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Before we left Sydney in our trusty campervan, our decision process went like this. We’re going to drive to Uluru, no we’re going to play it safe and do a tour, no we’re driving…maybe we’ll do a tour.
Let me tell you though, deciding to drive through the outback to this insanely incredible, magnificent site was 100% the best decision. 60 hours-worth of driving to reach it was not something to be undertaken lightly but it was so worth it.
Seriously, you gotta do it!
After taking on such a mammoth drive, there was no way we were going to be leaving in a hurry. Fortunately, there are plenty of things to see in the area, besides the really famous bit. We actually spent 3 days in Uluru and so I’ve put together my ultimate 3 day Uluru itinerary for you to get all your plans into action!
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A few facts to know before you go to Uluru
- Uluru sits in the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park which includes Uluru itself (of course) and the lesser known Kata-Tjuta rock formations (The Olgas).
- Uluru is made from Sandstone and is thought to have started forming 550 million years ago.
- The rock is a whopping 348m tall, but much of its mass (2.5km worth) is actually underground!
- The rightful landowners are the Anangu people and Uluru is an incredibly sacred place. Be sure to visit respectfully by following paths and not taking photos where signs say not to.
How much does it cost to visit Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park?
You will need a permit to enter the national park which can be either bought online or at the entrance gate. They cost $25 per person and you will need to scan the barcode on it to get through the barrier. We opted to buy our permits online just to avoid any queues, and it made it super easy to enter as the permit was sent as an e-ticket so could be scanned from our phones. Permits are valid for 3 days or can be extended to 5 and you will need to choose the start date of the permit when you buy it.
When is the best time to visit Uluru?
We visited Uluru in June and whilst you might think it’s always hot, for us it was pretty cool in the day and really cold at night. We wearing coats in the day and sleeping in layers of blankets at night. In the summer however, the temperature can easily reach 40+ degrees and it stays hot at night too. I do honestly think it would be a great destination all year round.
What’s it like driving to Uluru?
The roads to Uluru are sealed roads so you do not need a 4×4 to get there. We travelled down to Uluru from Alice Springs which is about 5 hours away on one road. Driving in Australia can be spectacular but also pretty boring so we always stock up on plenty of snacks and download music and podcasts to help pass the time. If you want some podcast inspiration, take a look here for some of my favourites.
One hilarious thing that happens to a lot of people (and we definitely fell for this hard) is that the drive to Uluru from the North will take you past Mount Conor which to first timers, looks a heck of a lot like Uluru. Yeah, we got sucked into that along with a lot of other people!
Once you do make it to Uluru, the drive to the rock itself is actually insane. I was worried it was going to be underwhelming as it’s such an iconic landmark, but it took my breath away!
What’s in the area around Uluru?
Before I visited I had no idea that Uluru had a town right next to it. Yulara is the 4th largest town in the Northern Territory but it is pretty tiny. However, there is an IGA supermarket, a couple of souvenir shops, a few restaurants and a petrol station. Don’t get me wrong, Yulara is tiny and mostly made up of the resorts that have been built there but having some facilities nearby can be really handy.
Accommodation options at Uluru
There are a few accommodation options available when it comes visiting Uluru, including some seriously pricey resorts. However, as usual, we’re going to be sticking to the lower end of the budget! We stayed in 2 different camp spots, including a free camp.
Free camping near Uluru
Whilst there is no free camping permitted within the national park, there are some free camps within a reasonable driving distance. As you’re going to be spending 3 days in Uluru it’s a fine balance between getting a free camp spot and the amount of fuel it takes to get to and from Uluru. We spent a couple of nights at the Curtin Springs rest area which is about 12km outside of the national park. There are no facilities but it was worth it. Be sure to use the WikiCamps app to find the free rest stop nearby and check the comments to see how it is.
The cheapest accommodation in Yulara
If you’re looking to stay nice and close to Uluru then the cheapest option you have is the Ayres Rock Campground. Unpowered sites are around $40 a night for 2 adults but be sure to keep an eye out for deals. When we visited in May they were offering 3 nights for the price of 2. Take a look at their website here for more details and the latest deals available.
Your 3 day Uluru itinerary
There are so many fantastic drives in Australia, but the drive to Uluru rock absolutely tops it. Honestly, you’re going to love it! Start your day early and make your way into the National Park through the gates and follow the signs to the Mala car park. The road winds right around to Uluru rock and it’s an incredible sight.
To start your visit off, it’s time to conquer the 10km base walk. This track takes you around the entire base of Uluru and there’s really no better way to experience it. The walk takes about 4 hours and is flat the whole way around.
Pro Tip: There’s only one water refill station throughout the whole walk so make sure you bring enough with you. Even on the cold day we visited, we still got through about 2 litres each. If you don’t have one already, a flask is a must for travelling and a great way to reduce your single use plastic usage.
As you walk around you’ll be able to learn why it’s such a sacred site for indigenous peoples, spot artwork, find waterholes and read about dreamtime stories. As you walk the loop, you will come across signs that ask you to not take photos of the area as they are considered particularly sacred. Please be respectful travellers and follow the signs.
After an epic start to the day, return to the carpark and grab some food. We always prepare our own lunches but if you want to eat out, there’s a nice little café over at the cultural centre.
The cultural centre itself is a great place to learn more about the local indigenous communities, their beliefs and history of their fight to get their land back. I knew a little about the battles they had faced over the years, but this centre is a fantastic way to learn more, especially as you have spent the morning at one of the most sacred sites.
There are a number of viewpoints dotted around Uluru and for your first night, you have to make your way to the aptly named sunset carpark. Be sure to reach the carpark relatively early as there aren’t loads of spaces. From here you’ll get an awesome view of Uluru changing colour as the sun sets behind you.
Today is the day to explore the other half of the national park. Trust me, Kata-Tjuta or ‘the Olgas’ are just as impressive in their own right. There are two main walks at the Kata-Tjuta national park and both are fairly easy. Take your time to take in the rock formations and views of the surrounding land.
The Walpa Gorge walk is a pretty easy walk that takes you right into the gorge to a waterhole at the back. As you walk in you’ll get a great panoramic view across the land below. The Valley of the Winds walk is a longer walk and is divided up into sections that get more difficult. This route takes about 3-4 hours to complete so make sure you bring plenty of water with you.
The afternoon is a nice relaxing one after a morning of walking. Drive over to the Dunes Lookout for a different view of Uluru. You can also learn about the plant life in the area there and how the indigenous people use them for different things such as ceremonies, building and medicine.
This was one of the things I was most excited to see at Uluru and it was every bit as awesome as I had hoped. The Field Of Light is an incredible art installation created by British artist Bruce Munro and is made up of over 300,000 component, 380km of optical fibre, 50,000 handcrafter light stems and covers over 49,000 square meters. When you’re here, there are lights as far as the eye can see and at night, you can see nothing else. It’s truly spectacular!
Tickets for the Field of Light have to be booked in advance and you have a choice of time slots. I recommend booking as far in advance as possible as you have to visit with a tour and cannot drive to the exhibit yourself. You can check availability on their website here.
On your final day in Uluru, you can’t miss out on watching the sunrise. Make sure you check the times for sunrise and give yourself enough time to reach the Sunrise car park. The early start will be worth it!
After a beautiful view to start your day, it’s time to get a different perspective of the national park- via helicopter! You can do helicopter rides in a lot of places all over Australia, but we had always promised ourselves to do one at Uluru.
And it. Was. Awesome!
We booked our helicopter ride through the visitor centre at Yulara and luckily they had availability for us. We chose to fly with Professional Helicopter Services and they were fantastic. They had great customer service and were really great to talk to in the pre-flight information. I’m biased as this was my first ever helicopter ride, but if you’re going to do just one, definitely choose Uluru!
To finish off your time at Uluru, take a final visit back to the rock and complete the shorter walks around it. The Mala and Liru walk offer you some more information about the indigenous culture, dreamtime stories and of course, a final close up of Uluru itself. On the Mala walk you will visit the caves where the Mala people camped when they first arrived at Uluru, before finishing off at Kantju Gorge. The Liru walk offers up a final fantastic view of the rock to end your visit.