I’ve lived in Australia almost all my life, but like many people who live here, I’ve never really bothered going to the typical “Australian” places. On my most recent holiday, I decided to change that by going to Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), which you may also know as “that red rock in the Outback”, slightly west of the middle of the country.
How to Get to Uluru
Uluru is pretty darn remote – the nearest town is Alice Springs, about 450 km away (the International Space Station is closer). Like most people, we went by plane (~3.5 h flight from Sydney). You can also travel by bus, but if you’re brave you can drive (make sure you’re very overprepared and look out for animals!).
Uluru has a wet and hot season, and a dry and cool season. Between October and March, the average high temperature is over 30, but in the cooler months it can get to below 0 at night. We went at the end of July/beginning of August, the coldest months. I wore a jumper and multiple long-sleeved shirts every day. It was super cold at night – I wish I brought a beanie and scarf!
The dry season is also very dry compared to Sydney, especially with the hotel air conditioning. I ended up getting a nosebleed on the last day. I didn’t have any issues with inhaling the dust, as it seemed to limit itself to the area below my ankles, but my shoes and sock ended up coated in red sand.
Uluru is in the middle of nowhere, in a pretty expensive country, so it’s pretty bloody expensive. Don’t expect to be able to do it on a shoestring budget unless you’re prepared to stay in a hostel and bring your own groceries.
How Long to Stay in Uluru
We stayed for 4 days and 3 nights, which we agreed was the right amount of time to spend in Uluru. The key attractions there are Uluru and Kata Tjuta, which are quite close to the resort, and Kings Canyon which is about 3.5 hours away. If you’re planning to visit Kings Canyon you’ll need an extra day, but if you’re not used to doing long walks your feet will be screaming for a rest after two consecutive days. I’ve been told by pretty much everyone who’s been there that Kings Canyon is stunning.
Here’s what we did there – part 2 will be on where we stayed and what we ate.
Most of Uluru’s attractions, accommodation and transport can be booked directly through the one site, which is great if you hate having to do extensive research.
Uluru is situated in the World Heritage listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It’s a natural sandstone formation with great religious significance to the indigenous Anangu people of the area. The land is owned by the Anangu who lease it back to the government to maintain as a national park.
We joined the 1.5 hour free tour (from 10 am each morning), led by a park ranger who told us some of the cultural history, geology and ecology of the place. This tour was fantastic and really gave you an appreciation for the delicate balancing act between tourism and preservation of the environmental and cultural heritage of the site.
After the tour, we embarked on a self-guided 9.4 km walk around the base. There’s a clearly marked pathway for visitors to follow, and there are also maps everywhere. The path is sandy and flat so it’s a pleasant stroll. You can also hire bicycles or join a Segway tour there, or go by camel.
It’s pretty interesting seeing the rock close up. Uluru is almost 400 m in height, and there are many natural rock formations that aren’t visible from a distance, many of which have cultural significance as well. There are also rock paintings in some areas. The native Anangu people are restricted from viewing some portions of Uluru (e.g. if the section is to be viewed by one gender only, or if it needs to be viewed in a particular context). These sections are clearly marked with signs….