Rising from the red earth on Anangu land, Uluru takes your breath away. Spanning more than 1300 square kilometres, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is full of possibilities.Here’s our ultimate guide to this expansive natural idyll, including when to visit, the best accommodation to book and the best things to do while you’re there.
How to get there
Qantas flies direct to Uluru (Yulara) from Sydney in just over three hours. Or, if you’re a fan of a road trip, you could fly into Alice Springs from Australia’s major capital cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide or Brisbane) and take a 5.5 hour drive. The major benefit? You’ll take in the magnificent sights of the Tjoritja (MacDonnell Ranges) and Attila (Mount Conner), as well as the region’s flora and fauna, along the way.
When to visit
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park never really closes but its offerings shift to best optimise the weather, with unique experiences catering to both the wet and dry seasons. Most tours are undertaken at sunrise or sunset to avoid the outback heat during the warmer months.
Flying in? Once you’ve landed, hop on one of the complimentary airport shuttle buses – running from 10.30am daily – to drive the 20 minutes to Ayers Rock Resort.
There are shuttle and tour buses (AAT Kings pick up and drop off at your resort’s reception) to take you the 20 kilometres to Uluru and 50 kilometres to Kata Tjuta. If you’d prefer to drive yourself, the information office at Town Centre – the hub of the resort – can hook you up with a car hire or you can pre-book for collection at the airport.
Where to stay
Accommodation is plentiful and varied for Uluru admirers. Wake up with a view of Uluru as the sun rises in select Desert Gardens Hotel rooms; opt for an affordable 3.5-star stay at the converted ex-staff housing, Lost Camel Hotel; discover outback luxury at Sails in the Desert – where the deluxe rooms include a spa bath, perfect for soaking up the complimentary Indigenous Wiru Quandong (wild peach) & Wattle Seed body care range; or book the family into a one- or two-bedroom Emu Apartment with full kitchenette and laundry on hand. If sleeping under the stars is more your style, pull your hired van up at a local campground.
For pure indulgence, check in to Longitude 131° for the high-end glamping. Start the day with breakfast on your deck then round it out with a dip in your private plunge pool, taking in front-row views of Uluru.
Where to eat
Whether you’re grabbing a quick bite at Kulata Academy Cafe, where trainees serve freshly made pastries and coffee in cups with Indigenous artwork or dining on saltimbocca chicken with quandong relish and duo potato gratin at the à la carte Arnguli Grill & Restaurant, you’ll soon discover that Top End food is local and delicious.
Notch up a moment for the memory books and reserve one of the 20 seats available each night at Tali Wiru between April and October. Served under the stars with Uluru as backdrop, the menu dishes up Central Australian produce at its best. Your hosts will proudly talk you through each creation — past favourites have included Paroo kangaroo on wattleseed lavosh and gin compressed cucumber sprinkled with green ant and celery salt as starters, alongside Australian wines.
Things to do
At a staggering 3.6 kilometres long and 348 metres high, Uluru’s enormity means one of the best ways to appreciate the size of the landmark is from above. Helicopter tours are plentiful and your options range from a 15-minute loop of Uluru through to a full-day tour of the surrounding highlights, including Kata Tjuta and Lake Amadeus. For the most memorable views, time your flight to catch the sunrise.
For a closer look at Uluru, consider a self-guided bike tour around the base of the monolith, a roughly three-hour journey during which you can stop to observe historic rock art and beautiful waterholes.
Walking the base of the Rock on a guided tour with SEIT Outback Australia allows you to listen and learn from local community members, who share stories of the battle of the Liru (poisonous snake) and Kuniya (woma python). It’s an immersive option for those with a few hours after breakfast (served on-site by your SEIT guides as the sun comes up) with sturdy walking shoes.
The Gallery of Central Australia (GOCA) has become a local must-see. GOCA provides a principal location for artists from local First Nations arts centres, such as Ernabella and Keringke Arts. Mostly women, these creatives bring stories of the Seven Sisters, salt lakes and traditional ceremonies to life in colourful, intricate form. You can purchase works from the exhibitors – with a portion of funds going back to the artist and their community. There are also tours and talks within the small gallery space.
Catch Kata Tjuta
Uluru isn’t the only rock in the Red Centre worth seeking out – in fact, it’s not even the tallest. Kata Tjuta is a group of 36 towering boulders, including one peak that’s almost 200 metres higher than Uluru at a height of 546 metres above the earth. The huge stones are close together, forming deep valleys that can be explored on the popular Valley of the Winds bushwalk, which will take you up to four hours. For something shorter, just head to the Karu Lookout. At just over two kilometres return, this walk can be tricky underfoot but the views are worth it.
See another side of Uluru
How do you make Uluru even more breathtaking? Spread 50,000 stems of light across an area equivalent to seven football fields in front of the Rock. That’s what artist Bruce Munro did with his world-renowned installation Field of Light, a vision best enjoyed after dark at the daily A Night at Field of Light three-course dinner and drinks experience.
Arrive at the artwork in time for sunset and, as darkness falls, you can watch the bulbs glow in spectacular reds, pinks and purples from a raised viewing platform while sipping sparkling and nibbling canapés. If you’re a morning person, the sunrise option departs the resort pre-dawn and arrives in time to watch the colours glimmer and change with the rising sun.
Wintjiri Wiru is another immersive light show that puts Uluru on full, glorious display once the sun sets. The telling of ancient First Nations stories comes magically to life with a carefully choreographed troup of drones, lasers and light projections for an unforgettable evening spent stepping into the spiritual heritage of this sacred spot.