While hordes of tourists flock to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park every year, it remains an enigma to most Australians. This is a shame, because it really is one of the most beautiful parts of this country, is very accessible and can be explored over a weekend if that’s all the time you have.
- Uluru and Kata Tjuta (aka Ayers Rock and The Olgas)
- Seeing the Red Centre from the sky
- Visiting the Cultural Centre to learn about the local culture, history and environment
Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are part of the incredible world heritage listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. While Uluru seems a long way to go for a weekend, a long weekend will give you enough time to experience the highlights and walk away with lifelong memories.
Given the high temperatures experienced in Australia’s red centre, it is best to enjoy the park during the earlier and later parts of the day. You will need to pay for park entry – at the time of writing it was $25 per person for three days.
Spend your first afternoon in Uluru exploring the resort or Cultural Centre, before heading out to take in your first sunset. There are numerous viewing options and all of them will blow you away.
If you hang about a little longer, you will start to see the stars light up the sky. Given the little light pollution, you will see more stars than you’ve ever seen in your life. Just make sure you don’t become too hypnotised, as you will need to be out of the park before it closes.
Sunrise & Sunset Perfection
In the morning, force yourself out of bed so you arrive at the park gates at opening. You will not regret it! This will give you the opportunity to experience the stars as they fade in eerie beautiful silence, and before the busloads of people arrive for sunrise.
Follow up sunrise with a hike before the heat takes over. During warmer parts of the day, head back to your hotel/campground and take a dip in the pool or have a cheeky afternoon nap before heading out again for sunset.
There are hikes suitable for all levels of fitness, just make sure you’re prepared. Take plenty of water (you need to drink a litre for every hour you’re out), lather up in sunscreen and wear appropriate clothing and footwear. There are snakes, spiders, scorpions and bullet ants, so thongs really aren’t the most sensible choice. Save those for schlepping by the pool.
Valley of the Winds circuit at Kata Tjuta
My personal favourite hike was the Valley of the Winds circuit at Kata Tjuta. Kata Tjuta is the most intriguing and interesting place – it is difficult to describe its beauty and the awe you feel walking between those huge red rocks. Ensure you don’t focus all your attention on Uluru at the expense of Kata Tjuta. The Uluru base walk is another highlight.
Another highlight (if you scrape together the dosh) is a scenic flight. It will give you a completely different perspective of Uluru and Kata Tjuta and their sheer scale in the landscape.
We took a half hour helicopter ride at sunrise and our minds were blown. The light at that time of day takes your breath away. The dunes and trees cast delicate shadows that create so much texture, while the enormous Uluru casts a shadow that extends nearly as far as Kata Tjuta, 40km away.
- Cool breathable clothing, particularly if you plan on hiking. A warm jacket for stargazing missions
- Hiking boots or shoes
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat
- A small backpack, water bottles and snacks for hikes – you should drink a litre an hour. The dry heat is deceptive and you won’t notice yourself sweating
- Camera and tripod
How To Get There
Ayers Rock airport is the closest airport to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Ayers Rock Resort runs all the hotels and the campground in the village of Yulara. Ayers Rock Resort is only about 10 minutes from the airport and there are free shuttles available.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are not within walking distance of the resort, so you will need transportation. There are plenty of tours you can sign up to, but if you want a little more freedom, car hire is a good option. You can pick up a map of the national park from your hotel.
- Stunning landscapes
- Sunrise, sunset and stargazing
- Learning about the local culture and history
- Scenic flights
- Photography (note that drones are not permitted in the National Park)
- Native flora and fauna
Beginner! Anyone can experience Uluru. Just make sure you tailor the sightseeing activities to your level of fitness. Don’t do a 4-hour hike if you’ve never walked that far on a hot day. While most hikes are relatively flat, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park isn’t the place to test out your fitness.
Hikes are generally from about 500m up to nearly 11km long, ranging between half an hour to four hours in duration.
The park entrance is a 5-minute drive from the resort, Uluru is another 10-20 minutes from there (depending on where you’re headed). Kata Tjuta is about a 45-minute drive from the park entrance.