Travelling to the Outback: Exploring Uluru + Kata Tjuta
Last year we were booked for Japan, but unfortunately had to cancel (for obvious reasons). With internationals borders closed until 2022, Andrew and I decided to explore more of Australia (+ New Zealand!). We’ve put together an Oceanic travel bucket list, which we’ll slowly be crossing off within the next couple of months.
I’ve been living in Australia for 2 and a half years, but have only been around New South Wales and a little bit of Queensland. That’s all going to change this year – Starting with Uluru.
If you have any plans of visiting Uluru, I 100% recommend you do it (and soon!). The upside to the closed borders is that it’s not at all crowded with tourists. You’ll have the chance to explore at your own pace and enjoy the peace and tranquility of being within such majestic sights.
- How to get to Uluru
- The best time to visit
- Where to stay
- Packing List
- Tours, things to see and do
- Tips to get the most out of your trip
You can drive or fly to Uluru. We decided to fly since we live in Sydney and only had a few days off from work. Driving would’ve taken us 30 hours versus 3.5h on a plane landing in Ayers Rock Airport, which is only about 10 minutes away from Ayers Rock Resort (and 20 minutes away from Uluru).
Tip: This might not be the same for everyone, but on our flight, we found that seats DEF (right side of the plane) got a better aerial view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta (as well as Mount Conner) during both landing and take-off.
Weather in Uluru is quite extreme. When it’s hot, it’s burning and when it’s cold, it’s freezing.
Based on my own personal experience (we went in mid-May), I’d say the best time to visit Uluru is during the colder months (maybe autumn or spring rather than winter). While the mornings and nights drop to a chilly 5 to 8 degrees, the day is a comfortable 20 to 25 degrees, which is perfect for hikes and walks.
Tip: There were definitely less flies during the cold weather. They still came out at mid-day (when it was warmer), but we didn’t need fly nets. We brought some bug spray, which we thought was enough. However, if you’re going in the summer, you 100% need the fly nets, trust me.
Ayers Rock Resort has a few options depending on your budget and group size – from the campground to hostels to 3.5/4/5-star hotels, and even luxury villas. However, due to the on-going pandemic, not all of their accommodations are open. Make sure to check the Ayers Rock Resort website to get the most recent update.
We stayed at Sails in the Desert, which we got a really good deal on during boxing day. The room was extremely spacious and cozy. While some reviews say the hotel is dated, we thought it was well-maintained.
What to pack for your trip to Uluru (apart from your clothes and toiletries):
- Insect repellant
- Lip balm and moisturiser (Also eye drops if you wear contacts and have dry eyes like me!)
- Wide-brimmed hat + Sunglasses
- Refillable water bottle
- Backpack/Small bag for walks
- Comfortable walking shoes (Sneakers or hiking boots)
- Warm clothes (Down/thick jacket, Scarf, Beanie, Gloves)
- Snacks (See last part for more info)
If you’re wondering what to wear, my key advice would be LAYERS! As previously mentioned, it can get really cold in the morning and night, while quite warm during the day.
For hikes and walks around the national park, I’d recommend activewear or stretchy pants + closed shoes. The small rocks can be quite uncomfortable when they get in your shoes, also, you know, bugs. Don’t forget to bring a hat and your sunnies!
For sunset tours, you can be a little more dressed (i.e. not in activewear) as you’ll most likely just be within a small area to watch the sun go down. I wore dresses and a thick poncho scarf to both sunset tours at Uluru and Kata Tjuta and had zero problems.
I honestly have nothing bad to say about either of these tour operators – they were both amazing. They both provided snacks ahead of each tour, were extremely knowledgeable about the area, and were very organised. I will say though, SEIT’s tour groups were smaller as compared to AAT Kings, which made it feel more intimate.
You should know, a trip to Uluru is not a ‘chill’ holiday. It’s very much an active holiday with numerous walks, hikes and early mornings and late nights. We tried to fill our itinerary with as much activities as possible (within our budget). I mean, when else are we going back here?
Uluru (Sunrise + Base Walk + Sunset)
Uluru is the main reason people visit, well, Uluru. Sunrise was beautiful, albeit cold. The base walk around Uluru is flat, which makes it easy for anyone (children and the elderly, included) to do. Sunset was very picturesque, and it didn’t hurt the bubbly was free flowing (if you do a tour with AAT Kings).
Kata Tjuta (Valley of the Winds Hike + Sunset)
Just 40km away from Uluru is Kata Tjuta, or The Olgas. While Uluru is the more popular rock formation, Kata Tjuta has so much more character. The hike was definitely more difficult, but the views from each lookout was indescribable. I highly recommend adding Kata Tjuta to your list!
There’s no better place to look up at the sky than in the middle of a desert. While we enjoyed it, we were slightly disappointed that the actual activity location was only a few meters away from the IGA parking lot (and its bright lights). We were hoping it would’ve been in a pitch dark location to give us better view of the sky. Nevertheless, they did have high tech telescopes and we still got to see some really amazing things.
There were a few things we weren’t able to do – either because of lack of time or budget. We’ve heard good things about the Field of Lights, Sounds of Silence Dinner and Tali Wiru Dining Experience. It would’ve also been nice to visit Kings Canyon or do a camel ride. I guess we’ll save that for next time!
Look out for deals
Uluru is known to be an expensive place to holiday, but it doesn’t have to be. If you plan your trip right, you can visit Uluru within your budget.
Roughly, we only spent around $1,150 each for a 4-day/3-night stay. We paid $220 each for flights on Jetstar, $660 total for Sails in the Desert, $450 each for tours across 4 days, and maybe another $300 on food and drinks (we like our cocktails).
Bring snacks (and maybe a bottle of wine or two)
Food options in Ayers Rock Resort are limited. When we went in May, the only restaurants open were:
1. Walpa Bar – Bar food, small bites. The bigger meals are only available until 5.30pm.
2. Gecko Cafe – Burgers, pizzas. They also serve breakfast.
3. Ayers Wok – Stir fry noodles. Only open from 6 to 8pm.
4. Ilkari Restaurant – Buffet dinner. I’d recommend booking ahead as they were booked out the entire duration of our stay.
The food was nothing extraordinary and it was quite hard to get food if you return to the hotel late from a tour. Luckily, Andrew and I brought some snacks and wine to munch on and drink in the room when everything else was closed. (We did end up getting room service one night, which was quite expensive.)
Walk to the Imalung Lookout (it’s free!)
Just a few hundred meters from town square, the Imalung Lookout gives you another view of Uluru. We walked over just before sunset and got to see Uluru’s changing colours from a further distance (still a sight to see!)
Anything else you want to know? Leave your questions in the comments below x