From your first glimpse as the iconic Uluru appears over the tip of a desert sand dune, you will be in awe of this incredible monolith. Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) is one of the most recognisable symbols of Australia.
“The Rock” as it is affectionately known, is located almost in the physical centre of the country. Many visitors feel like they are in the spiritual heart of the country. A visit to Uluru is an essential part of any trip to Central Australia.
We have visited Uluru twice on our 2.5 year trip around Australia, once on a budget trip in our campervan, and more recently on more of a luxury trip. You’ll get the best of both worlds here – our list of the best free things to do in Uluru, and a guide to the best luxury experiences in Uluru, and everything in between.
Uluru is the world’s largest sandstone monolith, standing at 348m tall and almost 10km around. Interestingly, most of the monolith is buried underground, so what you see is just one edge of it. Uluru is sacred to the indigenous Anangu people and there are several important cultural sites you can visit around the rock.
In years gone by, tourists would come to climb Ayers Rock. The climb was finally closed in October 2019, after many years of requests from the traditional owners. Although you can no longer climb, there are still plenty of great things to do in Uluru.
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How to get to Uluru
Uluru is located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, around 5 hours drive from Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. The resort township of Yulara, which is centred around the Ayers Rock Resort, is just outside the National Park. All your accommodation and dining options are located here, and many tours and activities depart from here also.
Flying to Uluru
There is an airport in Yulara (Ayers Rock/Connellan), and flights arrive directly from Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. If you’re flying in from overseas or another Australian city, you will probably connect through one of these three cities.
Driving to Uluru
The road from Alice Springs to Uluru forms part of the Red Centre Way and is sealed all the way. You will head south from Alice and turn at Ghan/Erldunda Roadhouse. Keep an eye out on the left hand side to catch your first glimpse of Uluru.
Don’t be embarrassed if you mistakenly think Mt Connor is Uluru. Known affectionately as “Fooluru” many, many visitors have been fooled by this flat topped mountain. Both Nigel and I were tricked the first time we travelled this road. Some of the best views of Mt Connor are from the Curtin Springs Roadhouse. I highly recommend the veggie burger and chips from the restaurant here!
If you don’t have your own car, you can rent a car from the Alice Springs airport.
The best things to do in Uluru
There is so much to do at Uluru, and we recommend spending 3-4 days here to make the most of the area. We will begin our recommendations with free activities, and then discuss many of the other options. Most of these activities will involve going into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
You will need a valid park pass for entry to the park. At the entry point there is a booth where your pass will be checked. You can purchase a 3 day pass for $38 which can be extended to 7 days free of charge, at the booth. Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park passes are available online, or you can purchase your pass at the park entry. Your entry pass for Uluru-Kata Tjuta is separate to the NT Parks pass, as this park is administered by the federal government.
Best FREE things to do in Uluru
Sunset at Uluru
There are several sunrise and sunset viewing areas in the park. The car sunset spot is very popular and fills up quickly, so be sure to get there early for a good spot! This is a great place to bring a bottle of wine and a platter to enjoy as you watch the rock change colours as the sun sets.
We also enjoyed watching the sunset from the sunrise viewpoint, which is around the far side of the rock. From this viewpoint you don’t really see Uluru change colours, but the silhouette of the rock on the colourful sunset sky is so beautiful.
Sunrise at Uluru
Just like at sunset, Uluru changes colours beautifully as the rising sun lights the surface of the monolith. The official “sunrise” spot is around the other side of the rock, where the sun shines more directly onto it.
We also enjoyed watching the sunrise at the Kata Tjuta sunrise viewing platform. A large viewing platform has been built on top of one of the dunes to protect the fragile dune environment. From this viewpoint, you can watch the sun rise behind (or beside, depending on the time of year) Uluru and then shine onto the domes of Kata Tjuta. Get there early to beat the tour bus crowds and snag the best spot on the platform.
Mala Walk – free guided walk at Uluru
One of our favourite free things to do at Uluru is the guided Mala Walk. Each day at 8am or 10am, depending on the season, one of the rangers leads this short but informative walk. The Mala Walk is an easy graded walk, with a flat gravel surface.
You will visit several cultural sites, where the ranger will explain a little about the Anangu culture and creation stories (in particular the Mala story) and answer any questions you have.
The Mala Walk tour ends just before the Kantju Gorge, which has one of Uluru’s few semi-permanent waterholes. Make sure you walk down to the waterhole, it is really beautiful and peaceful. We waited until the group had gone back to the carpark, and enjoyed the quiet and birdsong here.
Uluru Base Walk
The walk around the base of Uluru is around 10km. You will see so many of the different features of the rock on this interesting walk. The path is very clear and almost completely flat. Photography is not permitted at certain sections of the walk, and these are clearly signposted at the beginning and end of each section.
Kuniya Walk and Mutitjulu Waterhole
The Mutitjulu Waterhole is another of the semi-permanent waterholes around Uluru. You will find a carpark at the beginning of the short Kuniya walk to the waterhole. The path passes a cave with rock-art and several sign-boards explaining the story of the battle between Kuniya (the python woman) and Liru (the brown snake man) and how this story is depicted in the rocks.
The presence of water here means this is a lush, green area with lots of birds. Just a little way past the waterhole is an area where the path is right beside the rock, which makes for a great photo. This is also one of the places where it’s easiest to touch Uluru.
Uluru Cultural Centre
The Uluru cultural centre is located inside the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. You will learn so much about the Anangu culture (Tjurkurpa) here, along with some of the more recent history of the Anangu. There are several displays about the natural environment of the park, plants and animals found here. The history surrounding the formation of the joint management of the park and the closure of the Ayers Rock climb is also depicted here.
The Cultural Centre often hosts free presentations, led by rangers or Anangu when available. These presentations are usually held at 1130am on weekdays. Check with the Visitors Centre for a schedule of what’s on during your stay.
While Uluru is certainly impressive, some people are even more impressed by Kata Tjuta. The name Kata Tjuta is from Pitjantjatjara, the Anangu language and means “many heads”. Kata Tjuta was formerly known as “the Olgas”. There are 36 domes that make up this interesting rock formation. The domes of Kata Tjuta are actually not single pieces of rock, like Uluru, but are made up of conglomerate rock, millions of stones and pebbles cemented together with sand and mud.
There are both sunrise and sunset viewing platforms at Kata Tjuta, where you can watch the domes change colours like at Uluru. The only toilets at Kata Tjuta are at the sunset viewing area.
In addition to the beautiful sunrise and sunset viewing platforms, there are a couple of walks at Kata Tjuta, the Valley of the Winds Hike and the shorter Walpa Gorge Hike.
Valley of the Winds Walk
We think this is the best walk in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. It’s a 7.4km loop which takes you up and in between a couple of the larger domes to a lookout and then loops back around the other side of them. The path can be rough and rocky in places, and there is one small section that is very steep. When we did this walk in July 2022 the rangers were doing a lot of building work to improve the trail.
Walpa Gorge Walk
The Walpa Gorge Walk is a 1.6km out and back hike that takes you between two of the larger domes into the Walpa Gorge. On the way you can see the domes up close. You will marvel at all the little pebbles stuck together to make up these huge domes. You’ll be amazed when you remember that these formations are like icebergs, with only the tips protruding from the ground!
If you are visiting in the warmer months, the Walpa Gorge Hike is best done early in the morning, before the sun reaches the gorge. We did this walk in March and were surprised how much cooler it was in the gorge.
Best Things to do in Uluru (that are not free)
Field of Light
The Field of Light is an art installation by the renowned British artist Bruce Munro. This installation features over 50,000 coloured lightbulbs which light up as the sun sets.
There are several ways to visit the Field of Lights at Uluru but please note, you cannot self drive there. All tour prices include coach transfers from your accommodation. If you just want to see the installation, you can do a self-guided walk through the Field of Lights in the evening. AAT Kings also runs a sunrise tour of the Field of Light, if you’re an early riser.
We did the Field of Light Star Pass which includes coach transfers, champagne and canapes on a specially designed viewing platform and a walk through the field. This tour is timed so that you can watch the sunset over Uluru enjoying your champagne (beer and soft drinks also available). The host will then give you some information on the installation. We learned that the wires if stretched out would reach all the way to Alice Springs!! You can then walk through the lights at your own pace. We absolutely loved this experience!
You can also combine the Field of Light with the Sounds of Silence dinner for an exceptional luxury night out.
Sounds of Silence Dinner
You don’t need to be a foodie to enjoy the Sounds of Silence dinner, but the food is excellent. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that is totally worth the price. After arriving to a private dune on a luxury coach, you will be greeted with sparkling wine and canapes.
After the sun sets over Uluru, you head down to the open air dining area, being welcomed by the unique sounds of the didgeridoo. A wonderful three course meal awaits (the main and desert courses are served from a chef’s station, buffet style). Seating is arranged in groups of around 10, and we met the loveliest people on our table.
After the meal you will enjoy an informative discussion of the night sky as an expert astronomer points out the main constellations. If you’re lucky you might even see a shooting star.
The Sounds of Silence dinner is so good it has been entered into the Australian Tourism Hall of Fame.
Scenic Flights at Uluru
You will find both light plane and helicopter flights operating out of Connellen/Ayers Rock airport. The best time to do a scenic flight is sunrise or sunset. Last time we were in Uluru we did a sunset helicopter flight which took us over to Kata Tjuta and then back to Uluru to watch the sun setting. The colour-changes of the rock are even more spectacular from the air.
Bike Hire at Uluru
If you want to do the base of Uluru but don’t want to walk, why not ride a bike? If you don’t have your own bike, you can hire a bike from the cultural centre. Bike hire lasts for 3 hours. You will have ample time to ride the 15km circuit around the rock (from the cultural centre).
Remember to take water and wear sun-safe clothing. There is no shelter or shade (unless you go early or late in the day and ride partly in the shadow of the rock).
We had our own bikes and really enjoyed bike riding around Uluru.
Uluru Segway Tours
If walking or cycling around the base of Uluru sounds a bit too much for you, why not consider a Segway Tour? Segways are surprisingly easy to operate, and they move fast enough that you will feel a cooling breeze. You have the added advantage of a guide who will point out interesting features of the rock and teach you a bit more about Anangu culture (tjukurpa) as you ride around.
You can either meet the guide and start from the Kuniya carpark near the Mutitjulu waterhole, or book a tour with transfers from your Yulara accommodation.
Uluru Aboriginal Art
There are several Aboriginal art galleries at Uluru, from the acclaimed Gallery of Central Australia in Yulara to several smaller galleries both in the township and at the cultural centre inside the park. If you prefer to support an artist directly, you will often find local indigenous people painting and offering their artworks for sale in the Town Square.
Maruku Dot Painting Workshop
Perhaps you’d like to try your hand at creating your own piece of art? The Maruku Arts and Craft project is a not-for-profit community project that is owned and operated by the Anangu people. Through their arts and the Dot Painting Workshops they hope to keep their culture alive, as well as impart some of that culture (Tjurkurpa) to visitors.
With the help of respectful interpreters, the Anangu artist explains some of their creation stories and the importance of art in passing down their stories and culture. Remember the aboriginal people have no written language. Through the use of symbols and colours, their artworks tell stories, and can also function as maps for their people.
After watching a demonstration, you will have the opportunity to create your own artwork with the guidance of the Anangu artist. We have done this workshop twice, and I think our painting skills definitely improved!
AAT Kings offers a half day Aboriginal Culture tour which includes a dot painting workshop, guided Mala Walk and coach transfers from your Yulara accommodation. We did this tour on our last trip to Uluru and loved it!
Looking for more things to do in Uluru?
Where to stay in Uluru
All of the accommodation in Uluru is at the Ayers Rock Resort, in the resort town of Yulara. There is a wide range of accommodation here from unpowered campsites to the luxury Sails in the Desert resort. If you book Sails in the Desert we highly recommend getting a package which includes breakfast. Their breakfast buffet is the best we have ever experienced!
You are not allowed to camp in the National Park and the park is closed at night time. In the peak months of June to August, the Caravan Park runs an Overflow section which is unpowered and with no water, but you may use the toilet and shower facilities in the main caravan park.
The closest official free camp is at Curtin Springs Roadhouse, which is around 85km from the National Park. There are a couple of unofficial free camps which pop up on WikiCamps from time to time, and often get removed from the site quite quickly.
What to pack for Uluru
The best clothes to pack for Uluru are light, loose-fitting comfortable clothes. You’ll be spending most of your time outside, and let’s be real, you’re in the desert so it’s going to be dusty. And that dust is red dust – so bear that in mind when choosing your wardrobe. While of course you can wear white at Uluru, remember that red dirt is likely to stain your clothes.
If you are visiting Uluru in the winter months (which is peak tourist season), be aware that it gets very cold at night. We visited in July 2022 and experienced one of the coldest winters Central Australia has had in decades. There were many nights when the temperature went below zero degrees. Make sure you pack a warm jacket, beanie and warm socks for those sunset and sunrise trips.
We were surprised at how casually people were dressed at the Sounds of Silence dinner – I had bought a new dress especially for the occasion! Neat casual should be fine, although closed shoes are recommended.
If you are visiting Uluru in the warmer months, we do recommend taking a fly net you can wear over your face. On our most recent visit (March 2023) there were a LOT of flies!
Best time to visit Uluru
The best months to visit Uluru are the cooler months from May to October. We visited in July 2022 and March 2023. I also visited Uluru in November 1998, and although it was cold at night (and I hate the cold), I definitely preferred being there in July.
Be aware this is peak season though, and things are likely to book out, so make sure you book accommodation and experiences early.
Entry Pass for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park
Visitors to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park require a valid Park Pass, which is $38 for 3 days. You can extend your pass to 7 days free of charge on the third day. There is a boom gate/entry booth where your pass must be shown.
The opening and closing hours of the park differ depending on the sunrise and sunset times. We recommend you be at the gate right on opening if you wish to watch the sunrise from Kata Tjuta.
Please note: your NT Parks pass does not cover Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, as this park is administered on a federal level, not by Parks NT.
Food and water
The first thing to remember about Uluru is that it is very remote. It is over 5 hours drive to the nearest town with a proper supermarket (Alice Springs). While there is a grocery store here in Yulara, don’t expect the selection and prices to be comparable with what you are used to at home.
We have eaten some incredible meals at Uluru – from the amazing breakfast buffet at Sails in the Desert to the Sounds of Silence Dinner. Even the takeaway noodles I had from the aptly named “Ayers Wok” were delicious. Much of the restaurant food features local “bush tucker” inspiration, and is definitely worth a try.
The water from the taps in the resort is fine to drink and you will find bottled water easy to come by. There are a couple of “Kapi” – water refill stations around the Uluru Base Walk and a drinking fountain at the Kata Tjuta Sunset viewing platform.
If you’re travelling with a campervan or caravan and need to fill your tanks, the best place we found was at the Shell Service station in Yulara.
Yes, the fuel in Yulara is expensive! We paid almost $3 a litre for diesel both times we have visited in the last two years. The closest fuel is in Curtin Springs and that was even more expensive. Make sure you fill up before you leave Yulara.
Phone and Internet access
Surprisingly, the Telstra phone signal all around Uluru was some of the best we found in all of the Northern Territory. We got decent 5G reception both in Yulara and around the rock. However, coverage wasn’t good around Kata Tjuta.
There is free wifi available in Yulara and also at the Cultural Centre thanks to Parks Australia. Yulara is also serviced by Optus and Vodaphone.
Watch our Uluru Travel Guide video
How many days do you need to visit Uluru?
We spent 4 days in Uluru in 2022 and 3 days in 2023. If you are planning to do some of the evening activities like the Field of Light or Sounds of Silence dinner, we definitely recommend spending 3-4 days here. You don’t want to miss the sunsets from the Uluru sunset viewing area. I spent my birthday here in 2022, and it was amazing.
You may be surprised at the distances within the park, and you’ll need time to get around to see everything. It is 20km from Yulara to the Mala car park at Uluru, and over 50km to Kata Tjuta. Speed limits in the park are max 80km/h so it does take some time to see everything.
Can I take my pets to Uluru?
You may not take your dog into Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. However, the Ayers Rock Campsite is dog friendly. When you are there, you could organise a pet-sit swap with another camper (where you look after each other’s dogs on separate days while you go into the park).
You may find a pet-sitter locally in Yulara to look after your dog. Cats are not allowed into the township of Yulara at all, so you will need to find a pet-sitter or cattery in Alice Springs.
Can you climb Uluru?
Uluru has been a sacred men’s site for the Anangu for tens of thousands of years. In Anangu culture it is forbidden to climb the rock. Visitors to Uluru began climbing the rock in the 1930s, and in 1964 a chain was installed along the steepest part of the climb. Hundreds of thousands of visitors climbed the rock in the following decades. The ownership of Uluru was handed back to the Anangu in 1985. Calls for the climb to be closed increased, until the joint management committee voted unanimously to close the climb in October 2019.
However, it wasn’t just the cultural impact of climbing, there was an environmental impact too. The erosion scars are still visible where people climbed hanging onto the chain. There are no toilets on Uluru, so people just went where they were… and when the rain came, all their waste (and rubbish) washed into the waterholes around the rock.
There have been 38 recorded deaths on Uluru. These deaths caused great sadness for the Anangu as in their culture they feel responsible for visitors to their lands.
Climbing on the rock is now subject to fines up to $10,000. Someone was fined $2,500 for climbing on the rock as recently as April 2023. If you would like to learn more about the history and culture of Uluru and the Anangu people, we highly recommend the book “I am Uluru” by Jen Cowley.
Where to Next?
If you’re looking for an off-road Adventure, check out Palm Valley and the Finke Gorge National Park
Heading north? Here’s the best things to see on an Alice Springs to Darwin Road Trip