Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) are the ultimate highlight for every traveler in Australia. Not only tourists from all over the world but also Australians love to visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Red Center of Australia. It’s already our third visit to this national park and we are again speechless by the sight of these two amazing rock formations. What is it that makes these rocks so spectacular? Read on if you like to know what we love about the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and how you can explore the beauty of Australia’s iconic rock.
This time, we enter the park through the back door. We take the longest short cut of Australia and drive from Perth over the Outback Way, formerly known as the Great Central Road, right into the Red Center. From Perth to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National park it’s only about 2’000 kilometers and most of this shortcut is unsealed gavel road.
We are again overwhelmed by the sight of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). We especially like the color changes of the rock formations during the day and the great walks around Uluru and Kata Tjuta. No wonder that the national park is on the World Heritage list of UNESCO.
The best time to visit Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
We have been to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park at different times of the year. December to February would probably not be the best time to be here because it can be extremely hot and walking during the Australian summer is no fun. If you visit in the Australian winter (June to August) you will find moderate temperatures during the day and cool nights. Be aware that you are in the desert and the nights can be very cold. During our first visit to the Red Center in August, we had freezing cold nights and a thin layer of ice on our roof in the morning. This year in October we have been lucky enough to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta surrounded by beautiful vegetation with lots of wildflowers.
The entry pass to the park costs AUD 25 and is valid for three days and if you have enough time, we would highly recommend you to plan three days for your visit. There are so many things you can do and it’s great to have the time to just sit down and enjoy the stunning views. It’s the only way how you can experience the dramatic color changes on the rock and appreciate the beauty of this amazing place.
Things to do at Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Uluru Base Walk
A great way to experience the real beauty of Uluru (Ayers Rock) is to do the Uluru Base Walk. If you do the whole Uluru Base Walk you will need about 3.5 hours and you will walk 10.6 kilometers. It’s best to do this walk early in the morning to avoid the heat of the afternoon. If you don’t have enough time or if you do not feel fit enough you can still do some sections of the Uluru Base walk.
Along the walk there are several places with rock paintings and spectacular features of Uluru. It’s amazing how different Uluru looks like, depending on where you are standing. There are places where you can take pictures and nobody would recognize what you have taken pictures of. There are no toilets along the walk but there is a place where you can refill your water bottle.
Ride around Uluru by bicycle
You can rent a bicycle from Outback Cycling and ride around Uluru by bicycle if you are short on time. You can stop wherever you want and still see Uluru from different angles. AUD 45 for 3 hours.
Drive around Uluru by car
It’s also possible to drive around Uluru by car but that will not be the same experience.
Get up early and watch the sunrise at Uluru
To see Uluru emerging out of the darkness is an amazing moment you will never forget. You have different possibilities to watch the sunrise over Uluru. You can choose between watching Uluru changing its color with the sun in your back or the sun rising over Uluru. Whatever you choose you still have to get up very early in the morning.
Don’t forget that you are in the desert. Even if the temperatures are nice and warm or even hot during the day, it can be freezing cold during the night. If you head out to watch the sunrise, don’t forget to take a warm jumper or even a jacket and a beanie.
Watch the sunset at Uluru
Again you have different options to watch the sunset at Uluru. The most popular vantage point is the huge sunset viewing car park. At this place you will have the sun in your back and you can see how Uluru changes its color and starts to light up right before the sun disappears. We love to arrive here in the late afternoon, choose a good spot, have a snack or even cook our dinner and just sit here for a few hours to take it all in. You will not be the only one and you will easily make new friends.
Scenic flights over Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
If you travel on a generous budget, you can take a scenic flight over Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The views must be amazing from the air but to be honest the noise of the helicopters are rather annoying while walking around Uluru and enjoying the peaceful quietness. The cheapest flight for 15 minutes starts at AUD 150 per person.
Quick facts about Uluru
- Height: 348 m, 863 m above sea level
- Length: 3.6 km
- Circumference: 9.4 km
- Distance from Yulara: 20 km
Things to do at Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) is the first sight of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park after our ride on the Outback Way from Perth. It’s absolutely amazing to approach from the west and slowly getting closer to the huge rock formations of Kata Tjuta.
Valley of the Winds walk
This is the longer of the two main walks that you can do at Kata Tjuta. It’s 7.4 km and you will need about two to four hours. The walk leads right through the domes of Kata Tjuta and you will get a feel for the size of these spectacular rock formations. In some places the walk is steep and you have to climb over some rocks so wear good shoes. There are different lookouts along the walk and you can refill your water bottle on the water tanks. During very hot weather part of the walk might be closed after 11 am. It’s best to do start this walk early in the morning to avoid the afternoon heat.
Walpa Gorge walk
The Walpa Gorge walk is easier and shorter than the Valley of the Winds walk. It’s only 2.6 kilometers and you can easily do it in one hour. Be prepared to share the path with many others. Most tour groups do this walk and skip the longer one. The good thing is that if you have time, you can wait for a few minutes and the tour groups will disappear again.
We did this walk in the afternoon and there were about five tour buses on the parking lot. In the beginning, the track was full of visitors. We took it slow, waited at the end of the gorge and after 15 minutes, we had the place to ourselves. You can imagine how peaceful that was.
Watch the sunset at Kata Tjuta
There is a sunset viewing area where you also find toilets and picnic tables. It’s a nice spot to watch the Kata Tjuta changing its colors during the sunset. You can also watch the sunset from the Kata Tjuta dune viewing area, where you will have Kata Tjuta backlit by the setting sun.
Watch the sunrise at Kata Tjuta
Again you have different options to watch the sunrise at Kata Tjuta. A great spot is the Kata Tjuta dune viewing area where you can see both, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The Olgas will be directly in front of you and you will see how they change the colors during the sunrise. In the distance you will see Uluru backlit by the rising sun which makes a really nice photo opportunity. The platforms at this spot can be quite busy and it’s almost 45 minutes from Yulara, so you really have to get up early.
Quick facts about Kata Tjuta
- Height: 546 m, 1066 m above sea level
- Number of rocks: 36
- Distance from Yulara: 53 kilometers and it will take you about 45 minutes
The Cultural Centre in the park
The Cultural Centre is located close to Uluru and it’s a good place to start your visit to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You can learn a lot about the culture of the traditional Owners and hear their stories. At the information desk you can get some information. There is a café and souvenir shops where you can buy refreshments and local art. The Cultural Centre is open every day from 7 am to 6 pm.
Yulara – The Resort town serving the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Many people think Uluru is very close to Alice Springs but it’s almost 500 kilometers between the two places. Yulara is an artificial resort town serving the tourists who visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. There are hotels, a campground, restaurants, a shop and you can get fuel. Be prepared to pay an extra dollar for everything.
Info about the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
At the entry station to the park between Yulara and Uluru you can buy the tickets and will get a visitor guide with all the important information. You will find the opening hours and detailed information about the walks.
- Location: The Park is located 450 kilometers southwest of Alice Springs
- Entry fee: AUD 25 per adult, valid for three days
- Park opening hours: depending on the season from 5 am to 9 pm
Shall I climb Uluru?
There is a big discussion about climbing or not climbing Uluru. The Anangu are the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and they ask for not climbing Uluru because they have a responsibility to safeguard visitors and feel great sadness when a person dies or is hurt on their land. On the other hand they also tell if you choose to climb you should do so safely.
Reasons for not climbing Uluru are:
- Cultural reasons: Uluru is a significant spiritual place for the traditional owners
- Safety Reasons: The climb is physically demanding, very steep and can be dangerous.
- Environmental reasons: There are significant environmental impacts on climbing because it’s changing the face of Uluru. There are no toilet facilities on Uluru.
There would be a very easy solution to end this discussion. Just put a “No Climb” sign. But maybe there is just too much money involved and parks management is afraid to loose some of the tourist dollars.
Have you been to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park? What was your favorite time of the day to see Uluru?