quite a bit between seasons. The best season to visit is May to September, when the temperature is mid during the day (20-30 C), making it pleasant for exploring.
Overnight temperatures can drop quite low during winter, so if you are camping be sure to bring plenty of warm clothes! If you want to see wildflowers, the best time to visit is between August and September.
October to March is typically the hottest time to visit the national park, with temperatures regular exceeding 35 degrees C. This hot weather tends to bring storms and rain, which fills the waterholes and waterfalls tent to fall off Uluru.
I visited in November and was lucky to be welcomed with pleasant weather, the average daily temperature only reaching 28 C. Prior to my arrival, Uluru-Kata Tjuta had had a large amount of rain, which meant everything was green, the waterhole’s were full and there was life everywhere! I can’t promise this will be your experience if you visit during this time, I think i was extremely lucky with my timing.
Where to Stay
The only place to stay near the national park is in the Aboriginal-owned Ayers Rock Resort. This resort offers a range of accommodation options. Including, self-contained apartments, hotels, 5-star luxury accommodation, backpackers and campgrounds. There is something for everyone and every budget. The Ayers Rock Resort also contains shops, facilities, restaurants and guided tours, making it a great base. There is a bus that runs on a schedule making it very easy to get around! Bus stops are located outside of accommodation and facilities, it’s completely free.
Best accomodation for:
Budget travellers/campers: Ayers Rock Campground
Mid-range Travellers: The Lost Camel
Luxury travellers: Sails in the Desert Hotel
Fully serviced apartments: Emu Walk Apartments
Extreme luxury: Longitude 131
How Long to Visit
As there is so much to see and do in the National Park I recommend spending at least 3 nights here. If you want to truly embrace this beautiful part of the country, I recommend spending much more time.
Things to Do
There are plenty of activities to see and do in the National Park. From sightseeing, cultural experiences and tours, camel tours, hiking, scenic flights and more. You are given plenty of information once you enter the park. You will need to buy a park pass to enter the National Park, they can be purchased online here.
If you are a content creator (vlogger, photographer, blogger, etc), you will need to apply and purchase a media pass for your visit. This includes a 1hr media briefing where you will be shown the best spots to photograph, as well as what you can’t photograph. Please respect the wishes of the traditional owners and don’t share photographs of sacred sites. The media pass includes a 5 day park pass and will cost you $20AUD a day, maximum of 2 days. You can apply for a media pass here.
Walk around Uluru
There are plenty of walking trails around Uluru. You can choose to take a short walk or walk around the whole of Uluru. The Mala walk is a very popular 2km walk around the base, which tells the story of the Mala people. It ends at Kantju Gorge which is filled with water after rain. There are guided ranger walks every morning. The Kuniya walk and Mutitjulu Waterhole is another fantastic walk.
This is an amazing experience and I highly recommend for your visit to Uluru. The Field of Lights is an art installation by British artist Bruce Munro. 50 000 solar powered sphere lights light up an area the size of seven football fields. It is truly beautiful. I recommend the star pass, where you will be picked up from your hotel and taken to a viewing platform to watch the sunset over Uluru. Here you will be treated to drinks and some food, before heading down into the field of lights where you will be able to walk around the installation.
A three-course dinner at Uluru, where you can sip on bubbles and taste canapes on top of the red desert dunes. The feast is bush tucker inspired, offering a unique experience in the heart of Australia. After dinner, an astronomer will tell you about the planets and galaxies of the Australian night sky.
Take a guided tour around the dunes, watching either the sunrise or sunset over Uluru. After being picked up from your hotel you will have a chance to meet some friendly camels and afterwards you will be treated to drinks and some nibbles (dependant on what package you choose). Don’t worry, these camels are very well treated and you can tell they are loved. If you are like me and are animal conscious, this tour does not treat the camels badly, like in some other parts of the world. If you don’t want to ride the camels, you can visit the camel farm completely free!
Take a tour around Uluru on a segway, a unique way to experience the area. After being picked up from your hotel, you will cruise 12 km around Uluru with a guide, stopping at some of the best places at Uluru’s base.
There are plenty of free activities to do in the national park. From, Didgeridoo workshops, bush food experiences, traditional painting and much more.
Sunset and Sunrise viewing
If you are visiting Uluru, you MUST watch the sunrise and sunset. IT is a truly beautiful experience and is worth the early wake up. There are dedicated sunrise (Talinguru Nyakunytjaku) and sunset viewing areas, each labelled on the map of the park which you will receive upon entry.
Helicopter or Plane Scenic Flights
There are a few companies that offer scenic flights around Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Its best to do your own research to find one that suits you. I would recommend spending a bit more and taking a long flight as a 15 min helicopter flight goes VERY quickly. It is a amazing experience to see Uluru-Kata Tjuta from above, and this definitely should be on your red centre to-do list!
Walpa Gorge and the Valley of the Winds walking trails are the highlights of Kata Tjuta. Walpa Gorge is a 2.6km walk, which leads between sandstone domes. The area is a refuge for plants and animals, you might even spot a wallaroo hopping around the domes. Valley of the Winds has two scenic lookouts. Karu lookout a 2.2km return walk or Karingana lookout a 5.4 km walk. If the temperature is predicted to be 36 C or above, the track closes at the Karu lookout.
Sunrise and Sunset viewing
Similar to Uluru , there are dedicated viewing platforms at Kata Tjuta. Keep in mind that Kata Tjuta is about 45 mins away from Uluru so you will need to plan accordingly.
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