Uluru – Should It Be a Part of Your Itinerary?

Previously known as Ayers Rock is a gigantic red rock formation within Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It’s located 450km away from Alice Springs, basically in the middle of the Northern Australian Outback. Should Uluru be a part of your Itinerary? It depends on who you ask.

My earliest visual association of Australia was Uluru. Back in the ’80s and ’90s, people booked vacations using travel agents that had actual shops. I used to glare at the photos in the window of Uluru with awe. Almost every advertisement for Australia had two things – Uluru and Koalas.  I marveled at the big red rock wondering what was so mystical, why people visited and what all the fuss is about.  Sydney as a visual hook came years later. Certainly, the Opera House is fabulous, and Sydney is a wonderful city – but it’s still a city. Therefore this is why the big red rock lured me.

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About Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

First of all the park is home to both Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Uluru, the more famous of the two is the largest formation. Kata Tjuta otherwise known as “The Olgas” is impressive but not the main attraction. Most noteworthy both are sacred to indigenous Australians. According to legend, the spirits of the ancestral beings continue to reside in these holy places making the land a critical part of Aboriginal culture. The park is internationally recognized as a World Heritage Area. The park is owned and operated by the Anangu, who in turn leased the park to Parks Australia under a joint management agreement.

Accommodations

Let me save you some time here. The park is owned and operated by the Anangu. The Anangu own the only resort – Ayers Rock Resort. You can search every website known to man, and this is your only choice period. This being said, the resort contains eight different types of accommodation from camping, shared hostel rooms to five-star luxury and back. We chose the Desert Gardens Hotel a 4-star hotel. First of all, before you even begin to look, be warned that the accommodations are not budget friendly.  Astronomically overpriced for what they are. Our stay was way over $500 for two nights! Once on site at the resort be prepared to spend, spend and spend – lavishly!

Things to Do

Explore the base of Uluru

Probably the most common way is a traditional walking tour with an operator. Or you can segway, bike, motorcycle or take an ATV tour. All base tours require that you leave at 5 am. For us, this is the middle of the night, so this was out of the question. We rented a car and explored on our own. A wise choice because we were able to drive from site to site in comfort. We also really enjoyed not being a part of a group on a schedule. I should tell you that while renting a car is a great choice; it’s more expensive than taking some of the tours. As you explore the base search for Aboriginal rock art which is everywhere. Or, try to find the watering holes hidden at the base. You can also visit the Cultural Center and learn about the culture and traditions.

Explore by Air

You can also take a helicopter ride within the park and catch an aerial view of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

Take a Camel Ride

You can also take a camel ride and admire Uluru from a distance.

Explore Kata Tjuta

It seems few people know about or take the time to travel out to Kata Tjuta. Otherwise known also as The Olgas which translates to “many heads.” While the 36 domed heads of Kata Tjuta are taller than Uluru and you can walk between many of them assuming you can stand the heat.  There is a famous walk almost all take called the Valley of the Winds. We skipped this because of the heat and flies.

Sunset View of Uluru

A trip to Uluru would not be complete without a sunset view. While you can take any of the tours mentioned above mid-day to achieve this or you can self-drive.  In my opinion, the best way is to take a tour that combines the sunset viewing with an Aussie barbecue dinner under the stars.  Hence, this was by far the highlight of the Uluru experience.  Another costly tour that will set you back at least $150pp but it’s worth it. If you choose to do this, you will have options from the Sounds of Silence to Uluru Sunset with Dinner from a variety of different vendors. We picked the Aussie Barbecue Dinner under the Stars Plus BBQ with AATKings.  During the sunset viewing, you will munch on cheese and veggies and drink wine or champagne. You will then be whisked off to the Cultural Center for dinner. Dinner is a buffet that also includes alcohol. You can try traditional fares such as kangaroo or lamb sausages.

Learn to Play the Didgeridoo

The Ayers Rock Resort offers free didgeridoo classes that are a blast! While I expected this to be a brief “blow in the pipe” type experience yet, I was shocked at how educational and fun this was. Almost every aspect from the history to use is covered along with practical instruction. So, take part in a class if you can.

What you need to know:

  1. QantasLink and Virgin Australia fly directly into Ayers Rock Airport. In August of 2018, Jetstar Airways will join the list. Flights are dirt cheap, $354 for two one-way tickets and this was peak season. We flew out on Christmas Eve.
  2. Two nights/three days is enough time to explore and take in the main highlights.
  3. There is a free shuttle to and from the airport.  Likewise, there is a free shuttle in the resort that will take you from one hotel to the other.
  4. Skip the balcony view or garden view because it’s pointless.  You cannot possibly open your patio doors due to the sheer number of bugs. Yep, everywhere by the thousand!
  5. If you walk around the base of Uluru, it’s about 5.8 miles. I seriously do not recommend this unless you are into chaffed legs.
  6. It’s blazing hot as a result blisteringly painful. Over 100 degrees daily. Even in the early hours, it’s sweltering. Hence, why all organized tips leave in the early morning or at sunset.
  7. You need a mosquito head net. Not for mosquito’s, for flies! You will be eaten alive by flies without the net and repellent does not work! These suckers are immune. I know this from experience. As ridiculous as these things look – pucker up and get one. If you don’t, well I did warn you!
  8. Do not climb Uluru out of religious respect. Starting in 2019, climbing will be officially illegal.
  9. Do not photograph the aboriginals without consent it’s extremely disrespectful.
  10. There is a grocery store within the resort; you can save some money by buying food and drinks here.

Be sure to check out my list of Travel Essentials You Should Pack for Uluru!

Closing Thoughts:

Should Uluru be on your Itinerary? From my perspective yes! First of all, this was a bucket list moment for me. The sheer size alone should captivate you. If not the size, the striking burnt red colors of the outback should. Uluru is a historical and cultural experience that embodies the outback and is a glimpse into one of the oldest living cultures.  I don’t regret it at all and would go again. For me, this was a must. The iconic red rock symbolizes Australia for me and was worth the cost.

Finally, Brian would tell you it’s a giant big red rock in the middle of nowhere rendering it somewhat pointless. Furthermore, he will also tell you it was overpriced, overrated and painful.

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