Kata Tjuta – The Walpa Gorge Walk

Walpa Gorge Walk

My first glimpse of Kata Tjuta was when watching the sunrise on Uluru.

Kata Tjuta at Sunrise

My eye was drawn away from the main spectacle directly in front of me to the horizon where, 50 km away across the spinifex and desert oaks plain, Kata Tjuta’s 36 domes vied for attention.

Image Kata Tjuta sunrise

It was much later in the day, having explored waterholes around the base of Uluru and taken in the magical Mala Walk rich in traditional Uluru cultural history…

Kata Tjuta

 that I snapped my first closer view from the car window 🙂

Named the Olgas by Ernest Giles in 1872, it is known as Kata Tjuta, which is Pitjantjatjara meaning ‘many heads’.

Kata Tjuta

Rounding a corner our first ‘classic’ view of the Kata Tjuta domes (or should I say some of its ‘many heads’) came into view.

There are two walks at Kata Tjuta –

  • The Valley of the Winds walk, a 7.4km circuit. The first 1.1km takes you to the Karu Lookout, where when the temperature rises to or above 36 degrees Celsius (close on 100 Fahrenheit!) the track is closed.
  • Walpa (windy) Gorge is a 2.6km return walk following a rocky track that rises and falls within sheer red rugged walls, ultimately reaching a non-permanent stream.

Kata Tjuta

We left our visit till late in the day as it had felt hot, choosing to do the shorter Walpa Gorge Walk, before retreating to a little distance away to watch the sunset.
To read about the longer 7.4km Valley of the Winds Walk click the below links:


Kata Tjuta

We learned later it had been 40C that day!

No wonder we’d thought it felt a little ‘warm’ 😉

Kata Tjuta

The heat reflecting off the track, even late in the afternoon was unrelenting.

We were pleased we’d done the:

  • Slip (on long sleeved clothing)
  • Slop (on sunscreen)
  • Slap (on a hat)
  •                   Slide (on sunnies)


(not part of the slogan)

  • Slurped! (with a litre of water per hour/per person)

Kata Tjuta

Unlike Uluru, which is made from the sedimentary rock arkose sandstone, Kata Tjuta is made from a sedimentary rock called conglomerate –

This is a mix of gravel, pebbles and boulders cemented together by sand and mud.

Kata Tjuta

As we penetrated deeper into Walpa Gorge, the sides rose higher and came in closer together. The highest dome rises to 500 meters (Uluru is 348 meters).

Seen on the map below we took the lower rusty red path into Walpa Gorge.


Kata Tjuta map

The narrowness between the ‘heads’ can be seen even more clearly on the image below, which was taken by an astronaut in space.

Kata Tjuta from space

As we neared the end…

Kata Tjuta

 it was a pleasant surprise to find this refreshing (impermanent) pool of water

Kata Tjuta water

…to take a break and cool off in the shade.

It wasn’t only us enjoying the respite from the pounding sun –

Bird at Kata Tjuta

 Leaving the gorge behind us…

Kata Tjuta we noticed this little lizard on a rock beside the path, beautifully camouflaged

Kata Tjuta lizard


Then, from the sunset viewing area we watched…

Kata Tjuta

 as Kata Tjuta’s domes got redder

Kata Tjuta

 …a full moon appeared

Kata Tjuta full moon

(disappearing intermittently behind the clouds)

Kata Tjuta full moon

While the sun made its final flamboyant farewell for the day

Kata Tjuta sunset

 …as it dropped below the western horizon.

And we said our final goodbyes…

to the resplendent Kata Tjuta that stood before us.

Kata Tjuta

The magic of the Red Centre

Have you been?

Do share in the comments below 🙂

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25 thoughts on “Kata Tjuta – The Walpa Gorge Walk

  1. That is another stunning series of photographs. I love how you covered it from every angle, even space. Watching the sun change the colour of the rock was another highlight for me and the sunset was gorgeous. Thanks so much for sharing the magic of this area. I can’t wait to visit.

    • I think there’s much one doesn’t know before one gets to the red centre, in general!
      I certainly had no idea there would be beautiful waterholes around Uluru’s base –
      It seems all one ever sees of this area in marketing photos is the classic distant shot of Uluru – The Rock, which to me says nothing for the variety of vegetation and landforms in the region… such as, as you say, Kata Tjuta 🙂

      • I think it is marketing mistake. they should advertise diversity of the place and people would plan to stay there more then one day.

        • So true Vi ~
          Once you get there, there’s more information about the variety of landscapes, but you’re right, I’m not sure why they don’t market that diversity more before you get there so you allow more time to take it all in –
          Once you’re there, not everyone can take extra time if they’re on a schedule 🙂

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  4. I took this Walpa (windy) Gorge 2.6km return walk and it was spectacular. The path was so worn by feet it reminded me of the Roman Way going to the coliseum. The wind was a small relief to the heat of the sun. I made it in sandels but would have been wiser to wear better foot wear. Looking at your photos makes me want to edit the 1000 or so digital images I took too. I love the devils marbles photo with equaly amazing sky. Thunder storm coming so over and out.

    • Avoiding the heat of the day was a smart move I agree, as seeing some people heading back to the carpark having set out earlier with NO hats and little water, red in the face was not encouraging!
      Re editing your photos, it is time consuming culling the ‘wheat’ from the ‘chaff’ but sooooo worth it – Its such a pleasure just seeing the photos you really like as opposed to all the ones that didn’t quite work out 😉

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  9. Just so stunning there. I had a real sense of connection there and also a lot of guilt that I didn’t know enough about our first Australians.

    • There is such a sense of connection to the land here, isn’t there? I think even the hardest non-believers feel a real spiritual connection to this landscape!
      Kata Tjuta is one of my biggest loves out of all of my travels 🙂

  10. Dear Linda,
    I live near to Kata Tjuta and appreciate the completeness of your story here. The photos give a clear impression of Walpa Gorge and Kata Tjuta as a whole. Magical place. It was cool and grey there today.
    My understanding is that the waterhole in Walpa Gorge and Mutitjulu waterhole at the base of Uluru are the two sources of permanent water in the region — very precious.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences of this very beautiful part of the world.

    • Hello Janelle ~ Thank you so much for stopping by and adding your local knowledge 🙂
      My information came from a ranger who led the Mala walk to Kantju Gorge – Along the way she showed us these rock paintings (here’s the link) where one can see a circle with concentric rings, which she said represented a permanent water site (Uluru), whereas the circle above it with no inner circles is an area of no permanent water supply and in this case represented Kata Tjuta. In fact when we visited Kata Tjuta later that day there was water present, but she indicated it was not a supply that could be relied upon during drought –
      Here is the post I wrote about Another Side of Uluru that includes that photo –

      Like you, I adore the outback – It truly is a stunning part of the world 😀

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