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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 09 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Mark Chipperfield

Uluru, the world’s largest rock monolith, is synonymous with Outback Australia. Alongside the Sydney Opera House, it is perhaps Australia’s most iconic sight.

But The Rock is at the centre of a living cultural landscape known as the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a vast area of desert containing several other major draws – the domes of Kata Tjuta, Walpa Gorge and The Valley of the Winds. A few hours away, in neighbouring Watarrka National Park, is another extraordinary natural phenomenon – Kings Canyon.

It’s the place to come to experience the Australian outback, Crocodile Dundee-style. As well as admiring the jaw-dropping geology, you can sleep out in swag bags, sample bush tucker, dine under a billion stars and spot kangaroos.

Now under the control of its traditional owners – the ‘Anangu’ – the park offers a unique opportunity to experience and learn about the planet’s oldest living culture – the indigenous Aboriginal people. The local Anangu people offer a variety of excellent tours and activities – from guided walks to didgeridoo lessons and dot painting workshops.

Orientation

All of the tourism facilities for the park are concentrated in the township of Yulara, situated outside Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, about a ten-minute drive from the entry station. This is you base for trips to Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.

Most of the Yulara township is made up of the ‘Ayers Rock Resort’, an Aboriginal-owned complex that provides accommodation, restaurants and other essential services to people visiting the park. The resort is a one-stop shop for pretty much all of the organised tours and activities in the area.

Yulara is a settlement consisting of a few low-slung, modern buildings, a few gum trees and plenty of red dirt. While busy, Yulara is rarely crowded – it’s a different story at Uluru where the carpark is packed with campervans, coaches and hire cars.

The focal point of Yulara is the Ayers Rock Resort Town Square, a modest collection of cafes, shops and art galleries.

Most of the accommodation in Yulara is within easy walking distance of the square but a free bus service also operates – handy if want to avoid the desert sun.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

3 People painting
Experience

Dot painting with Maruku Arts

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

This dot painting workshop is an excellent and fun introduction to Indigenous Art, where participants learn about the different symbols used to create local Creation Time stories.

Best for ages: 4+ | £40 | 90 minutes

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People dining outside at sunset
Experience

‘Under a Desert Moon’ dining experience

Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

This unique Outback experience, hosted by the Kings Canyon Resort, sees you transferred to a secret location, free of light pollution, to dine by firelight and beneath the Southern sky’s canopy of stars. The evening kicks off with drinks and canapes at Carmichael’s restaurant.

Best for ages: 18+ | £40 | 5 hours

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Uluru (Ayers Rock)

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Rising up from the silent, otherwise flat desert floor, this 600 million-year-old gargantuan, ochre-hued monolith is both ethereal and mesmerising – its colour changes depending on the season and time of day.

Best for ages: 8+ | Free

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Sounds of Silence

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

The best-known outdoor dining experience in Australia – an unforgettable dinner in the desert under a billion stars, with didgeridoo music and a fascinating lesson in astronomy.

Best for ages: 8+ | £165

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Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Many stars over the silhouette of a flat mountain.
Experience

Astro Tour

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

With no air pollution and a tiny population, the Park is an ideal place to study the universe and these tours of the night sky are excellent – and led by entertaining astronomers. Tours depart daily, 2 hours after sunset, from the Ayers Rock Resort. Under 15s go free.

Best for ages: 4+ | £30 | 1 hour 15 mins

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A man playing the Didgeridoo in the desert whilst a couple watches.
Experience

Didgeridoo Workshop

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

The digeridoo, a long and thin musical instrument of Australia’s indigenous people, is one of the Outback’s most iconic symbols – and sounds. Playing it relies on a technique known as circular breathing which is much harder to master than it looks. These workshops are free – so why not give it a go?

Best for ages: 6+ | Free | 45 minutes

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Purple and yellow lights in fron of the silhouette of a red mountain.
Experience

Field of Light

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Created by British artist Bruce Monro, this unique and mesmerising light installation consists of 50,000 slender ‘stem’ bulbs arrayed in colourful formation over an area the size of 7 football pitches – all in front of the iconic Uluru. Wander through it, or dine next to it.

Best for ages: 4+ | £25

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Dot painted Aboriginal artwork close up
Experience

Gallery of Central Australia

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Dubbed a ‘cultural hub’, this arts centre in the Ayers Rock Resort showcases work from established and emerging indigenous artists, plus a range of cultural events. It hosts regular exhibitions, and offer free daily tours.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

Alice Springs to Ayers Rock (Uluru) One Way Shuttle

Alice Springs to Ayers Rock (Uluru) One Way Shuttle

Alice Springs

Travel by luxury bus on this one way transfer from Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock). Learn more about the flora and fauna as well as the ...

A189 | Rating 4.53 / 5 [116 ratings]

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Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock) Coach Transfer

Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock) Coach Transfer

Alice Springs

Let Emu Run Experience transfer you from Alice Springs to Ayers Rock Resort on our comfortable coach with air conditioning and an on board t...

A173 | Rating 4.61 / 5 [18 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Ayers Rock Day Trip from Alice Springs Including Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Sunset BBQ Dinner

Ayers Rock Day Trip from Alice Springs Including Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Sunset BBQ Dinner

Alice Springs

Experience the wonders of Kata Tjuta & Uluru as part of your Northern Territory adventure. Travel in air-conditioned comfort, hear intrigu...

A305 | Rating 4.67 / 5 [388 ratings]

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Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon Camping Safari from Alice Springs

Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon Camping Safari from Alice Springs

Alice Springs

Want to see the Red Centre's greatest natural attractions in under three days? Easy. Jump on this trip and you'll get to admire Uluru by sun...

A1,200 | Rating 5 / 5 [10 ratings]

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Tour supplied by:

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Emu Walk Apartments

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

This bright and airy apartment hotel is the perfect choice for families or groups of friends, with excellent facilities and a great location.

Official star rating:

Desert Gardens Hotel

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Excellently located in the heart of the Yulara township, this friendly garden hotel an oasis in this harsh yet beautiful arid landscape – and the perfect base to explore.

Official star rating:

Lost Camel Hotel

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Affordable quirky and fun, this small hotel is an unexpected delight in the Red Centre, with access to all the facilities of the Ayers Rock Resort.

Official star rating:

Sails in the Desert

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Fresh from a multi-million dollar make-over, this iconic desert resort has never looked better, and makes an ideal base for exploring Uluru.

Official star rating:

When to go

Winter (June to August) is the ideal time to be in the desert. This is also the busiest time of the year, when accommodation is at a premium, so spring and autumn can work well too.

Desert summers (December to March) are notoriously hot and not suitable for much physical activity. It’s also the wet season, when getting around can be difficult. Summer is when the air is filled with relentless swarms of annoying flies (though you can buy the classic hat with accompanying fly net to keep them off your face). On the plus side, it’s less crowded and rainfall over Uluru is spectacular.

Getting there and away

There are daily flights to Uluru from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with direct flights also available from Adelaide and Cairns. Those with plenty of time on their hands can book a cabin on The Ghan, a transcontinental railway from Adelaide to Darwin, and take a side trip from Alice Springs to Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

Getting around

Hotel guests arriving at Ayers Rock Airport will find a free shuttle to take them to their accommodation. All of the accommodation in Uluru is clustered around the Ayers Rock Resort town square. In the cooler months it’s easy to walk around the resort but if you want to avoid the desert heat jump aboard the free bus – it operates all year round, with departures every 20 minutes.

Since this is a desert region with no trains or bus routes, visitors will need to hire their own vehicle or join an organised tour to access the surrounding experiences.

Round-ups that include this destination