Australia: Visiting Uluru

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When I was planning our trip to Australia, everyone told me that I would need to go to the Red Centre and to discover, first hand, the beauty of Uluru, the world’s largest monolith that sits in the Outback.

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I also learned that to visit, it could be very, very expensive. My husband suggested that we skip it; but I didn’t want to do that. We were going to be in Australia. I wasn’t going to do something that was highly recommended by everyone I talked with, including a friend who went to Australia and the only thing she regretted was that she didn’t go to see it.

And while in all the research I did about how expensive it was to get to Uluru, how expensive it is to visit it and how expensive it can be to stay there…

Not once did I read anywhere that Uluru should be skipped due to the expense.

Absolutely no one said, “Don’t do it! It’s not worth it!” Instead, most people just chalked up the expense to being, after all, in The Middle of No Where.

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First, a Few Definitions:

Red Centre

This part of Australia:

Red Centre Map

It’s is called such for the beautiful red rock and sand that covers the landscape. There is more to the Red Centre than Uluru; but with our limited time, we decided to fly straight in to Ayers Rock airport (AYQ) from Melbourne (about a 3-hour flight) and make the most of it. The nearest city is Alice Springs, which is about 6 hours away by car or about a 1.5-hour flight. {Although I’ve read stories about flights to AYQ often being unreliable or canceled from Alice Springs, making it difficult to catch any booked tours.} Alternatively, the tour company AAT Kings makes a daily trek to and from Alice Springs, making stops along the way to feel more like a tour than just a ride on a coach bus.

Ayers Rock

Ayers Rock = Uluru. Ayers Rock is just the English name for the monolith. It was named after Chief Secretary Sir Henry Ayers, when it was “discovered” by explorers around 1872.

Uluru

Uluru = Ayers Rock. This is the more appropriate, Aboriginal name, given to the monolith by the Anangu people. The monolith is listed as both Uluru and Ayers Rock throughout the region.

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta is another rock formation not far from Uluru. It is also known as Mt. Olga or The Olgas in English.

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Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

The park is the land that encompasses Uluru & Kata Tjuta, for both cultural and conservation efforts. A standard 3-day pass to visit the park is $25. You must have a pass whether you visit on your own or are on a tour. This is the minimum and least expensive pass. You can read more about the National Park here.

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Yulara

Yulara is the service village just 18 km from Uluru. There are 800 people who live in the service village to serve you and make your stay welcoming. This is where all of the accommodation is located.

Ayer’s Rock Resort

Unless you are camping or on a Glamping Tour, Ayers Rock Resort is the only place you can stay if you are visiting Uluru. The Resort owns pretty much everything in the village. From my understanding this includes all hotels and restaurants. For that reason, you can dine in any of the hotels’ restaurants and put it on your room.

If you are on the cheap, there is a youth hostel at the resort, which (at the time of this writing) runs $38 for a Dorm Bed or $203 for a Budget Room (without bathroom) per night. You can also camp for as little as $36 per night for two people for a non-powered site, provided you have brought your own camping equipment.

The hotels run (at the very least!) of $250 – $400 per night {with a two night minimum} for a basic room. There are also luxury options (about $2200 per night with a two night minimum.) All accommodation requires complimentary shuttle to and from the airport.

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Ayers Rock Resort – Yulara – The Red Centre

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Visiting:

There are so many ways to visit Uluru & Kata Tjuta.

  • From Alice Springs – Fly, drive (approx 5 hours to Uluru) or take a bus (approx 6 hours)
  • Fly directly into the Ayers Rock (AYQ) airport.
  • DIY – This was the number one way I was recommended by Trip Advisor. We did not follow this advice, however. We didn’t want to do deal with renting a vehicle. We also wanted guided explanations of what we were seeing, including culture and history, rather than reading out of a book.
  • Multiple Day Tour throughout the Red Centre. Most of these are Glamping Tours, which I’ve heard great things!
  • Guided Tours – There are so many options. There are walking tours, sunrise and sunset tours, camel tours, etc. With our limited time, we decided on a package deal of tours through Viator. I knew that I wanted to see Uluru at sunrise and sunset, walk around the base of Uluru, gaze at the stars sans light pollution and visit Kata Tjuta while we were there. You’ll hear more about the tours we took in subsequent posts.

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Other Important/Interesting Facts:

  • Time Difference – There is a half hour time difference in the Northern Territory from the East Coast of Australia. Strange to me, but true. You’ll hear more about this in a future post.
  • Size – You may think of Uluru as “just a rock;” but the sheer size of it, especially with the contrast of the flat surrounding landscape, is astounding! This will give you an idea:

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  • Circumference – It is approximately a 10k around the base of Uluru.
  • Temperature – It gets very hot in the Red Centre! It can get up to 114 degrees, but is also chilly in the evening. We went at, what I believe, was the perfect time of year! It was Spring – September 10th through 12th, to be exact. I believe we topped out in the eighties. We had a few annoying flies while we walked the base of Uluru, but not enough to need a net; although they are highly recommended in summer.
  • Climbing – Uluru should NOT be climbed. It is discouraged by the Anangu people.  But people still do:

I find it maddening that while it is posted everywhere that the Anangu people ask you not to climb something sacred to them, that people do not have respect for that message. The part that’s even sadder? That it’s still allowed for tourism purposes. It may be banned in the future, but complicated criteria must be met first.

A guide told us that in Japan, climbing Uluru is actually advertised. “Come climb the largest monolith in the world!” I guess if you come to the Red Centre not knowing in advance of the Anangu’s wishes and you pay for the climb, I can somewhat understand. But watching people climb still made me angry.

Furthermore, it can be very dangerous.

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More on Uluru to come!

Other posts on our trip to Australia:

Where have you been where local traditions or wishes have been ignored or disrespected?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 responses »

  1. Looking at your photos reminds me of how beautiful the colours are out there and how VERY special the rock is. Couldn’t agree more about people climbing the rock – it should not be allowed!

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