We absolutely loved Uluru and Kata Tjuta, everyday there was something new to see and learn about the heart of our home country. Here's a bit of a guide we've compiled to get you started planning your trip to the heart of Australia!
Some people including myself, thought that Uluru and Kata-Tjuta National Park was a stone’s throw from Alice Springs. This couldn’t be more wrong, it’s a multi hour drive. The campgrounds and hotels are located in a small township called Yulara, which is essentially the central hub for all things tourism. Equipped with shops, cafés and interactive exhibitions here and there, most things you could need are in the township. There are several accommodation options, from camping in style from $50, to family-friendly Emu Apartments and then a cut above that are luxury rooms at Sails in the Desert, pricing varies seasonally.
The undisputed heart of Australia, Uluru is truly a sight to behold. We took the time to digest the history at the cultural centre before getting a closer look. There is so much to be gained by sitting and listening to the aboriginal elders, which we’ve discovered during our trip everywhere we've been. We learned about Tjukurpa from an Anangu elder, which forms the foundation of their culture. Once we were clued up about the sandstone monolith, we headed straight for it. We laced up and tackled the base walk, which takes you through several cave formations and significant sites. The base walk is over 10kms, but can be done on foot, bike or even Segway if you are feeling touristy enough - allow 4 hours and bring plenty of water. The Mala walk is a 2km alternative that shows the majority of the cave formations, its guided and leaves daily at 8am in summer or 10am in the cooler seasons.
Another important thing to note, is that you need to buy a ticket to enter Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, $38pp for a 3 day, or $50pp for an annual pass - three days is hardly enough time for all the park has to offer, so opt for the annual pass.
Less popular but equally magnificent, Kata-Tjuta was our personal favourite, we found the iconic Valley of the Winds walk to be more immersive than Uluru's base walk, as you get to walk through, rather than circle around. True to its name, the Valley of the Winds hike blew a gale worth holding onto our hats for, which felt almost unnatural once we reached the viewpoint. The walk is far more challenging than the base walk and definitely warrants putting on some appropriate footwear and bringing a water bottle. Allow 6 hours including the drive and a bite to eat.
Sounds of Silence Dinner
We enjoyed champagne and canapes to kick off the evening, while watching Uluru turn a crimson red as the day came to a close. Once the sunset theatrics ended, the real experience began. Dinner underneath the stars, astronomy and gastronomy; perfectly paired. A spread of delectable modern cuisine with a touch of Indigenous influence here and there, made for a feast that was fit for a king. When we were borderline-comatose from overindulging in the wining and dining, an unexpected show began. The lights went out, the background music stopped. An astronomer appeared from nowhere, equipped with a laser pointer that could melt steel beams. He began giving us a grand tour of our solar system, pointing out notable constellations in the crystal-clear night sky. An interactive experience closed out the evening where we gazed into orbit with a telescope to see Jupiter and other stars. The experience comes with a hefty price tag of $230pp but we think it’s money well spent.
Field of Lights
A larger-than-life art exhibition created by Bruce Munro in 2016, the field of lights is a beautiful mess of tangling fibreoptics and handblown glass bulbs. We wandered endlessly through the fields, admiring each section as much as the last. It was so naturally sprawled out, that it seemed like it wasn’t created by man, which added to it’s marvel. We could hardly capture it’s beauty in a photograph, which might be a sign that people should go see it for themselves. The licence for the exhibition continues to be extended, but it won’t be around forever. Tours start at $45pp with the option of including sparkling wine and snacks for twice the price.
Sunsets & Sunrise
Whether it’s at Uluru or Kata-Tjuta, golden hour is the perfect time to be around. The soft light brings out all of the deeper colours that you otherwise miss throughout the day, ideal for capturing anything for the gram. It’s also just the nicest way to start or finish your day, we spent most mornings finding new spots for sunrise, with our pick of the bunch being the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku Sunrise Viewing Area the cultural centre, with unhindered view of both Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. Sunsets are best spent with drink-in-hand at the sunset viewing area on the road into the national park, you won't miss it - trust me.
Ilkari is a gourmet buffet restaurant, attached to the Sails in the Desert hotel. They run breakfast and dinner buffets that boast a huge spread of delectable cuisine, at $45/$75 respectively. However if you're staying at the campgrounds, there's a huge discount. We had an early lunch to leave plenty of room to indulge for dinner, which was so worth it. Indian, Asian, Spanish and more, we were spoiled for choice, then of course dessert. We also gave breakfast a whirl a few days later and while it was good, it doesn't include barista coffee and there's limited Vegan options.
While we didn't actually do a helicopter or light plane trip over Uluru, enough people told us how magical it was, so I thought I'd add it to the list. The best time to hit the skies is sunset, as the colours are so much more vibrant. The helicopter experience from what I'm told is more intimate due to less passengers aboard, but i didn't hear any complaints from people who been on plane rides either. Both experiences will set you back north of $200pp at a minimum, but this was described to me as a bucket list item for some, which could be well worth it.
Our trip to Uluru-Kata Tjuta really opened our eyes, it was never a "must-see" for either of us. I can now confidently say it's something you need to see in this lifetime, it's so much more than a couple of big rocks. I hope this helps!