Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, is a giant sandstone monolith set in the World Heritage listed Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park. With a circumference of 9.4km and a height reaching 348m, Uluru is one of the world’s largest monoliths and a highly recognizable symbol of Australia to people throughout the world.

From the distance, Uluru looks like a smooth red rock. As you approach, you will see that it is actually filled with long vertical ridges, which rapidly turn into spectacular waterfalls when it rains. In fact, the rare rainy days are a special time to view Uluru, as the rock turns an eerie dark red, blue, or gray depending on the quantity of rain and time of day. But colour changes are part of Uluru’s magic; sunrises and sunsets are a popular time to view the ever-changing colours of the rock as the sun dips or rises above the horizon.

To climb or not to climb?

There was a time when visitors to Uluru expected to climb the rock, and would even sign a book at the top proclaiming their feat. Today, more people understand and appreciate the cultural and spiritual significance of Uluru to the local Anangu people and choose to respect their wishes not to climb.

If it is still your choice to climb, be aware of your own physical limitations. Many people have died climbing Uluru. Some have slipped (which can happen – especially when it rains) but most who have died did so of heart failure – often after they had finished descending the rock. To reduce fatalities, the park rangers impose strict restrictions on climbing when rain is forecast or it is too hot or windy.

To really appreciate Uluru in all her beauty, consider taking a walk around the base. There are so many surprises to encounter – little waterholes, caves, plants, small animals, and changing colours and patterns in the sandstone. Signs around the base offer insight into cultural significance of these different areas, and you will be able to get many beautiful photos of the rock at angles rarely seen in books or postcards. The walk is close to 10km in length.

Culture and intrigue

Before you venture out to see the rock, be sure to stop into the Uluru Kata-Tjuta Cultural Centre. Here you can learn about the Anangu people, including their Tjukurpa – their cultural foundation including such things as their religion, understanding of their ancient history, relationship with all aspects of earth, flora and fauna, and their moral belief and legal systems. By visiting this centre , you will be able to enjoy both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta armed with intriguing stories of an ancient time, as well as a better understanding of sacred sites. You will likely find Tjukurpa fascinating.

At the Cultural Centre, you can also book cultural tours owned and operated by local Anangu people.

Adventure and relaxation

For a little adventure on your holiday, consider taking a scenic flight over Uluru and Kata-Tjuta or ride a camel through the desert. Hop on a Harley with Uluru Motorcycle Tours or ride a 4WD on the Desert Awakenings Tour.

Stargazers and romantics can enjoy an amazing display of stars while eating a gourmet dinner on the Sounds of Silence Tour.

When to go

Winter is generally the preferred time to visit Uluru due to the intense heat of the summer months. The majority of tourists flock to the rock from May onwards, however the temperatures in March and April can be pleasant, and have fewer crowds. Be sure to bring a jumper with you – despite the warm winter days, the evenings can get very chilly.

How to get there

Uluru is actually 443km SW of Alice Springs. Maps of Australia trick some visitors into believing it is walking distance from Alice Springs. Inhabitants of Alice often encounter lost tourists wondering why they can’t see or find the rock. The good news is that there are several ways to get to Uluru, which don’t involve walking hundreds of kilometres.

Most major cities have flights to the airport near Uluru, and there is a free airport shuttle to and from all accommodation. Alternatively, if you are choosing to see more places in Central Australia, you may prefer to take a flight to Alice Springs and then later drive or take another flight to Uluru.

If you prefer to travel by land, the historic Ghan train travels to Alice Springs from Adelaide and Darwin, and both Uluru and Alice Springs are serviced by national highways in excellent condition, meaning you can bus or drive.

How long is an ideal visit?

The average visitor spends two to three days exploring Uluru as well as the geological wonders of Kata-Tjuta (formerly known as The Olgas) and Mount Connor.

While you are in the Red Centre, consider travelling to Kings Canyon for a couple of days and then take a few more days to explore the many sights around Alice Springs. Tours and accommodation for these sites are available.

Image above: 

- Kata Tjuta, otherwise known as the Olga, is well worth a visit


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