Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park is worthy of a spot high on any Australia bucket list. The national park includes two unique rock formations: Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa. Uluṟu (sometimes called Ayers Rock) is a 340-meter tall monolith of red-hued arkosic sandstone. Did you know that Uluṟu is taller than the Eiffel Tower (324 meters)?! Kata Tjuṯa (sometimes called The Olgas) is 36 domed rocks.
Both Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa have been significant cultural and spiritual locations for the Anangu people, the Traditional Owners, since the Dreamtime. Perhaps this is why so many people describe their time at Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park as a spiritual experience.
Top Things to Do at Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
For your visit to Uluṟu, we recommend a minimum of two days, but three days would be better to enjoy all that Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa has to offer. Many people spend up to a week and never run out of things to do!
1. Orient Yourself at the Cultural Centre
Your first stop inside the park should be the Cultural Centre where you can learn more about the history and culture of the local Anangu people. We especially enjoyed the Dreamtime creation stories describing the formation of Uluṟu. Look for the evidence of the stories when you get to Uluṟu.
For cultural reasons, photos and videos are not allowed inside the Cultural Centre.
2. Cycle the Base of Uluṟu
Our favorite way to circumnavigate the base of Uluṟu is on bicycle. If you don’t have your own bikes, rent one from Outback Cycling. They have adult bikes, children bikes, tag-a-longs, and toddler seats.
The base is 11km. Many people walk, but cycling gives you a chance to move faster when you want to. The three-hour rental still gives you plenty of time to hop off and enjoy the Kuniya walk and Mala walk.
If bicycling is more energy than you want to exert, we saw Uluru Segway Tours advertised all over the Northern Territory and South Australia. They offer daytime, sunset, and sunrise tours…as long as you’re at least 12 years old. Could be fun once we hit the age limit!
3. Hike Amongst the Domes of Kata Tjuṯa
Kata Tjuṯa, which means “many heads” in the local Pitjantjatjara language, has 36 steep-sided domes, the tallest of which is 546 meters. The 50km distance from Uluṟu seems to deter the massive crowds. You won’t be alone, but you’ll have a lot more elbow room than at Uluṟu.
Our favorite hike at Kata Tjuṯa is Valley of the Winds. The 7.4 km walk takes about 3 hours (4 according to the official website). It’s also possible to turn around at the Karu lookout (2.2 km) or Karingana lookout (5.4 km). Personally, we found the Karu lookout uninspiring. If you’re going to Kata Tjuṯa, plan to make it at least to the Karingana lookout.
Hot weather closures! The Valley of the Winds walk closes at Karu lookout when the temperature reaches 35C. If it’s hot, hike early!
4. Enjoy Sunrises and Sunsets
The light reflecting on the red stone of Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa at sunrise or sunset is breathtaking. Keep your eyes on the rocks and watch the colors change with the sun.
For Uluṟu, The most popular sunset location is the Uluṟu Sunset Viewing Area, about20 minutes from Ayers Rock Resort. The most popular sunrise location is Talinguru Nyakunytjaku, about 35 minutes from Ayers Rock Resort. For Kata Tjuṯa, the Kata Tjuṯa Dune viewing area offers both sunrise and sunset views.
Join the crowd! The sunrise and sunset viewing areas are extremely popular. Don’t expect a solo, meditative experience. You’re more likely to encounter people with beach chairs and beers. Prepare your mental state accordingly. 🙂
5. Field of Lights
Artist Bruce Monro was so inspired by his visit to Uluṟu in 1992, that he went back to the UK and designed an art installation. Voila…Field of Lights! As darkness falls, 50,000 spindles of solar-powered lights illuminate the night in colors reminiscent of the desert and local aboriginal art. You wander the paths amongst the lights and soak it all in.
Several different tour options are available. The cheapest option is one of three nightly departures for the Field of Lights. We opted for the more expensive “Star Pass”, which includes canapes, beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), and a gorgeous Uluṟu sunset from an elevated dune. We have also heard great things about the pre-dawn tour, which includes hot drinks and snacks.
6. Join a Free Ranger-Guided Mala Tour
A ranger will take you along the 2 km Mala Walk at the base of Uluṟu. The ranger will teach you about traditional Anangu culture, rock art, Tjukurpa creation stories, and desert wildlife. The 1.5 hours tour departs at 8:00 am October to April and 10:00 am May to September.
7. Soar Above the Park on a Helicopter Tour
OK, this one is definitely a splurge, but if you’re looking for one, this is it! A 25-minute helicopter ride with Professional Helicopter Services will take you over Kata Tjuṯa, Uluṟu, and the countryside in between. The pilot provides commentary and is happy to answer questions. The helicopter is made for touring with large windows so all 6 passengers can see (and photograph!) clearly.
8. Star Gazing
The dark skies around Uluṟu are perfect for star gazing! Not only is there almost no light pollution, but the low humidity makes the skies clearer. Head to one of the four Uluṟu lookouts at Ayers Rock Resort for great stargazing!
If you’re looking for expert-led star gazing, join an outback sky journey on either the “Family Astro Tour” or “Astro Tour”. For either tour, children 15 and under are FREE.
For daytime astronomy options, check the free resort guest activities. During our most recent visit, there were daily talks and equipment to make solar observations.
9. Free Activities at Ayers Rock Resort
Ayers Rock Resort hosts a range of free programs. The program changes regularly. Check your accommodation or pick up a leaflet at the Tour and Information Centre in Town Square. When we visited, programs included bush tucker (yes, there are samples!), didgeridoo, storytelling, garden walks, art talks, and ecology tours.
10. Take a Day Trip to Kings Canyon
If you can swing it, Kings Canyon deserves more than a quick day trip from Uluṟu. However, we know that’s not possible for everyone. If you can’t make an overnight journey, then start early, enjoy the beauty of the Kings Canyon Rim Walk, and head back before nightfall. The drive is about 3 hours each way on sealed (paved) roads.
Looking for a tour to Kings Canyon? This full-day tour from Ayers Rock Resort gives you enough time for the 3-hour Rim Walk and includes a cooked breakfast. Plus you can sleep or look out the window rather than driving.
Planning a Trip to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park
Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa Park Pass
Everyone needs a park pass to enjoy Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park. We HIGHLY recommend buying your pass online. If you have an online pass, you use the dedicated line for park pass holders at the entry gate. The line-up to buy your pass at the gate can be long.
A 3-day pass costs AUD$25 for adults, AUD$12.50 for children 5-15, and AUD$65 for a Family (2 adults + children). Children 0-4 are FREE.
Where to Stay at Uluṟu
Ayers Rock Resort in Yulara is the only game in town when it comes to accommodation – from camping to 5* luxury. Yulara is really a small (and expensive) town with a grocery store, petrol station, bank, post office, cafes and restaurants, art gallery, hair salon, and more.
We have stayed at the Desert Gardens Hotel and The Lost Camel Hotel. Most of the hotels are quite close to the “town square”, but the campground and Outback Pioneer Hotel & Outback Pioneer Lodge are farther away (15-minute walk). All of the accommodation have access to swimming pools, restaurants, etc. The campground even has a shaded playground and giant chess set! Our favorite restaurant was the buffet at Sails in the Desert.
Book early! Accommodation books up early at Ayers Rock Resort, especially during Australian school holidays and peak tourist seasons. As soon as you know your dates, book your accommodation. On our most recent visit, we literally booked the last available room!
Here are your accommodation choices:
Longitude 131° (5* all-inclusive luxury desert experience; children must be 10 years or older)
Ayers Rock Campground (powered and non-powered sites)
Getting To Uluṟu
Flying directly to Ayers Rock Airport (AYQ) is the most popular option. We’ve done that as well as driving in from the Stuart Highway as part of an Explorer’s Way road trip. Direct flights are available from Darwin, Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide.
The next closest airport is Alice Springs (ASP), but keep in mind that Alice Springs to Ayers Rock Resort is a 4.5-5 hour drive (438 km/272 miles) on sealed (paved) roads. Alice Springs does have some worthwhile sights and the West MacDonnell Ranges are an easy day trip if your itinerary allows.
Getting Around Uluṟu
Self-driving is highly recommended, especially as a family. The cost of tours adds up quickly. If driving’s not your thing, you can get along with tours and shuttles. Most tours include transport to/from Ayers Rock Resort. To reach sights in the national park, you can purchase a pass for the Uluru Hop On Hop Off shuttle. Make sure to check the timetable carefully when planning activities to minimize your “sit and wait” time.
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