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Along Lasseter Highway is a magnificent sandstone monolith standing more than 340 meters high and shining bright red. This is Uluru, the red heart of the Australian continent. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has a rich connection to Australia's indigenous culture in the past. Just 16 km away is the Kata Tjuta, another geographical wonder, made up of 36 conglomerate rock domes that have existed for 500 million years. The entirety of Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park stretches around 1,300 square kilometers of arid land ecosystems that are home to vast species of flora and fauna only found in dry settings.
The park is open all year round, excluding areas closed for privacy of the indigenous families residing there. Tourism is a flourishing industry here, while locals promote their cultural and natural heritage with a unique combination of Aussie hospitality and stunning landmarks. If you're planning to visit Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park, you're in for a treat. Here are the top things to do in Uluru, from the thrill of the great outdoors to the laidback viewing of the setting sun.
- Hike around Uluru and get close to the red rock's unique geographical marvel
- Discover Australia's Anangu culture by paying a visit to the park's cultural center
- Go camping outside the premises of the park or stay in five-star luxury accommodations nearby
- See the Wakagetti Dancers perform around a bonfire
- Fires are common in this arid location, usually occurring when storms arrive in hot weather
- The park is isolated from public facilities
There is more to Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park than just viewing the massive monolith. The national park may be located in the middle of the Australian Outback, but it allows for a chance to enjoy unique activities that you can only experience in a desert landscape, thousands of kilometers away from the cities.
1. Hike around the rock
The 10 km route around the base walk is around three hours, complemented by guided tours and Aboriginal stories. You'll be walking into a complex circuit of caves, gorges, and galleries, with traces of the land's prehistoric culture embedded into the tableau. Climbing the Uluru Rock is discouraged as the local Anangu tribe considers the rock to be of spiritual significance.
2. Step into the Valley of the Winds
This 7-kilometer stretch within the Kata Tjuta is one of the must-see Uluru attractions. A challenging feat for every explorer, this three-hour walk is worth the effort, especially with two lookout points that give you a better look at Kata Tjuta. Lace up your sturdy shoes and pass through the isolated gorges. Be prepared to meet kangaroos and other outback wildlife along the way.
3. Visit the Cultural Center
A stop at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre is one of the best things to do near Ayers Rock premises. Here, locals will guide you through an interactive walk as they explain how indigenous people use natural resources for food and medicine. Have a go at throwing a native boomerang, or explore aboriginal legends and cultures through frescoes and wall displays.
4. Watch the sunrise
Hold your breath, early risers. The colors of Uluru shine the best as the morning sun rises among the clouds. Consider booking a helicopter tour and enjoy the view from above as you watch the light and shadows form around the rock's facets.
5. See the stars
Look up at the night sky and revel at the thousands of glittering stars above. The Northern Territory gives you a glimpse of the southern skies, allowing you to discover constellations you have never seen before. Guided tours will further your knowledge of astronomy, with scientific facts about planets and galaxies, complemented by local myths thrown in between.
6. Drop by King's Canyon
Located to the East of Uluru, the Kings Canyon is another prime attraction famous for its scenic rim walk. Continue your exploration of rock formations and deep gorges in this location, 3.5-hours drive away from the main park.
7. Meander through Walpa Gorge
Compared to the Valley of the Winds, Walpa Gorge is an easier trek, with a 2.6-kilometer return trail through a grove of spearwood trees. The reddish gorge walls have become a refuge for flora and fauna hiding from the hot sun. You may chance upon an ephemeral stream that runs along this rocky track, which only appears depending on the weather.
8. Ride a camel
Hop on a camel's back and explore Uluru just as the early pioneers did. Wander around the sand dunes as lead cameleers describe the unique biodiversity and the surrounding landscape as you move.
9. Dine under the sky
Open-air restaurants offering bush-tucker inspired cuisine give a whole new meaning to fine dining. Here, you get to enjoy your wine under the star-sprinkled sky set against the magnificent silhouette of Uluru. In Sounds of Silence, lights are turned off as an astronomer guides you through the southern skies.
10. Walk into the Mutitjulu
Found in the base of Uluru is a watery sanctuary, home to the Wanampi, an ancestral water snake. Shaded by the impressive stone walls of Uluru, Mutitjulu boasts convenient walking trails and Aboriginal rock etchings. Waterfalls magically stream down from the rock during the rainy season. In warmer days, you can hear the echo of the nankeen kestrels, small Australian falcons from above.
- Good walking shoes, fly net, insect repellent and sunscreen cannot be missed.
- A bottle of water is a necessity as most facilities are not easily available within the park.
- A broad-brimmed hat; this is useful to ward off insects, as well as to protect yourself from the nasty bite of the Australian sun.
- April through October is Uluru's tourist season, peaking at July and August
- Summer months, especially December and January, offer huge discounts in accommodation
- The average temperature in Uluru is 37 °C during summer and 20 °C during winter
- Some sacred sites of the Aborigines should not be photographed without permission
An iconic landmark, Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park is one of the most breathtaking national parks in Australia. One that you have to see in real life to fully appreciate. Here, you will have a firsthand experience of the Australian Outback, paired with interesting activities, cultural immersion, and unique dining experiences. There are many things to do in Uluru, most of which revolve around an unobstructed view of the sun, stars and the rock. But other than its unique landscape, Uluru is also home to Australia's aboriginal culture and diverse wildlife. The brilliant red monolith is a sacred haven, and while tourists are allowed to explore its slopes and gorges, one must remember to pay respect to its legacy as they journey along.
For more tours and bookings in Australia, see Tours in Australia.