Uluru (Ayers Rock)
Uluru is one of the most recognisable natural landmarks in the world and an Australian icon.
As a UNESCO Word Heritage site, Uluru (Ayers Rock) is Australia’s best-known natural landmark and is frequented by people from all over the world. Rising 348 metres above the surrounding plain, this monolith is known for appearing to change colour due to the oxidisation of the iron within the sandstone, making it glow orange and red at sunrise and sunset.
Located in the southern part of Australia's Northern Territory, the drive from the nearest major town, Alice Springs, to Uluru takes roughly 4½ hours and can be done entirely on sealed roads. This journey is one of the ultimate outback trips and allows you to see and experience some of the incredible diversity in the region (including Kings Canyon, which is about half way between the two).
Watch the Sunrise and Sunset
Five different viewing areas have been built specifically for the purpose of watching Uluru’s famous sunrises and sunsets.
Talinguru Nyakunytjaku has a 360 degree view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta and is the main sunrise viewing area with 2 viewing platforms and a short walking track so you can find the perfect angle.
Car Sunset Viewing is popular for watching Uluru’s magnificent sunsets, or arrive at sunrise to see Uluru silhouetted against the rising sun.
Walking is the best way to experience Uluru, and all walks around the base are wheelchair accessible. You can find a walking map here. While exploring the region, keep an eye out for the 21 kinds of mammals, 73 reptiles, 178 birds and 4 species of frog. There are also over 400 different species of plants, many of which have traditional uses. Several walks also pass by beautiful examples of Aboriginal rock art. Read more about Anangu art here.
The Base Walk Loop – 10.6km return, 3.5 hours
The entire Base Walk Loop is 10.6km and, as the name implies, circles the entire base of Uluru / Ayers Rock. Parts of this Base Walk Loop have been divided into shorter walks sometimes with side branches to interesting destinations. Because this is a longer walk, taking roughly 3.5 hours to complete, it’s important to be prepared. In hot weather, plan to start early and finish the walk by 11:00 am to minimise risk of heat exhaustion and dehydration.
Mala Walk and Kantju Gorge - 2km return, 1.5 hours
The Mala Walk to Kantju Gorge is one of the quieter walks at Uluru, and has beautiful examples of Aboriginal rock art. Starting from the Mala car park, this short walk takes roughly 1.5 hours, depending on how fast you walk. It’s also a great sunset location in winter. To learn more about Anangu culture and hear stories about Uluru, join the daily ranger walk.
Kuniya Walk to Multitjulu Waterhole - 1km return, 30-45 minutes
Another short walk, the Kuniya walk is especially beautiful after rain when the ephemeral waterfalls are running. In the warmer months, bird-lovers will be delighted by finches, nankeen kestrels soaring overhead, black-breasted buzzards and tawny frogmouths. This is a special place and the art caves are still used by the Anangu today. Plan on 30-45 minutes for this walk.
Lungkata Walk - 4km return, 1.5 hours
The Lungkata walk follows the base of Uluru between the Mala and Kuniya carparks. This is considered a ‘teaching walk’ and follows the story of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people and how Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is jointly managed. During the summer months this is an excellent sunset location close to the rock.
The Uluru Climb
The indigenous owners ask that Uluru be respected as a sacred site and that visitors walk around it rather than climb the 1.6km to the top. Also, the climb is often closed outright due to hot temperatures or dangerously strong winds.
Other destinations in the region
No trip to the Red Centre would be complete without visiting some of the other amazing destinations in the region.
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) is made up of 36 rock formations and is located about 50km from Uluru (about 45 minutes by car).
Located in Wattarka National Park, Kings Canyon is a natural wonder located roughly half way between Alice Springs and Uluru – literally at the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. Visitors to Uluru will sometimes wake up in the wee hours of the morning to drive to Kings Canyon to do the famous Rim Walk, but you can get some extra sleep and a much more relaxed start by staying at Kings Canyon Resort instead. And then once there, take the opportunity to explore other amazing sites at Kings Canyon, like the Garden of Eden where an array of plants flourish beside permanent rock pools.