Uluru Travel Guide | How to Plan your trip to Ayers Rock

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Uluru travel guide where is Uluru
yes, it’s in the middle of nowhere! 

Welcome to the Uluru Travel Guide!

Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is big sandstone rock formation right in the middle of the Australian continent.

It’s way more than that though. It’s one of the most famous Australian landmarks and a life changing experience.

However, when I prepared the trip to Uluru with my friends, I found it surprisingly difficult to gather updated info about the place. The Lonely Planet itself dedicates only 4 or 5 pages to the site (!?).

That’s why I decided to write this Uluru Travel Guide to cover in detail :

…and much more!

The Uluru Travel Guide is not to be intended as a detailed walkthrough of the features of the Ayers Rock. It’s rather a step by step companion to help you planning your holiday to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, discover the various possibilities and find out the most suitable for your needs.

Note: all costs are expressed in Australian dollars.

Let the Journey Begin!

Uluru Travel Guide | What is Uluru and why should you visit it?

If you’re planning to visit it you probably already know this, but for those who don’t, here you are some quick tips:

  • Uluru is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site;
  • it’s  863 m (2,831 ft) high but most of it lies underground and you only see the tip of it, just like an iceberg;
  • Uluru is a sacred land to the Aboriginal people;
  • Uluru is a photographer’s paradise! The colours of the rock constantly change from dawn to the sunset. As you walk around the rock you will notice how its physical conformation change, as well as the surrounding vegetation and local fauna;
  • It’s a place to visit at least once in a lifetime especially for the spectacular sunsets
  • At Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park the sky is extremely bright, perfect to gaze the stars.

Uluru Travel Guide | Best time to visit Uluru

Uluru travel guide best time to visit Uluru

As you can see from the table above:

  • Uluru can be VERY HOT especially from October to March (with heavy rainfalls), temperatures range from 35C (95F) up to 45 C (113 F)
  • May and September are probably the best months if you’re planning to visit Uluru (low chance of rain and not too hot in the daytime)
  • from June to August the weather is cool in the daytime, very cold at night.

I visited Uluru in August and it turned out to be a very good choice. The weather was cold in the early morning but quite pleasant in the afternoon. The sun goes down very quickly in August (roughly at 5.30 pm) and it immediately gets pitch black and very cold. This is the moment when you want to get back to your room, have a shower, get ready your equipment for the next day. All the tours (to Uluru, the Olgas and the Kings Canyon) depart very early in the morning so be sure to get a good rest for the next day.

Before going to sleep, I suggest you to move away from the hotels lights and observe the wonderful desert’s night sky. I kid you not, the sky is Uluru is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in my life. Maybe only the African savanna at night is comparable with the beauty of the Outback’s sky. Be careful though: dingos, snakes, and other animals are very active during the night so don’t go too far.

Uluru Travel Guide | How to get to Uluru

uluru travel guide Ayers Rock - uluru alice springs map yulara

Yulara or Alice Springs?

Ok so now that you have decided when to go, it’s time to understand how to go.

Usually people visit Uluru departing from 2 main locations:

  • Yulara, just 20 km far from Uluru
  • Alice Springs, 450 km (270 mi) far Uluru

One of the most asked questions is “how far is Uluru from Alice Springs” and as you can see is VERY far. Precisely more than 20 times further away than Yulara. Now, it doesn’t take a genius to understand which one is the most convenient. This convenience comes at a quite steep price though. Yulara is incredibly expensive compared to anywhere else in Australia.

In Alice you can find plenty of accommodation at a very reasonable price and book a tour to Uluru. However, my advice is to dip a little bit into your savings and choose Yulara instead of getting a day trip from Alice Springs.

Let me explain why.

You’ll thank me at the end!

Why Alice Springs to Uluru is a BAD idea 🙁

To get to Uluru departing from Alice you need:

  1. a flight to reach Alice (of course)
  2. a bus/coach/car/flight to Uluru.

I’m not even considering the option of getting a bus from one of the major cities (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide,etc) to Alice, they’re all crazy expensive (more than a flight!) and the journey takes forever.

  • flight from major cities to Alice Springs: around 200-300$ (Served by Qantas and Virgin)

plus

  • 30 $ taxi from the airport to the town (15 km)

plus

  • bus/coach from Alice Springs to Uluru: 85$ once a day (served by Greyhound). Length of the trip 4.5 to 5 hours

or

  • car from Alice Springs to Uluru: fuel cost  is around $70 each way or $140 return + rentAttention: some roads are sealed other are not so think twice before taking this option. Driving from Alice to Ayers Rock is not exactly like driving from New York to Boston. You are in the middle of nowhere and anything can happen.

or

  • flight from Alice Springs to Yulara:  it’s usually around 130$ once a day. However it doesn’t make sense to me to take 2 flights instead of a direct one to Yulara.

As you can see the waste of time and energy is not worth it unless you are lucky enough to spend 1 month in Australia or more. In that case you can think about staying in Alice Springs few days and explore the Outback from there. The only real advantage of staying in Alice and take a day tour to Uluru is the cheaper price of the accommodation.

Why staying in Yulara is a GOOD idea! 🙂

Uluru travel guide Yulara to Uluru

  • flight from major cities to Yulara: 200-300$ (or more). As you see a direct  flight to Yulara can cost (booking in advance) as low as a flight from a major city to Alice. I personally spent 200$ with Jetstar
  • free shuttle bus from Yulara’s Connellan Airport to the resort.
  • you can wake up and be right in front of Ayers Rock in a 20 mins drive!
  • free shuttle bus looping around the resort every 15 mins
  • you can easily reach many other attractions like Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and the Kings Canyon
  • not to mention: the time saved, the convenience to come and go to the Rock as many times as you want.
  • Last but not the least in Yulara you can enjoy the unique experience of the Australian Outback living in one of the most remote places on Earth. In Yulara you feel one with the nature and you get some kind of intimacy with Uluru whereas Alice Springs is a quite developed town with a population of 30.000 people. Not quite the same thing.
Uluru travel guide flight ticket jetstar
Good times!

To sum up if you’re staying in Australia for only 15-20 days (like most people do) and visiting Uluru is a priority (as it should be!!!) I do not advise you to waste time travelling via Alice Springs just to save a few bucks.

Do not feel intimidated by the prices of the accommodation options in Yulara.

I was skeptical at first because some prices are simply insane.

However my friends and me didn’t regret it, it was a terrific stay, Mother Nature repaid us with an extraordinary experience we will remember for the rest of our life.

Uluru Travel GuideAccommodation in Uluru

Uluru Travel Guide | Accommodation in UluruYulara from above. Do you notice anything on the right? ©booking.com

Located in Yulara, right in front of Uluru, the tiny Ayers Rock Resort where I stayed is equipped with any kind of facility and service you can imagine. And that’s crazy considering you’re in the middle of nowhere! “Yulara” and “Ayers Rock Resort” are almost interchangeable terms because the resort occupies more or less the entire area of the village.

There are accommodation ranging from campgrounds & dorm rooms, to super luxurious hotel rooms. There are even mini-apartments, and a 5 star hotel! (who can afford that?!).

ayers_rock_resort_outback_pioneer_lodge_hotel_(8)
feel like an explorer

It’s a microscopic village with all you need restaurants, supermarkets, shops of all kinds, a swimming pool, a tennis court, a bank and even a post office!!

Check out how the resort looks like on my Uluru Travel Guide part II 

You can literally see the Rock from many lookouts which is alone worth the price. Staying at the resort, even for just 2-3 days, is a dreamy experience and my dearest memory of the whole trip to Australia.

It’s not the purpose of my Uluru Travel Guide to cover the high end or the camping options (I’m not much of a camper and I don’t recommend it anyway) so I’ll focus on the budget friendly accommodations which here, by the way,  cost like a room at the Hilton!

Let’s start with the hostel that I personally chose for my holiday!

Outback Pioneer Lodge

Uluru Travel Guide | Accommodation in Uluru outback pioneer lodge hotel
The Pioneer Lodge (where I stayed) and the Pioneer Hotel share the same reception

Uluru travel guide Ayers Rock kata tjuta Accommodation

My stay at the Lodge was awesome, the room was fully equipped with A/C, TV, fridge,  kettle, en suite toilet and comfortable bunk beds.

(Have a closer look at my room here!)

You have also access to an outdoor swimming pool and a shared kitchen. I did use the kitchen once, it’s quite big and there’s all you need to cook or reheat some food.

It’s probably the best value accommodation in Yulara. If you’re on a budget you can get a bed in a dorm room (20 people) for a even cheaper price.

Outback Pioneer Hotel

Uluru Travel Guide | Accommodation in Uluru
©booking.com

The Outback Pioneer Hotel share the same reception with the Lodge, but there’s a decisive step up with the quality of the rooms (and the price!). It’s  a mid-range option. The rooms can accommodate  up to 4 people and there should be (not sure)  even a small kitchenette in each room.

Desert Gardens Hotel

Uluru Travel Guide | Accommodation in Uluru
©booking.com

Another mid-range option. Talked to the staff on my my to the town square and they told me is one of the very first hotels ever build in Yulara. Worth checking if you want a full equipped hotel room.

Emu Walk Apartments


The last of my mid-range personal selection is the Emu Walk Apartments. These cosy mini flats perfect for families or if you’re travelling with children.They all come equipped with a  washing machine and each has a small balcony/porch. I walked past them a couple of times and they looked very homely. I’d love to stay here next time money permitting!

and…

if you can afford it…a quick mention to the 5 star hotel of Yulara. Have a look at the Sails in the Desert Hotel. Just wow.

uluru travel guide sails desert
the reception at Sails in the Desert Hotel ©booking.com

Uluru Travel Guide Where to eat in Uluru

Ok guys let’s be honest, there no cheap place to eat in Yulara’s Ayers Rock Resort.

But….wait!

I have the perfect solution for this problem.

If you want to save some money my top suggestion is: do your shopping at the Yulara IGA Supermarket. At the supermarket you can find ALL you need to make sandwiches at a reasonable price. Everything is fresh and there’s plenty of choice: fruit, vegetables, ice creams, xbox games, you name it. You can get all you need to cook some pasta, noodles or whatever else and cook it at the shared kitchen near the BBQ.

A relatively cheap option is the Pioneer Barbeque  which is a cook-it-yourself barbeque with an peculiar Australian twist: they serve crocodile, barramundi, emu and kangaroo meat among the others. I tried them all (for something like 25$ ), but I was a bit disappointed by the scarce quantity. It was a good fun though to cook it by myself on the BBQ!

The last low priced alternative to restaurant dining is the Outback Pioneer Kitchen. Personally I tried once, I got a burger and fries which was alright. They serve pizzas, salads, wraps, sandwiches and it’s located next to the BBQ.

If you’re not on a shoestring you can try the buffet at the Winkiku or at the Bough House!

Uluru Travel GuideThings to do in Uluru

Finally, it’s time to visit the Rock!

There’re different ways to do that, and my advice is to book a coach tour / minivan as soon as you arrive at your hotel (likely for the coming morning).

There is an 25 $ entry fee to the Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park  which allows you to visit the Park for 3 days. Sometimes the cost is already included by the tour operators. You may want to check that out at your hotel reception.

The best way to visit the park is to do it by yourself, at your own pace.

In my opinion this is the most rewarding and emotional experience you could possibly get and the cheapest too! It can be done by reserving a ticket for a shuttle minibus to/from  Ayers Rock and doing the exploring on your own. Other options include renting a car or buy a coach tour.

Let’s see how they differ.

uluru travel guide
I went to Ayers Rock by Uluru Express and to the Kings Canyon by AATKings. Both recommended
  • by shuttle bus: 70$ return. That’s how I visited Uluru! I chose a company called Uluru Express which basically take you there and back. That’s it! as they advertise, the adventure is yours to enjoy your own way. Agreed and RECOMMENDED
  • by car: 120-140$ a day. I wouldn’t recommend this option unless you’re a group of 3-4 and you can split the cost. Remember you might need an international driving license depending on your nationality. Roads are not a problem, they’re well paved and in perfect conditions as far as I could see. You might be better off with the shuttle bus mentioned above which can drop you and pick you hassle free but that’s up to you! CHEAPEST OPTION
  • by coach: aimed at senior people/on a rush tourists. This is the most relaxed and comfortable way to experience Ayers Rock. I can recommend AAT Kings which is the same company I used for my day trip to the Kings Canyon. They offer plenty of half day tours to the Rock and Kata Tjuta. Tours usually include transportation on a air conditioned coach, breakfast, a driver guide, on the road commentary (much better than Uluru Express) and a local guide on walks. Prices varies greatly based on the specific tour. Make sure to check their official website for updated info.

Regardless of the method chosen and the hotel in which you are staying, the driver/guide will provided you with a multitude of maps. Depending on the chosen route, they will repeat a hundred times the return time and the meeting point so do not worry. I will

The paths (that in many cases is the only path!) is well marked and it is really impossible to get lost. In any case, you always have a HUGE landmark right next to you!

uluru travel guide kata tjuta olgas
The mysterious Olgas (Kata Tjuta) is an ideal destination for a day

Apart from Uluru, these are other activities you can consider:

  • Kings Canyon: the 6 km (3.7 mile)  Rim Walk takes three to four hours BUT usually the tours cover it only partially and you will hike on a 2 hours smaller circuit. I immensely enjoyed this hike and it was one of the highlights of of trip to Australia. (I’ll talk about that on a future post). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
  • Kata Tjuta (The Olgas): Uluru’s little sisters! These 36 rocks are located 50 km far from Uluru. It’s indeed a must see if you’re spending at least 3/4 days in Yulara. Visiting Ayers Rock and the Olgas on the same day is not a wise idea since they’re not that close and you won’t have enough time to dedicate to both. Better to allow the Olgas an entire day. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
  • Cultural Centre: described by one the Lonely Planet authors as “superb”, probably after drinking few Carlton Draughts. I found it extremely depressing, stale and dusty, not very informative and quite boring. Besides, the staff looked even more depressed than the exposition itself. Pro: it’s free and you can rest, get an ice cream and wait for the shuttle bus back to the resort. NOT RECOMMENDED
  • Voyages Outback Sky Journey tour:  It’s a star gazing tour with resident astronomers. You can play around with telescopes, binoculars and Pads. price 46$ adults, free for children. RECOMMENDED especially to families and wannabe astronomers like me.
  • Sounds of Silence: freaking  expensive (200$ !!) but I wanted to mention it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime dinner with indigenous dance and a guided tour of the night sky. Beverages and transportation included (bet they are with 200 bucks). Recommended if you can afford it!
  • Field of Light: It’s an highly celebrated art installation by Bruno Murno. Managed by AAT Kings, includes transportation, entrance to the field of lights installation, beverages and a travel guide. Some of my Instagram followers strongly recommend this tour as an unique experience in Uluru but I haven’t visited it personally.  There are 500+ reviews on TripAdvisor and most are super positive so you can check that out. Price 70$. RECOMMENDED
Uluru travel guide What to do Ayers Rock field of lights
Some of the most popular packages offered by the hotels in Uluru

Uluru Travel Guide | Can you climb Uluru ?

The crux of the matter lies in the fact that Uluru “belongs” to the Anangu people (an Aboriginal community) and climb it is against their wishes. The quotation marks are not meant to be ironic, in fact they don’t actually own it. They have only been granted a 99 years loan deal by the Australian Government. Uluru has a deep religious and cultural value for them and that’s why they prefer you don’t climb it. It’s like disrespecting it.

Therefore someone prefers to avoid it. Anyway someone else climbs it to the top to get the most of this adventure in the Outback.

The Australian Government gave back Uluru to the original owners with the agreement that the visitors of the Park could continue to climb.

So if you’re asking me, climbing is not illegal and if you are fit enough go for it. If it hadn’t been closed due to the strong wind on the day I visited the Rock, I would have climbed it for sure. The panorama from up there must be breathtaking. Miles and miles of Outback far as the eye can see.

Beware: make it to the top is not easy at all. You need to be quite fit and considerate as well. It’s steeper than it looks on the photos you can find on the web. From what a guide told me it can take anything from 1 to 2 hours to make it to the summit. That being said, it’s not a mission impossible, you just need to be very careful and aware of the risks you’re taking. More than 200.000 people climb it every year!

Have a great time at Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park!

time to get more insights on the Ayers Rock Resort and discover the most remote resort on Earth!! keep reading the second part of the guide 😉

Uluru travel guide Ayers Rock kata tjuta

It took me many hours to write this Uluru Travel Guide and I did it purely for the pleasure to share with you my wonderful life experience in the Outback. Exploring the surroundings of Uluru, discovering its wonders and secret is a memory I will cherish forever.

I tried my best to put together all the info I’ve got into this Uluru Travel Guide, adding my personal experience and some good advice to it. There’s much more to say about this magical land and I’ll try to cover it in the next weeks with further posts. Hope you found it helpful! 

If you’re going to Uluru please consider booking your room clicking on my links, I will get a tiny commission from Booking.com which helps to cover the costs of running this website. 

Feel free to bookmark this page and comment below for any question you may have!

Have a great time in Uluru!

Joe

(I stayed at: Outback Pioneer Lodge cheapest & recommended! 

for other options: check booking.com Ayers Rock hotels).