Uluru Facts – What is Uluru
Uluru is Australia’s most iconic landform.
Most popularly photographed at sunrise and sunset to capture the rock’s changing hues of rust, crimson and purple, Uluru has way more to offer the visitor than just a souvenir photograph.
The purpose of this post is to provide you with all the Uluru facts you’ll want (or need) prior to your first Uluru visit –
- Where is Uluru
- When is the best time to go
- How to get to Uluru
- Where to stay – Accommodation at Uluru
- What to do there.
Situated in the heart of the arid red centre of Australia, Uluru is a majestic monolith that rises 348 meters (1,142ft) above the surrounding spiky spinifex grass.
If you’re thinking of taking a hike around its base its circumference is 9.4 km (5.85 miles).
Uluru is a world heritage site for both its natural attributes as an impressive geological landform (listed 1987) and for its traditional (Tjurkurpa) significance to the Indigenous Anangu people (listed 1994).
The first European to sight it was William Gosse in 1873 who named it Ayers Rock (after Henry Ayers, the Chief Secretary to South Australia), and which it was known by for many years.
The Resort at Yulara still bears that name.
Today, the Rock is known by its traditional name – Uluru.
Uluru Facts – Where is Uluru
Uluru is situated virtually at the central point of Australia –
It is like a beating heart in the Red Centre.
It is between 1,600 and 3,600 km (1,000 and 2,200 miles) from all the coastal state capitals – As an example, by road Uluru is:
- 3,600 km (2,225 miles) from Perth on the west coast
- 2,900km/1,800miles from Cairns in far north Queensland
- 2,800 km (1,700 miles) from Sydney to the south east
- 2,200/2,000miles away from Brisbane to the east
- 2,000km/1,200miles from Darwin to the north
- 1,600km/1,000miles from Adelaide to the south
Getting there by road requires time!
The nearest town to Yulara is Alice Springs (pop 27,480), which is 460 km (285 miles) to the north-east.
Uluru Facts – When is the best time to visit Uluru?
April – October are the more favourable months to visit when the days are sunny and warm, and the clear desert air turns crisp and cold at night.
The summer months (November – March) are hot, so activities are best organised for early morning and late afternoon/evening.
Average Monthly Maximum temperatures:
The average rainfall is 307.7 mm (12”) per year
Uluru Facts – How to get to Ayers Rock Resort, Yulara
Ayers Rock Resort is situated in Yulara, which being 8 km (5 miles) from the entrance to Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park, is the closest you’ll get when it comes to accommodation. Ayers Rock Resort is also the sole provider of accommodation for visiting Uluru if you’re looking for convenience and accessibility to the Rock.
The Park is only open to visitors during daylight hours – About 5am to 8pm depending on the time of year and based entirely on when the sun rises and sets –
If you’re usually a late riser this is one of those places that it is worth breaking the habit for in order to be up before sun-up to get out in the Park in time to catch the sun rising (and in the summer to beat the heat).
Check the Uluru sunrise/sunset times here.
- Air to Yulara
Three airlines fly direct into Yulara – Qantas, Jetstar & Virgin.
Fares start at about Aus$250 one-way from Sydney, increasing at prime times and closer to the departure date.
Bear in mind when comparing prices that Qantas includes a luggage allowance in the quoted price – whereas Jetstar will add on a fee during the booking process. And while Qantas offer a complimentary drink and snack, other airlines will charge for refreshments on board.
Flying time to Yulara from Sydney is 3 hours; from Darwin it is 2 hours.
- Road to the Red Centre
Uluru is in the central heart of Australia so is a looooooog way from anywhere.
If you’re coming by car or campervan allow 3 days of non stop driving from any of the State capitals.
- Rail to Alice Springs
The closest railway station to Uluru is at Alice Springs (460 km/ (285 miles) so if coming by train you’ll need to then make further arrangements for a flight, a bus, a tour or a hire car.
The Ghan (named after the Afghan cameleers who traversed the same route) is one of Australia’s great train journeys traversing the country north – south between Darwin and Adelaide, total distance 2,979 km (1,846 miles), and takes 48 hours, with Alice Springs being about mid way –
A one way fare on the Ghan train either Darwin – Alice, or Adelaide – Alice, starts at Aus$390 for an adult seat, and goes up to over Aus$3,700 for a platinum sleeper.
- Bus to Yulara
Bus from Alice (as Alice Springs is locally known) with AAT coaches is Aus$149 one way
Greyhound offer a 3 day/2 night tour from Alice for Aus$375 incl all meals, camping, and tours of Uluru and Kings Canyon on the way
- Air & Coach Summary sheet:
Ayers Rock Resort summarises this on their page – air and coach transfers to Yulara.
Uluru Facts – How to get to see The Rock
While the Resort provides a complimentary shuttle bus service for getting to and from the airport, and around the accommodation options, restaurants and shopping square, additional transportation needs to be arranged for getting out to the Rock, which is 18 km (11 miles) away.
- Bus to Uluru
The Uluru Express bus service operates a shuttle for Aus$60 return. But if you want to see the sunset or sunrise or drive all the way around the Rock there’s an additional selection of tours to choose from for Aus$70 each.
- Hire Car
I’d strongly recommend hiring a car for flexibility, convenience and in the end – it is a money saver. There’s a lot to see and do spread over a wide space and a vehicle is the most enjoyable way to make the most of your time, having come all this way.
Vehicles can be rented at Yulara airport, or one way rentals can be arranged collecting and/or dropping off from either Yulara or Alice –
Uluru Facts – Uluru Accommodation – Where to Stay
Ayers Rock Resort offers eight accommodation options that start at Aus$36 per night for two people on an un-powered site at the camping ground – and end at Aus$2,000 per night for 5 star glamping at Latitude 131.
- Camping Ground Cabins
For the budget conscious the best option after camping (or if you’re not travelling with a tent) is one of the 14 air-conditioned camp-ground cabins that sleep 6 and cost Aus$160 per night – There are often specials so stay 4 nights and pay for 3 ($480 for 4 nights!)
Here, you also have the advantage of being able to self-cater to keep costs down further.
Cabins are compact with a double bed at one end and 2 sets of single bunks at the other end with a small kitchenette/diner in the middle.
Shower and toilet are in the camp-ground amenities block.
There’s also a swimming pool.
- Dormitory Accommodation
The Outback Pioneer Lodge offers what they refer to as backpacker dormitory accommodation.
For Aus$38 per person you get a bed in a 20-bed single sex dormitory.
For Aus$46 per bed there are mixed 4-bed dorms (Aus$184 for the room).
Both have shared bathroom amenities and a communal self-catering kitchen. All facilities of the resort are included.
Moving up from this there are options in 2 star, 3.5 star, 4 star, 4.5 star and 5 star:
- 2 star to 5 star options
- 2 star: Outback Pioneer Lodge
- 3.5 star: Outback Pioneer Hotel
- 4 star self-contained apartments: Emu Walk Appartments
- 4.5 star: Desert Gardens Hotel
- 5 star: Sails in the Desert
Here’s a link to Ayers Rock Resort accommodation options
Uluru Facts – Where to Eat and Drink at Uluru
The cheapest way to eat and drink is to self-cater.
There’s a small, but comprehensive supermarket in the equally small Yulara shopping precinct. This is the most economical place to buy food and drinks where, considering the distance the products have travelled are competitively priced to the rest of Australia.
Water, out here, should always be top of the list and the supermarket, like the petrol station, sells cartons of water to allow regular water bottle fill ups!
The shopping centre is about a 10 minute walk from the Outback Pioneer Hotel or the Camping Ground.
- Economic Eating-Out Options in Yulara
- Gecko’s café (and take-away), the
- Kulata Academy Café (for sandwiches and snacks) and
- Ayers Wok Noodle bar are all in the Resort Shopping Centre/Town Square.
- At the Outback Pioneer Lodge there is a do-it-yourself Bar-B-Q (meat must be purchased from the BBQ bar).
- The Outback Pioneer Kitchen offers a cheaper alternative to the Resort’s restaurants/buffets.
Here’s a comprehensive list of Ayers Rock Resort dining options.
Out in the National Park at the Cultural Centre the Ininti Café serves light snacks in air conditioned comfort with views to Uluru.
Uluru Facts – What to Do at Uluru
Entry to the Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park costs Aus$25 per person for a 3-day consecutive pass. The Park is closed at night.
A souvenir hard copy of the wonderfully informative 36-page Visitor Guide: Palya! used to be given with each ticket – but the last time I went, no such luck.
It is still well worth downloading the pdf on line as it’s full of great information.
So, now we’re here, what beyond the iconic view of Uluru at sunset (or sunrise) is there to do and see in this remarkable place –
1. The Cultural Centre offers a truly enlightening experience. It is located at a viewable distance to Uluru (about 1.6 km (1 mile) away), 13 km (8 miles) in from the National Park entrance.
Built from locally made mud bricks the organic flowing shape represents two ancestral snakes – Kuniya the woma python woman and Liru the poisonous snake man. Their stories are told in the Tjukurpa tunnel as you enter the building – Tjukurpa (pronounced ‘chook-orr-pa’) being the traditional law that guides the lives of the local Anangu (pronounced arn-ung-oo) people.
The Cultural Centre offers a wealth of knowledge regarding Indigenous culture via wall displays and film footage including a film showing an inma (Pitjantjatjara for ‘ceremony’).
Also information on the local flora (over 400 species) and fauna of which there are 21 species of mammals, 73 different reptiles, 170 varieties of birds, and 4 types of frog.
From Yulara to the Rock is 18 km (11 miles). The drive around Uluru itself is then a further 11 km (6.8 miles).
Kata Tjuta is 25 km (16 miles) to the west of Uluru and well worth a visit. Read my post about Kata Tjuta
There is a FREE ranger guided tour along the Mala Walk every day at 10 am May – September and the earlier time of 8am during the warmer months of October – April. Starting at the Mala car park the ranger takes you part way along the north side of the rock offering insights into traditional Anangu culture and interpretations of rock art seen on the underside of overhangs.
All the walks at Uluru are stunning. Getting up close and personal the Rock takes on many guises, so different from the distant image seen in sunset photographs. There are areas where the rock folds softly with a surface smoothed by wind and water erosion, and areas where boulders are piled high. From a distance one has the impression it sits on a sparsely vegetated plain yet, in places, there are river red gums tucked into its base.
The short Kuniya Walk on the south side is a delight, as you penetrate a gully that opens up to a tranquil waterhole at the Rock’s base – Read my post Did you know there were waterholes at Uluru?.
- The Uluru Base Walk is 10.6 km (6.5 miles) and takes about 3.5 hours.
- There is now also the opportunity to hire a bike and cycle around it.
- Liru Walk from the Cultural Centre to the start of the Mala Walk is 4 km (2.5 miles) return – allow 1.5 hours.
- Mala Walk to Kantju Gorge is 2 km (1.25 miles) return – allow 1.5 hours
- Lungkata Walk is 4 km (2.5 miles) return – 1.5 hours
- Kuniya Walk to Mutitjulu Waterhole is 1 km (0.6 mile) return – allow 0.75 hour
A little away from the rock is Talinguru Nyakunytjaku (‘place to look from the sand dune’), which is the designated spot for watching the sunrise.
But is also an interesting alternative for taking in the sunset as the sun from here will go down behind the rock.
There are also two short walking loops here –
- Minymaku Walk 1 km (0.6 miles) and
- Watiku Walk 1.5 km (0.95 mile) both lovely to do as the sun comes up over the horizon and starts to warm the rock for the day.
- Kata Tjuta Walks – There are two walks here – The Valley of the Winds 7.4 km (4.6 miles) and Walpa 2.6 km (1.6 miles)
I have written posts about those with lots of photos – so do click through.
4. Here is a link listing additional tour options offered by Ayers Rock Resort for a fee.
5. And a must read link explaining why it is important not to climb Uluru.
Uluru Facts – Who to meet
For a better understanding of the local Anangu Indigenous culture spend some time at the Cultural Centre in the National Park.
There’re also a few shops selling Aboriginal works of art, where sometimes the artists can be seen working on their paintings.
As Ayers Rock Resort is a subsidiary to the Indigenous Land Corporation they have a commitment to employ the Indigenous community. Taking on 50 trainees a year their aim is to be employing 350 Indigenous people by the end of 2018.
There aren’t many places you can say, having heard so much about it before your visit that when you finally get there –
‘It doesn’t disappoint‘…
but Uluru is one of them!
And if you fancy one of my hand drawn pictorial Journal maps
(like the one illustrated above)
for recording all your adventures …
Or… Looking for the perfect way to spend 6 days in the Red Centre and get the most out of your time, I pulled together the best parts from two separate trips to the region and wrote this post:
The Ultimate 6 day Guide to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Watarrka National Parks
And if you’ve already been?
What was your highlight?
Do tell and share in the comments below 🙂