HOW TO PLAN A PERFECT TRIP TO ULURU
Instantly recognised around the world, Uluru is one of Australia’s 20 UNESCO Heritage areas. If you have decided it’s time to visit Uluru, you have come to the right place; below we share everything you need to know to plan a trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
Uluru, in the middle of nowhere and very pricey, it’s likely this is your one time shot to see the iconic red rock, and like any once in a lifetime holiday, you will want to make sure you get everything right.
If you are anything like me, you will probably spend more time trying to plan the perfect Uluru itinerary; thank you will visiting 😉
I recently organised a special trip to Uluru and Kata Tjuta for my birthday and dragged four of our friends along. I made notes lots of notes, and then I spent four days testing them out so that I could share the results here.
What follows are the answers to all the questions I had about visiting Uluru in an easy to follow guide so that you can plan your own memorable trip to Australia’s red centre.
Uluru is not the biggest monolith in Australia. That title belongs to Mount Augustus in Western Australia. It’s 2.5 times larger!
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Choosing the best time to visit Uluru
If you have a choice on which time of year you visit Uluru, then great; if not, don’t worry, there is never a wrong time to visit the Rock; you just need to be prepared for the season.
What is the weather like at Uluru?
Weather can have a significant impact on your time in Uluru. If you are not an early riser, this is even more important. In the middle of summer, it is often too hot to walk after 11am, so your days need to start early if you hope to see a lot in a short time.
- Spring is pleasant and sees highs between 26C-34C and lows of 17C-9C
- Summer is a challenge with highs between 35C-38C and lows of 17C-21C
- Autumn is perfect with highs between 23C-28C and lows of 17C-8C
- Winter is comfortable but cold after sunset highs are between 22C-20C and lows of 5C-3C
What about the crowds?
Peak season is June to September when prices hit their peak, and everything will cost more, from flights to hotels. Also, keep an eye on Australian school holiday dates as these push prices up as well. Major events like opera and the anniversary of the closing of the climb can also affect rates.
Did you know? Uluru Is 2.5 times taller than the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
So when should you go?
Taking into consideration weather and prices, the idea time weather-wise is April and May or September and October.
If you are trying to decide whether to book an all inclusive package or do it yourself this guide to multi day tours in the Red Centre might help.
How long to stay in Uluru?
Trying to decide how many days to spend at Uluru is the first thing most people struggle with when planning their trip. We believe three days in Uluru is a comfortable minimum. This will give you enough time to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
If you plan to explore Kings Canyon, add another day at least, preferably two, so you can stay overnight there. You could easily fill five days if you like to take things slowly and relax a little by the pool.
Have you seen our Uluru Accommodation tips?
The best way to get to Uluru
The nearest airport to Uluru and the Ayers Rock Resort is Yulara. Alice Springs is the other option, but it’s more than a 4-hour drive away.
There are daily direct flights available from Sydney and Melbourne. Flights from other cities are available a few times a week, or you may need to change to Alice Springs or Sydney/Melbourne. Flying time from all cities is about 3-4 hours.
Flying into Yulara
When flying into Yulara, there are free transfers from the airport to all the accommodation at the resort. You will find the buses right outside the doors of the terminal and they greet every flight.
Want to see Uluru from the plane?
If you’re curious about which side of the place to sit to see Uluru from the air, book a seat on the left side of the plane for the best view of as you fly into town. You will get as close as 2km from the rock.
Train to Uluru
You can take the Ghan from Adelaide or Darwin. The trip from Adelaide is 23 hours, so this is a ride you take for the journey and not the destination.
It’s also quite expensive, but a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Ghan stops at Adelaide, where you can join a bus or flight to Yulara.
Bus to Uluru
The only direct bus to Uluru is from Alice Springs. You can take a Greyhound bus from either Darwin, 22 hours, or Adelaide, 21 hours to reach Alice. These services can be useful for backpackers wanting to stop at some sites along the way, like Katherine and Coober Pedy.
Getting around Uluru
Uluru Resort Shuttle
Once you arrive at the Yulara resort, there is a free shuttle bus that stops at all the accommodation and the Visitors Centre, Town Square, and Camel Farm. This free service does not go to Uluru or Kata Tjuta.
Service begins at 10.30 am and ends at 12.30 am and operates every 20 minutes. At peak times, they seem to come a little more frequently.
Uluru Hop on Hop off (HOHO) Service
If you wish to visit the Rock or Kata Tjuta and you don’t want to rent a car, you might consider the Uluru HOHO offers. They offer both transfer services to Uluru or Kata Tjuta or 1, 2, and 3 day passes.
Is Driving in Uluru difficult?
Renting a car is the best way to see Uluru unless you are a solo traveller. While petrol is expensive, so are day tours and with three or more a car is certainly more economical.
If you have not driven on this side of the road, this could be a good place to start. There are few cars around, and the streets around the resort are in excellent condition.
The biggest danger occurs when driving at dusk or dawn, when there is a danger of hitting animals who seem to like to be on the road at this time of day. For this reason, either avoid this time of day or drive with this in mind and also make sure you have proper insurance.
Distances to Major Sites from Yulara
- Ayers Rock Airport to Yulara Village — about 10 km
- Yulara Village to Kata Tjuta — about 55 km
- Yulara Village to Uluru — about 25 km – and then 11km to drive around it!
- Yulara Village to Kings Canyon – about 280kms
- Yulara Village to Alice Springs – 450kms
- You can fly from Alice Springs in 1 hour or drive in 4.5hrs
Tips for renting a vehicle
- You don’t need a four-wheel drive. They cost a lot more in fuel and are not required for the terrain.
- If you book your car at the airport, make sure it includes unlimited mileage, especially if you are planning to visit Kings Canyon.
- You can hire a car for just one or two days if you don’t want it for your entire visit.
- Many rental companies have conditions attached to your rental agreement that stipulate you will not be covered by insurance for driving between sunset and sunrise. This does not include within the resort and National Park areas. It mainly refers to driving between Alice Springs and Uluru or Kings Canyon and Uluru.
- If you are coming from Alice Springs, ask about relocation deals on vehicles. They can save you a bunch!
Uluru rise 348 metres above the ground, making it taller than the Eiffel tower and there are another 6 kilometres underground!
Things you need to pack for your Uluru trip
- A national park pass–a 3-day pass will let you explore
- A fly net – or buy on arrival
- Good walking shoes that are NOT white
- An empty credit card
- A one-litre water bottle
Must-do experiences at Uluru
My must-see may not be yours, so here is a pretty comprehensive list of things you can do and see for you to work through. I would recommend at least one sunrise tour, one sunset and the Field of Light as my minimum. A guided tour with an Anangu guide is also highly recommended. Try to do it on the first day to learn some of the cultural significance before the rest of your visit.
- Have breakfast and enjoy an Uluru sunrise
- See the sunrise and visit Kata Tjuta at Uluru combined on a 6 hour tour
- Take a 2.5 hr sunset camel tour and enjoy some enjoy Australian beer, wine, champagne and outback bush foods and damper.
- See Uluru Sacred Sites & enjoy the sunset with optional BBQ dinner
- Do the Base Walk at Uluru – on foot or bicycle or Segway tour, which is a great way to keep teens engaged
- Take a chopper flight over the entire site or a quick flight over the rock
- Explore the Kuniya Walk and see the Mutitjulu Waterhole walk at Uluru on a small group tour with an experienced guide and breakfast!
- Learn more about the Anangu people and explore the cultural centre collection with a Anangu elder
- See the sunrise at Kata-Tjuta
- See the sunset at Kata-Tjuta
- Do the Valley of the Winds walk at Kata Tjuta
- Do the Walpa Gorge walk
- Visit Bruce Munro’s art installation – Field of Light at sunrise and add Kata Tjuta Sunset, including wine and canapes and sunrise at Uluru on the value package.
How to save money on your visit to the rock
First, you need to accept that this is not a budget holiday, but there are ways to reduce your costs a little.
- Buy your National Park pass online and make sure you select the 5-day option. It’s no more expensive than the standard 3-day pass.
- Resist the urge to stay in Alice Springs; it’s not cheaper – it’s a 4-hour drive!
- Free camping is not a good idea – The nearest free camp, Curtis Springs Station, is 100km away – you will spend your savings on fuel and will have to get up very early to see the sunrise. The Uluru campground is approx. $35 a night
- Buy your fly net when you get there–they are cheap 2 for $15
- There is a decent-sized IGA at the resort where you can buy groceries.
- You can buy take away alcohol from the Outback Pioneer Bar. Beware, it is costly. I paid $41 for a six-pack of beer.
Please don’t mark the rock–your initials are not cool
It’s not unsafe to be in the park/walking afternoon earlier in summer, but the weather/restrictions need to be followed. The tracks will close when the temperatures reach 36 degrees.
Don’t ignore these closures; we walked in 29-degree heat, and it felt very much hotter with limited shade and only two water taps on our 11km hike – and the water did not taste good at all!
Carry water with you, more than you think you will need. We took 2 litres and drank it all.
It’s a good idea to have travel insurance to cover any cancellation or unexpected problems that may arise in the outback. We use and recommend Cover-More for all our travel. They also offer an Inbound plan for anyone visiting Australia.
First published Feb 2020 – Fully updated April 2022