A complete guide for visiting Uluru
Too expensive, too much hype, too crowded, too hot. These common thoughts often prevent people from visiting Uluru in first place. But they have also proved to be based upon misconceptions, exaggeration and wrong information. Having visited Uluru twice, in 2004 and 2011 I have noticed that my enthusiasm keeps growing every time I go back to Australia's red centre. So I would not exclude going back to see Uluru a third time. I am pretty sure I will enjoy my trip as if it were the first time!
As I keep saying and repeating it on various articles of my Rocky Travel, good trip planning belongs to any great Australia Trip Itinerary. Good planning and preparation for
Here below are my tips for travelling to Uluru and make the most of your Outback Trip.
Travelling to Uluru
Flights to Uluru are expensive from any Australian city. However there are lots of ways to save money if you make all arrangements in advance. Pick the right season to avoid the crowds and the heat.
March-April and October-November are the best months for travelling to Uluru.
Start early with your research and book your flights to Alice Springs, they are generally cheaper than flights to Ayers Rock (as Uluru is also known), these can be +500 dollars one way! On top of that there is no cheap accommodation at Yulara, which is the Ayers Rock Resort. There is only one hostel which is often overbooked and hotels. If you more adventurous you may want to consider camping at Uluru as a cheaper accommodation option.
Self-Driving Trip to Ayers Rock
You can get to Ayers Rock by plane or by car. However from anywhere in Australia it's between 1.5 thousands km or longer. So a good alternative is to fly to Alice Springs and then hire a car to get around the area. Self-driving is the cheapest way to visit Uluru. Driving to Uluru is an easy drive. You will not need a four wheel drive vehicle, the route is completed on well maintained sealed roads and a two wheel drive car is what you need.
Self-driving from Alice Springs is the most convenient route as it allows to see much of the Red Centre and do it at your own pace. Alice Springs is the major city in Central Australia, about 440km to Uluru, along the Red Centre Way. The road trip is about 5.5 hours with 3 stops at the service stations inbetween.
All roads are sealed and in good conditions, with no detours on unsealed roads. Either on the way to Uluru or on the way back to Alice Springs I would plan an overnight stop to King's Canyon – driving on sealed roads – and from there do the beautiful Kings Canyon Rim Walk .
Alternatively you can hire a 4WD or a camper van and drive across Outback unsealed roads. A four wheel drive vehicle will allow you to explore the gorgeous landscape of the nearby West MacDonnell Ranges.
Uluru Sunset and Sunrise
The biggest Uluru attractions are the sunrise and the sunset. From the information centre located at Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort) you can get a detailed map of the area, with distances, sunset and sunsire timetables. Plan plenty of time to drive from Yulara to the Uluru viewing area as well as to the new sunrise viewing platform, they are 15 minutes drive from each other.
Uluru Information – how much time to spend there
There are people who travel to Uluru on one-day trip. But that's insane because you will not see much. First of all you will not be able to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta on one day. The long trip to the Red Centre is not worth it. So to make the most of your trip you need to plan two full days and two nights. Stay at the Yulara Resort, that's the only accommodation hub for the whole area (unless you want to camp) and it will be your base. It takes about 25 minutes to drive to the red rock and from the Uluru resort you can drive to both the various sunset and sunrise viewing areas for both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
Uluru Culture Centre
You need time to savour the Uluru Rock. To get an insight into the indigenous culture and get a feel of this unique place, next to the amazing visual light effect of the sunset and sunrise there is much more you can do there. Soon after sunrise the Uluru Culture Centre awaits you. The park rangers offer a free-guided morning walk. They take you to some of the best rock paintings and Uluru Waterfalls. Don't skip on this as this is a fantastic occasion to learn about the indigenous significance of the place. The Anangu People are the traditional land-owners and you will hear fascinating things about their Uluru dreamtime story.
Once you have done that I would recommend going around the amazing Big Rock and do the Uluru base walk. This is a 9 km walk and you will not be allowed to take photos. However the walk is not boring, there are many sacred sites, rock carvings and painting. Furthermore if you want to explore more the area, there are a handful of guided Uluru Walks with local aboriginal rangers that you can do too.
Whatever you plan, do it early in the morning as it gets really hot during the day.
Once you have visited Uluru, you should plan your next day for a trip to Kata Tjuta. This is 50 km away from the Yulara resort but you must absolutely visit. Some people prefer this place than Uluru itself. I must say that it's a better place for walking around with the incredible round shapes of many heads (the meanng of Kata Tjuta). Do not skip the Kata Tjuta Sunrise, in my opinon the Kata Tjuta must be seen at sunrise, whereas Uluru sunset is the best experience. This is basically due to the light reflections on the big walls.
The best part for visiting Kata Tjuta are the walks. There are mainly 2. One short and one long. I recommend the the Valley of the Winds Walk, which is a 4 hours walk.
More things to do and see at Uluru
There are many tours that you can join when you are there. From a camel ride to dining under the stars. Among all tours I would consider a scenic flight over the Uluru Rock, this is expensive though.
A treat with stunning views from the air can certainly add extra value to your trip if you can afford it. I haven't done this tour, but have heard other people saying it was the most breathtaking views they had from a scenic flight ever. Maybe something for next time! 🙂
How to plan and organize your Uluru Road Trip
When renting a car for your Uluru Trip: 2WD or 4WD
Book your rental car according to the the route. As you know in Australia you are not allowed to drive on gravel roads with 2WD cars. If you plan to go on the loop tour through the Western MacDonnell Ranges, the Kings Canyon and the Uluru, you need a 4WD car. The easiest and more relaxed way, especially for international travellers, is to drive on sealed roads from Alice to the Ayers Rock Resort.
On the way to Uluru you can always include a visit to the fascinating Kings Canyon National Park. If you love hiking you cannot miss out on this astounding place. In total you will be driving for 440+300+400 km on sealed roads. And you can do it in four-day-trip.
While walking out of a supermarket in Alice Springs I bumped into these guys and their 4WD car. This is how a real 4WD car looks like, after hitting the Outback roads, it is covered in red dirt. 🙂
Pack your own food before going from Alice Spring to Uluru
Central Australia is expensive and Uluru is very expensive! Be prepared for this. Alone for fuel you will spend about 20-30% more than the average fuel price Australia. Food is also very expensive. Since you will be spending a few days at Uluru, I can highly recommend to buy food in Alice Springs.
Here you can read about my tips on how to stay healthy while on on the road. At fuel stations the food and beverage offer is often limited (for my taste I would say poor).
I experienced tea outrageously expensive. Half cup of hot water + 1 tea bag for 5,50 AUD. Take plenty of water tanks with you before you hit the road. You will drink more than what you plan to drink.
The Ayers Rock Resort or Yulara s a large complex with a range of accommodations. There is a supermarket and a variety of shops where you can buy anything you need from food to souvenirs. To stay at Yulara Resort is expensive, so if you want to book the only hostel you must book months ahead. Beware that there is no chemistry at the Ayers Rock Resort, so if you need to take medicine or prescriptions be sure you get it in Alice Springs before setting off to Uluru.
Enjoy the Road Trip from Alice Springs to Uluru
The road trip to Uluru is a pleasant and easy drive. From Alice Springs you cannot miss the road, just follow it straight ahead of you and keep driving for 440 hundreds kms. What you need is to make yourself comfortable on the road. Take a good map of the area to check where the fuel stations are located along your way.
There are 4 fuel stations on the way to Uluru from Alice Springs, where you can stop to fill up the car tank. Make as many stops as possible, to stretch your legs. At the fuel stations you can stop for a rest, seat comfortably in the shadow, eat your food while enjoying the Outback colours and breathing the outback air. Swap the drive if you are travelling with companions.
Driving long distances in the outback makes you drowsy because of the heat. Here you can find more tips for enduring long driving distances in the Australian Outback.
Final Words about travelling to Uluru
Uluru is truly a special place that will leave a long-lasting impression on you! The tips above are based on my personal experience and can help you plan your trip to the Read Centre of Australia. As everyone perceive places, situations and environment in a different way it is important for you to mold my tips into your personal needs and travel style so as to meet your expectations, to make it work for you and to enjoy the Uluru at its best.
Valuable Resorces for planning the Uluru Trip
If you find this post has useful Tips for Visiting Uluru you can use the following resources for your bookings of rental cars, tours and accommodation. These are websites I personally use when I organize my road trips in Australia:
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