The sandstone monolith Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta are some of Australia’s most famous rock formations, and they are situated in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This national park was listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and it is a significant cultural area for the Australian Aboriginal peoples.
I travelled to Uluru with two of my children, Luke (12) and Amy (9). To this day, I regret not taking my eldest, Kate (15), who said ‘it’s just a rock’ when I asked her about it. Trust me, it’s not just a rock. It’s an amazing and incredible sight to see.
Now, Australia is a huge country! Which means there’s a lot of wide open spaces. So if you are short on time, or are only interested in visiting these particular sites, you only need 3 or 4 days. We arrived on Monday 30 January 2017 and departed on Thursday 02 February 2017.
Getting to Uluru
Uluru is not in the exact centre of Australia, but it certainly feels like that! The closest airport is Ayers Rock (Uluru) and the flights takes a little over 3 1/2 hours direct from Sydney. All the major Australian domestic carriers fly there.
In Jetstar’s birthday sale in 2016, I picked up the cheapest flights I ever did see! They were $109 with free return from Sydney. The biggest tip for buying flights is to always be on the lookout, and just go with whatever destination is on special, as long as it is at a good time of the year. You’d be surprised how well this has paid off for me.
Jetstar is one of Australia’s low cost airlines which is owned by Qantas. As it is a low cost airline, be prepared to pay for everything. If you know what you are/aren’t getting, then it’s easy to work out if the flight is a good price. This trip was only 3 nights, so I didn’t purchase additional checked baggage. All three of us had 7kg of carry on weight allocated to us, that was all we needed for a couple of changes of clothes.
I booked a hire car to pick up at the airport which cost $145 for 4 days (as of 2017). One thing to note about hire cars at Ayers Rock airport, they generally have a kilometre limit of 100kms per day (averaged out). So when you are working out your itinerary, remember to take this into consideration.
As we travelled to Uluru in summer, this is technically the low season because it is so hot. Due to this timing, I was able to pick up a room at the Outback Pioneer Hotel for 3 nights for $594 (as of 2017). While this might seem expensive, for Uluru, it’s cheap! It also included free breakfast for all three of us each morning. At night, because of the kids ages, they ate for free at the hotel’s restaurant.
The thing to know about staying at Uluru is that there are not many places to choose from. Most of the accommodation is owned and ran by the same company. It’s just the comfort level that changes. Personally, I’m always happy to pay that bit less as it leaves more money for experiences.
Thing to do in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta area
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
In order to get up close and personal with these amazing sights, you will need to purchase an entry pass into the national park. Within the park there is a Cultural Centre, as well as the star attractions, Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
Uluru sunrise viewing platform
We did not get to the sunrise viewing platform for sunrise due to two things; one, sunrise in summer is really early, and two, I don’t wake up for sunrises. But a simple google search shows the most stunning sunrises, so if you’re an early bird, you’ll enjoy the views from here.
We did go there on the first afternoon we arrived though, and we had the place to ourselves. However, it must get really busy here during high season because the platform area is very large! So keep that in mind when choosing when to visit.
Uluru sunset viewing area
The sunset viewing area is really just a car park. I think there may be platforms across the road, but the view from the car park was amazing, so there was no need to search out a different location. Again, in high season, you’ll be lucky to get a spot, but as this was the low season, we had no problem with finding the perfect spot to take some photos of Uluru.
Uluru base walk
The walk around the base of Uluru is just over 10kms and it is an amazing experience. There are so many beautiful aspects of Uluru and you can’t really appreciate them until you see it from different angles as you walk around it.
Along the trail, you will find there are sections of Uluru that are sacred and as such, should not be photographed, and these are clearly signposted. And you know, it’s not a huge deal to respect the cultural request not to photograph these areas, because there are so many other places along the walk to get that perfect snap of Uluru.
The walk took us three hours to complete. We didn’t walk fast, we just took our time because it was very hot. It ended up getting to 42*C. The walk is very flat, but it is sandy, and that red sand gets everywhere. The walk is closed off in hot weather unless you start early. Because of the temperature that day, the walk needed to be started by 9am. We set off just before then, I had about 7 litres of water in my back pack for the three of us and it was enough. Even if it isn’t hot, make sure you take plenty of water as there is nowhere along the trail to refill.
Field of Lights
The Field of Lights is a magical light installation created by artist Bruce Munro. When I first saw this advertised, I never dreamed that I would be fortunate enough to see it as it was not meant to be a permanent installation. Luckily, it is still there!
I booked the Star Pass, and while it was expensive, it was one of the main reasons for travelling there in the first place, so for me, it was worth the extra expense. I was too cheap to buy the really expensive dinner option, so this was a happy medium.
After sunset, we walked our way through the field. You aren’t able to use a tripod while on the walking path. This means that you need to be very creative or have very steady hands in order to get decent photos!
If you’re going in high season, you are going to want to book this experience early as numbers are limited.
Astronomy in the Outback
Outback Sky Journeys is an astronomy tour that departs from the resort area. The astronomy tour was great value for money as children under 15 are free with a paying adult. If you are going to book this experience, note that you will need to take torches as you walk down a trail after dark in order to get away from the ambient lighting in order to see the stars better.
The guides on the night were very knowledgeable and we all walked away knowing a little bit more of what’s happening in the skies above us. We learnt about how Aboriginal people used the sky to predict the seasons. We were also taught about some of the major constellations and were shown other universes through the telescopes. It was a great way to spend a night.
Kata Tjuta Valley of the Winds walk
This walk has three sections and we completed the first two, up until the second lookout, Karingana. The distance for this walk is 5.4kms return and it would be considered strenuous. There are many stairs, as well as difficult sections of rock to negotiate. There are parts of this walk where you have to scale the rocks and they are slippery.
This walk took just over 2 hours to complete. Even though it is half the distance of the Uluru base walk, it is much more difficult.
This walk also gets closed off if temperatures exceed 40*C, so if you do want to walk, you just need to arrive early. On this particular day, the trail was relatively quiet after the first lookout, we almost had the path to ourselves.
The rock domes are so deceptive in scale and photos don’t do them justice. These domes are gigantic! Remember to take plenty of water with you as there is nowhere along the track to fill up. And the track coming back is much harder than the track going out.
Kata Tjuta Walpa Gorge walk
This is a quick walk for those that don’t have the time, or the energy, to complete the Valley of the Winds walk. This is a 3.6km return walk and it took just under an hour to complete it. It is not as scenic as the Valley of the Winds trail, but it definitely has its own beauty.
Other tips and things of note
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- The flies can be horrendous. Take a fly head net. You will only feel silly for the first 5 seconds, then you’ll be grateful that you have it. You can get fly nets here: https://amzn.to/36lAnl7
- The hike to the top of Uluru has been closed, but the beauty isn’t in the climbing of it.