Everything you wanted to know about Australia’s Uluru

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We’re giving you the who, what, where, why and how of Australia’s Uluru (Ayers Rock). Here’s everything you’ve ever wanted to know about this landmark in the Australian outback.

Where is it?

It lies in the southwest corner of Australia’s Northern Territory, putting it almost slap in the middle of the country. It’s a 280-mile drive to Alice Springs, the closest large town.

What are the ways to get there?

There are four options: Join a tour out of Alice Springs. Take a five-hour Greyhound Australia bus ride from Alice Springs which costs around AUS $90. Drive the four-and-a-half hour journey. Or fly.

The road to Uluru (Image: Jo@net)
The road to Uluru (Image: Jo@net)

Connellan airport is about three miles from the small town of Yulara, where most people stay when visiting Uluru. Quantas has direct flights from Alice Springs, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Sydney.

Given how flat the surrounding area is, Uluru’s gigantic proportions can be lost in perspective. (Image: Klomiz)
Given how flat the surrounding area is, Uluru’s gigantic proportions can be lost in perspective. (Image: Klomiz)

Is it protected?

In one word, yes.

The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was established in 1987, ensuring the protection of Ayers Rock and nearby Kata Tjuta rock formation in the process. The park was immediately awarded UNESCO World Heritage status.

The outback isn’t all barren – the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park contains more than 416 species of native plants. (Image: robertpaulyoung)
The outback isn’t all barren – the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park contains more than 416 species of native plants. (Image: robertpaulyoung)

What is it?

A 1,250 foot-high sandstone monolith, with deep crevasses formed from water erosion. Some estimate it’s 600 million years old.

Weathering and erosion over several hundred millennia have created deep crevasses. (Image: Bitchin' Ol' Boomer Babe blog)
Weathering and erosion over several hundred millennia have created deep crevasses. (Image: Bitchin’ Ol’ Boomer Babe blog)

It’s not just high. Circling its base would work out as approximately a six-mile walk…look out for the two skull-like formations along the way.

The sandstone monolith is 2.2.miles long and 1.2 miles wide. (Image: Wombok)
The sandstone monolith is 2.2.miles long and 1.2 miles wide. (Image: Wombok)
This giant skull rock feature is in the side of Uluru. (Image: Percita)
This giant skull rock feature is in the side of Uluru. (Image: Percita)
At Uluru’s base there is a cave that looks like the top half of a skull. (Image: Shek Graham)
At Uluru’s base there is a cave that looks like the top half of a skull. (Image: Shek Graham)

Kata Tjuta is formed from the same band of granite, basalt and sandstone conglomerate.

Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas (Image: N/A)
Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas (Image: N/A)

What’s in the name?

The Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, the Anangu, believe this part of Australia was created at the beginning of time by ancestral beings.

Uluru is a place name in the local Yankunytjatjara tongue. Despite assertions to contrary, it has no other meaning.

On July 19, 1873, Australian explorer William Gosse became the first non-native to lay eyes on Uluru. He named it Ayers Rock in honor of the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers.

Today, the official name is Uluru/Ayers Rock.

What’s the spiritual significance of Uluru?

It’s difficult to convey the sanctity with which the Anangu hold Uluru and the surrounding area. To say it’s sacred doesn’t seem sufficient. In their eyes, the ancestors who created this space, and their spirits, still inhabit the land.

According to Tjukurpa, the traditional law that guides Anangu daily life, there are deep relationships among people, plants, animals and the physical features of the land.

Climbing generally is allowed, but is sometimes prohibited due to adverse conditions. (Image: Paleontour)
Climbing generally is allowed, but is sometimes prohibited due to adverse conditions. (Image: Paleontour)
The route to the top is extremely steep in places. (Image: jeffowenphotos)
The route to the top is extremely steep in places. (Image: jeffowenphotos)

Climbing Uluru isn’t prohibited. However, climbing goes against Tjukurpa. The debate surrounding the prohibition of climbing has lasted a long time, and will likely last for many years to come.

A chain runs along the path to the top, providing support for climbers. (Image: jeffowenphotos)
A chain runs along the path to the top, providing support for climbers. (Image: jeffowenphotos)
Walking tracks are clearly marked and signposted. (Image: amsfrank)
Walking tracks are clearly marked and signposted. (Image: amsfrank)

What’s the cost of a visit?

Two- or three-day visits can be costly, with room rates in Yulara ubiquitously high. Car rentals can also add up. Some budget visitors minimize costs by flying in and out in one day or by camping (AUS $20 per night).

Nearby town Yulara is a little more than 11 miles away. (Image: pinkiwinkitinki)
Nearby town Yulara is a little more than 11 miles away. (Image: pinkiwinkitinki)

When is tourist season?

April through October is tourist season – visitor numbers peak in July and August. The summer months of December and January typically usher in huge discounts on hotel rooms in Yulara.

What’s the best time of day to view Uluru?

Undoubtedly at sunrise or sunset when the rock holds a rich, deep red color.

Uluru is best viewed at sunset or sunrise. (Image: Richard.Fisher)
Uluru is best viewed at sunset or sunrise. (Image: Richard.Fisher)
Bathed in sunset light the rock glows a rich red. (Image: rumpleteaser)
Bathed in sunset light the rock glows a rich red. (Image: rumpleteaser)

What’s the weather like?

The average temperature in January (summer) is 100°F, while the average temperature in July (winter) is almost 70°F.

For many, the outrageous heat and swarms of flies will make a summer visit prohibitive.

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

(Main image: nosha)

Everything you wanted to know about Australia’s Uluru was last modified: January 14th, 2015 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (1167 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to momondo.com.