Ayers Rock, or Uluru is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world. The striking rock, that almost glows orange draws thousands of visitors every year.
While you can no longer climb the rock you can stay in nearby Alice Springs and visit by land or even helicopter over for an aerial view.
In this complete guide to visiting Ayers Rock we share some history, top ten things to do in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, where to stay, where to eat and other general tips and advice.
In 1993, in addition to its English name of Ayers Rock, ‘Uluru’ was also recognised by its traditional Aboriginal name. Out of respect, people now commonly refer to this 1,142 ft (348 m) high sandstone formation as Uluru. Uluru is located within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in central Australia. Alice Springs is the closest town and is about 208 miles (335 km) south west of Uluru.
As the oldest living culture in the world, the Australia Aborigines have a diverse and rich culture. There were over 250 Aboriginal nations across Australia each with several clans before European invasion in 1788. The local Aboriginal nation to Uluru is known as the Anangu people.
Climbing of Uluru was banned from 26 October 2019 out of respect for the Anangu people, but there are still so many amazing things to do to experience Uluru. During your visit, take some time to learn about this ancient culture and landscapes.
Top Ten things to do in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park offers a number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Plan your trip wisely and make sure you allow time to cover off these top ten ultimate experiences.
1) Uluru base walk
The Uluru base walk is a great way to acquaint yourself with this sacred space. The base walk is roughly 6.8 miles around ( 10 km) and will take about three hours. The best place to start is from the Mala carpark. You can start with the guided ranger walk which starts from here every day where you can hear about sacred men’s and women’s sites around the rock.
2) Sounds of Silence
Sounds of Silence is one the highlights to the Uluru experience. Admiring sunset from the sand dunes, you’ll watch the color of Uluru change as the sun drops in the sky. As the sun sets, you listen to the sounds of the didgeridoo being played while you sip champagne and eating canapes.
On to the main attraction, you’ll enjoy a fine dining experience of local bush ingredients under the stars while listening to bush poetry and astronomer decode the southern night sky. Sounds of Silence is a night you’ll never forget.
3) Field of Light
Until 2027 you can see the Field of Light installation. The outdoor light exhibit is made up of 50,000 glass spheres, changing color in the darkness of the Australian outback. You can spend about an hour walking through the exhibition which is about the size of seven football fields.
Choose from a variety of Field of Light options. The Field of Light Star Pass is highly recommended and includes champagne and canapes on sunset prior to the night exhibition.
4) Sunrise and Sunset viewings
There are a number of viewing platforms throughout the national park giving you the best spots for sunrise and sunset photos. Don’t miss a sunrise or sunset during your visit!
5) Camel ride
Believe it or not there are roughly 200,000 camels in central Australia. They were imported from British India and Afghanistan in in the mid 1890s for transportation and construction during colonization of central and western Australia. For a unique central Australian experience, take a camel ride tour at sunrise or sunset.
Taking a helicopter to see some of Australia’s most iconic landmarks from the air is an incredible experience. Helicopter rides over Uluru and Kata-Tjuta leave throughout the day but sunrise and sunset are the most popular timeslots.
The hiking around the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park is completely underrated. There are hikes ranging from easy 20 minute hikes to the more difficult hikes taking about three hours. They are not only in some of the most beautiful natural landscapes within Australia but you’ll learn more about the sacred sites and histories of the Anangu people along the way.
The Walpa Gorge walk, Mutitjulu waterhole, the Mala walk and the first two stages of the challenging Valley of the Winds walks come highly recommended. Be sure to take plenty of water, walk early in the morning and leave by 11am to avoid the hottest time of the day.
8) Cultural Centre
Visiting the local Cultural Centre during your stay is an absolute must. It’s a great way to learn a bit more about the local Anangu people including their culture, history and way of life. At the art gallery and gift shop you can purchase Aboriginal art, wood carvings, tools, weapons and accessories.
On Saturdays you can see the local Anangu artists painting and meet them before purchasing their art.
9) Cultural experiences
The Ayers Rock Resort offers complimentary cultural experiences for guests. There are guided garden walks around the grounds where you can learn about the indigenous plants used in traditional medicine, bush food tasting experiences to sample traditional food, bush yarns to hear about Aboriginal culture and traditions.
Daily didgeridoo workshops allow men to try and play the didgeridoos, by Aboriginal lore only men are allowed to play.
10) Kings Canyon
If you’re looking for more to explore during your Uluru visit, consider a day tour to Kings Canyon. Kings Canyon is about 71,000 hectares or 274 square miles. About three hours from Uluru, within the Watarrka National Park you can walk the rim of Kings Canyon which is about six kilometres or 3.7 miles.
How to get to and around Uluru
For International travellers, Uluru is one of the most remote places in Australia to reach. International flights arrive into Australian capital cities and travellers can reach Uluru by reconnecting via the Ayers Rock Airport (Yulara, Northern Territory).
Australia had its international border closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and strict travel requirements in place for Australians. In many cases even Australians weren’t permitted cross state borders in attempt to minimise the spread of the virus.
While travel requirements for international citizens haven’t been announced at this stage, it is extremely likely anyone planning on visiting Australia will need to show proof of COVID-19 double-vaccination and may need to undergo hotel quarantine on arrival.
Limited travel to Australia during COVID has influenced changes to the domestic flight schedule seeing many more Jetstar flight options to Ayers Rock Airport from various capital cities around Australia. Qantas also flies direct into Alice Springs from most capital cities around Australia, which is a four hour drive south to Uluru.
Driving to Uluru
Uluru is a 30-hour drive in one direction from Sydney, 24 hours from Melbourne, 25 hours from Perth and 20 hours from Darwin. Travelling by car or van is only recommended for extended trips within Australia for a minimum of six months.
Getting around the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
The easiest and most economical way of getting around the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is to rent a car. This will give you the flexibility to access hiking trials and leave for sunrise and sunset on your schedule.
Where to stay with specific hotel recommendations
There are limited hotel options within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park but don’t let that make you think you are limited for choice and quality.
For a luxury experience Longitude 131 offers accommodation on a multimillion dollar lodge with a stunning views over the national park and a strong connection to culture and natural environment.
The majority of accommodation is within the Ayers Rock Resort which has a range of options at various price points. Sails in the Desert is a favorite with the resort offering the only pool on site, which is a necessity during the dry summers! Emu Walk Apartments provides options for group travellers looking to cook their own meals and the Ayers Rock Campground has options for budget travellers.
Where to eat
There are a range of places to eat in Uluru from fine dining under the stars to casual dining by the pool. If part of your reason for visiting Uluru is to experience the culture, you’d be cheating if you didn’t try as many traditional Aboriginal foods as possible. There are also plenty of other options for those less adventurous!
- Sounds of Silence is an incredible culinary experience which begins with canapes and champagne overlooking Uluru at sunset and finishes with a fine dining, bush tucker inspired menu incorporating bush ingredients under the stars. The experience also includes a bush poet, didgeridoo player and astronomer.
- Tali Wiru is a four course dinner and world class gastronomic experience with views of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta under the night sky. It includes private settings for two and a menu featuring ancient and indigenous ingredients.
- Pira Pool Bar After a morning of hiking, there’s no where better to enjoy a drink or light lunch than the Pira Pool Bar.
- Ilkari Restaurant Ilkari Restaurant provides an international experience to the Ayers Rock Resort. It offers a buffet breakfast and dinner as well as an international menu. You can expect a pancake cooking station, pastries, Asian soups through to seafood, roasts and a chocolate fountain! Located conveniently in the middle of the Ayers Rock Resort the IGA supermarket is a lifesaver for snacks and drinks.
Evening hangouts and bars
There isn’t much in the way of night scene within the Uluru National Park, but if you are looking for a party scene it probably isn’t the best vacation destination to you. Between the early wake up calls to see sunrises, hiking and evening activities such as Sounds of Silence or Field of Lights you won’t be looking for evening hang outs and bars.
General tips and advice for Uluru
To visit the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park you will need to obtain a National Parks pass). A three-day pass will cost $38 and allow you access to both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The cost of the pass helps to maintain the park’s facilities and preserve its World Heritage sites, support traditional owners and the community.
What to pack
When packing your clothes, you’ll need everything from hiking gear to something fancy to wear for your dining experiences under the stars.
Central Australia has extreme temperatures. Between October to March, the weather can get extremely hot with temperatures exceeding over 35 C or 95 F. To keep yourself hydrated and sun-safe be sure to drink at least two litres (or 67 fluid ounces), wear sun protected clothing, a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen.
Flies are also very common in Central Australia. It’s not pretty, but a fly net will keep the flies off your face (and out of your nose!). Make sure you bring one with you, there are limited supplies in Uluru – you won’t regret it!
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Ayers Rock. If you have any questions or advice to share with our readers, please leave these in the comments below.
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