The iconic Australian landmark itself.
Sorry (not sorry) for the bombardment of rock photos that are to follow.
So, I recently travelled around the Northern Territory over 10 nights on a Contiki tour (more posts about why I chose this tour and the NT itself to come shortly!)
As an Australian it was wonderful to see not only a part of my country that is so unlike the rest, but to also discover it through the eyes and perspectives of the many different nationalities on my tour (a fabulous bunch of fellow travellers) too!
STARTING WITH THE (STRANGELY) OVERLOOKED KATA TJUTA
Uluru was actually the last stop on our tour but I’m starting my NT posts with it because it was the highlight for me! We began our journey there from Alice Springs, which is a few hours drive away.
Arriving at our accommodation in the afternoon, we started out time in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park by visiting Kata Tjunta and walking up close and personal to some of the formations.
What most people, including myself at the time, might not know though is that in the same national park as Uluru and only about 30km away is Kata Tjuta (formerly also known as The Olgas).
This rock formation is actually bigger in size than its famous neighbour and truly beautiful too. A visit to Uluru isn’t complete without also visiting this site also.
We then got an early night in order to prepare for the hectic next day ahead, which was all about Uluru! Cue a memory card full of rock photos..now.
Rising before the sun we made our way to a look out to witness the colours change over the magical rock.
Visiting Uluru in March was well out of the peak season (Jun-Aug) yet, there was still quite a crowd so I would advise getting there early if you want people-less pictures!
It was really wonderful to see how Uluru looks so different depending on the time of the day.
TO CLIMB OR NOT TO CLIMB?
Next up we challenged ourselves with a walk around the entire base, which is 11km in length and took about three hours to complete. While of course it was all flat, the hard part was the searing heat and all the flies!
As we circled Uluru, it was impossible not to notice the people climbing it. They looked like small ants traversing a mound, they were so far away.
There are clear signs which kindly request that no person climb Uluru, since it is a sacred site to the Anangu people who are the traditional land owners here. This alone should be enough of a deterrent (it certainly was for my entire group).
However if that isn’t enough, the fact that there is just one chain to guide climbers up Uluru should be the other. One foot out of place on the climb up could mean severe injury or death, yet despite both of these reasons people continue to go to the top!
After our walk we spent a couple hours back at our hostel/resort. A few of us had decided we wanted to experience the view from the sky and opted for a helicopter ride.
Definitely not the cheapest of activities at around 200 AUD, the view was completely worth it (even if I had to battle my fears of flying, particularly in such a tiny machine!)
Continuing on with our busy day, our tour guide and driver organised a lovely champagne sunset event for us.
Watching the eventful day come to a close with such a fantastic view was hands down a massive highlight.
WHERE TO STAY
So where does one stay when they’re in the middle of the desert?
Quite remarkably, there’s almost a small town set up in the form of Ayers Rock Resort, the base point to explore Uluru, which has all your basic needs catered for with a supermarket and restaurants.
There’s a few choices of accommodation too from the basic to the luxurious (if you have a casual $2700 AUD to spend per night like Kate & Wills for Longitude 131).
As a budget tour we stayed at the Outback Pioneer Lodge which is the hostel option starting at 38 AUD per person, per night. The grounds itself were awesome with a lovely pool and bar area. The shared facilities for bathrooms and toilets were really clean too.
You can pay about 15 AUD for an all you can eat salad bar on site and choose to BBQ your own seafood or meats for a few dollars more, which was a popular dinner option.
There’s a free shuttle bus that circulates the resort for most of the day too so you can travel between your accommodation and the amenities.
As part of an organised tour this wasn’t something I had to organise since my transport to/from Alice Springs was sorted.
For those doing it themselves you can fly in and out of Ayers Rock Airport however, this is unsurprisingly expensive.
Instead, a popular option is to arrive in Alice Springs where you can either hire a car or organise a bus transfer to Ayers Rock Resort. There are also options to do this from Kings Canyon.