Visiting Uluru in the Australian Outback
Uluru: The big red rock in the centre of Australia
Many people know Uluru as Ayers Rock. This was the name given to the rock by Europeans over 100 years ago and perhaps still the best known name for it outside Australia. Today it is most commonly referred to as Uluru.
In 1985 the Australian government officially handed back Uluru to its traditional owners, the Anangu people and the name Uluru was officially adopted. In 1987 UNESCO awarded the park World Heritage status.
Uluru is on the top of the list for many visitors to Australia, half a million visit annually. The red outback scene is often the most prominent in their minds when they think of Australia and thankfully the visit lives up to the image.
Uluru is not the biggest monolith in Australia. Mount Augustus in Western Australia is 2.5 times larger!
When is the best time to visit Uluru and Alice Springs?
Let's consider the weather, the crowds and the prices
A few years back I decided to take holidays in April and October every year because it just seems to be the best time no matter where you are going. Well Central Australia is no exception to this. Considering all the factors, weather, crowds and prices I would suggest April/ May or late Sept/Oct as the most comfortable times to visit and perhaps May as my pick.
From November - March temperatures rise to approximately 38Â°C (95Â°F) and can reach as high as 45Â°C (112Â°F). I would avoid visiting at this time if you can. Temps become more comfortable in May through to August with averages of mid 20Â°C (75Â°F). There is also less chance of rain fall then.
Australian School holidays in July and October can make the crowds swell.
How do you get to Uluru?
Flying to Uluru is really the only way to go
Uluru is pretty much the centre of Australia. Flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Darwin and Adelaide all take around 3 hours. Free shuttle buses operate from the airport at Uluru. Flights are priced from $200 from Sydney. Check www.webjet.com.au for other cities. There are also flights to Alice Springs if you prefer.
The Ghan train stops at Alice Springs on its journey from Adelaide to Darwin. It is about a 23 hour trip from Adelaide to Alice Springs and then you will need to get yourself to Uluru. This is an amazing journey but it's more expensive than flying and a big investment in time too. This trip is really one for train enthusiasts.
I am not even going to mention the Greyhound because in my opinion taking a bus from any major city to the centre of Australia is pure madness!
What it's like to drive to Uluru - and how it looks in the rain
Where to stay when visiting Uluru - Is Alice Springs really too far away?
Unless you are on a really tight budget I think you should stay in Yulara, the purpose built resort at Uluru. Yulura is operated by the Voyages hotel group and as they manage all the properties at Yulara it is overpriced for what is delivered. However you are right by Uluru and this is worth it in my experience. You only need to stay 2 nights to see the best of what there is to see.
It's 440km or so from Alice Springs to Uluru and although it's possible to visit on a day trip, it is less than ideal. It is best to have a few days there so you can explore both Uluru and the Ogla's. Staying close by means you have more opportunity to photograph and visit at different time's i.e. sunrise and sunset when the rock looks its best.
If you know little of aboriginal culture and history and you do not plan to read up before you come I really recommend taking guided tours. Likewise if you want to walk in the parks and are not an experienced hiker you should really consider one of the tour operators.
If you are seriously rich Longtitude 131 is the only place to stay. If you do manage to stay here please write and let me know what it's like ;-)
Should you climb Uluru? - Or my reasons why you should not
While it is not illegal to climb Uluru the traditional owners of the land prefer that you do not. The rock is a spiritual place for them and they are very upset when people are hurt or die on the climb. Yes people do die on average 1 person a year, usually from a heart attack. If you are unfit, scared of heights or have any medical condition you should probably give it a miss.
If you still feel you really want to climb then make sure you are well prepared. You should have a good level of fitness and wear shoes with really good grip. You should also carry water. Hopefully after reading the information at the cultural centre you will chose not to climb but to take one of the walks led by a guide from the local community.
This image shows you just how steep the climb really is. The climb path on Uluru
What it is like to climb Uluru - The view from the top
Different ways to experience Uluru - There really is something for everyone
Along with walking around or climbing the rock there are some other great experiences here. Take a look at a few of these
Would you climb Uluru?
Uluru is the single most visited site in Australia
Perhaps Armchair travel is your only option
Kata Tjuta - The Olgas - 36 smaller but no less impressive monoliths
It's about a 50km drive from Uluru to Kata Tjuta and a trip that is highly recommended. Less crowded than Uluru if you pick your time right you can find yourself exploring the walks here alone. Many people also report it is a more spiritual experience. This could be due to the fact that the local Anangu people now have most of their important ceremonies at Kata Tjuta because of the number of visitors to Uluru.
Take a look at the Olga's (Kata Tjuta)
Paradise in the desert
Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park is another highlight of the region. It is located approx 400km south west of Alice Springs. The most popular walk is the 2hr rim walk. You can stay in the beautiful Kings Canyon Resort which has everything from a spa suite room to a camp ground. There are also tour packages from Alice Springs or Uluru's Yulara Resort.
Visit the Kings Canyon website for more information about the facilities.
Great links for visiting Uluru
- Anangua Tours
This tour company is run by the traditional owners of the rock.
- Official Tourism Australia website for the Northern Territory
Grab free maps, brochures and more from the specialists.
- Tourism NT
The state government travel site - virtual tours, walks and accommodation options