Have you ever seen an image of the most amazing, untouched looking destination, and then visited only to find it teeming with hordes of tourists, and nothing as you imagined? That pretty much sums up travel before March 2020, but not anymore. NOW, is the chance to see these wild and beautiful places, untouched by anyone else.
That is exactly the experience we had in Uluru. We hiked empty trails with only the sounds of the wind and birds along the way, witnessed the sunset undisturbed and enjoyed the silence of the galaxy at night. While we started the trip apprehensive about flying across domestic borders, we ended the trip wanting to see as much of Australia as we could while we have it to ourselves. Not only that, but costs are way down - so if you can, go!
Getting to Uluru: Flying from Brisbane to Ayers Rock Airport
Currently Jetstar is offering flights direct from Brisbane to Uluru Ayers Rock Airport, and they are CHEAP! Which is why we are suggesting go now, save time and skip connecting in Sydney plus save money too. To travel you'll needed border passes to enter the Northern Territory, obtained online and printed bank statements to prove your whereabouts over the last 14 days. We also got Queensland border passes in advance for our return flight, and had no issues crossing either border. Jetstar and Qantas are offering free masks and antibacterial wipes for your flight too, which we took advantage of to stay safe.
TIP: Book yourself a window seat, as you’ll have some amazing views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta upon landing to look forward to.
Renting a car in Uluru:
From the airport, we picked up our rental car from Avis. Getting from your hotel to Uluru is about a 20-minute drive, and to Kata Tjuta is 40-minutes, so having a car will make life much easier. All the National Park roads are paved, so if you’re only planning on driving around the park there is no need for a 4-wheel drive.
Where to stay in Uluru: Ayers Rock Resort & Sails in the Dessert
The main accommodation area is Ayers Rock Resort, which hosts a variety of hotel and accommodation types suitable for all budgets, from 5 stars to camp grounds. We opted to stay at Sails in the Desert, a relaxing and luxurious resort. Currently, they are offering some since their re-opening on 01 August with 50% off for +4 night stays.
When to visit Uluru:
Peak season is during winter, with the best months to visit being July – Early September.
It is much cooler during these months, and if you’re not much of a morning person (like us), you can enjoy being up for sunrise a little later. Due to the heat, walking trails close after temperatures reach 36c, coming during this time will make walks much easier to complete in lower heat and there are less flies around too.
Top things to see and do in Uluru & Kata Tjuta National Park:
1. Catch the Sunrise and Sunset over Uluru and Kata Tjuta:
Uluru is not a destination for sleeping in, set your alarm every morning and don’t miss a sunrise, it is truly the most beautiful time of the day to experience the National Park. Watch as the sun first hits Uluru, the rock lights up red and the surrounding desert begins to glow. It’s like nothing else. Pack warm clothes for this as temperatures drop during the night. Straight after sunrise, consider starting one of your hikes, you’ll want to be done before 11 am before it gets to hot.
TIP: If you do walk in the heat, consider packing a fly net and don’t forget a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.
The best spots to catch the Sunrise and Sunset are:
Sunset at Uluru: Car Sunset viewing area - Here the sun will set facing Ayers Rock, so while you won't see the sun setting itself, you will get to see the change of oranges to red as the rock lights up at dusk
Sunrise of Uluru and Kata Tjuta: Kata Tjuta Dune walk viewing area - This was our favourite spot for sunrise as you'll watch the sun come up right next to Uluru, at the same time enjoying the morning glows over the desert toward Kata Tjuta Mt Olga.
Sunrise of Uluru: Talinguru Nyakunyjuaku 360 viewing area - This was our second favourite sunrise/sunset viewing spot. Again the sun will rise from behind Uluru so you won't see in next to the rock, but you can watch Uluru and the surrounding desert light up with a magical glow. There's also a few walking trails around here to catch the views without any crowds.
2. Walk the base of Uluru Ayers Rock:
If you want to truly appreciate the scale and beauty of Uluru try the Base walk, roughly 12km taking 3.5 hours to complete. The walk is all on a flat surface so reasonably easy.
Alternatively take only the short walks available from the different car park areas. The first is the Mala Walk to Kanju George, which is 2km return, offering views of some of the caves and Anangu aboriginal rock art within them. The other is the Kinya Walk to Mutitjulu Waterhold, another easy 1km option with cave views. If you're doing the full base walk, make sure to add this onto your trail as well.
Uluru is one of the only places in the world to be twice UNESCO world heritage listed both as a natural wonder and for its cultural significance. It used to be possible to climb Uluru, however this was ceased from October 2019, to respect the local people. We felt though, the true experience of Uluru was walking the base, we didn't feel like we were missing out by not climbing it.
For culture significance there are also some areas around the base of Uluru where you are asked not to photograph for culture significance, so take it from us that you'll have to go see it in person for yourself.
3. Walk the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta Mt Olga:
Start early again and head out to Kata Tjuta for the Valley of the Winds Walk. This walk involves some steep rock treks, but it is possible to do just in runners and not as difficult as the trail guide (or the first 30 minutes of the walk) make it out to be. The full loop trail is 7.5 km, with the final 3km being mostly flat, taking around 3.5 hours to complete. We highly recommend doing the full loop to enjoy all of the diverse scenery the trail winds through. Take in the sound of the gusting wind rolling around the rocks – let it cool you as the sun shines on your back. Enjoy the orange and reds of the desert surrounds and look up and realise just how small you are compared to your surroundings. It is truly incredible and not to be missed.
4. Have dinner at the Sounds of Silence:
Of all the paid attractions around Uluru, the Sounds of Silence was our favourite. The price is $229 per adult but includes a full dinner menu and free flow alcohol (which we can confirm they are generous with, and the wine is gooood!).
The evening starts with champagne on arrival and canapes as you sit back and watch the sunset with a view of both Uluru and the Olgas, enjoying the sounds of the didgeridoo playing in the background. Once the sun has set, you will make your way to your table, sitting out in the open red dessert with a warm campfire nearby (do pack a jacket as it still gets cold).
Lose track of how many glasses of wine you have as the waiters are quick to ensure it’s always topped up. Enjoy a local dinner including Kangaroo and bush meat if you’re willing to give it a try. Once it’s dark, be ready for all of the lights to go out and see the stars and clear the view of the Milky way as you’ve never seen before. We loved having a guide to orient us around the stars. Every time we look up at the night sky now it feels like we know what we are looking at, which was something amazing we have taken away from this experience.
5. Visit the Field of Lights:
Another paid attraction not to miss is the Field of lights. 50,000 Coloured light bulbs and fibre optic cables spanning across acres of the desert light up the night. Tickets are $44 per adult including return hotel transfers.
6. Take a scenic flight:
Experience Uluru and Kata Tjuta from above. We opted for a 15-minute scenic flight over Uluru for $120 per person with Ayers Rock Scenic Flights. We were in a small 8-seater plane, in which every seat was a window seat so no need to worry about missing out on the views. It is the only way to get a true feel for the shape of Uluru.
7. Don't miss getting your iconic shots on the road! Look out for camels too
If you're looking for a photo opportunity spot, park your car at the Kata Tjuta picnic/sunset viewing area and head out onto the main highway, located right where the road signs for Uluru and Kata Tjuta are for some amazing roadside photos with Kata Tjuta in the background.
As you drive through the national park, keep a look out for camels along the way.
We hope you enjoyed guide to Uluru, Northern Territory. To see more of our other Australian destination guides click here.
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