Things to do at Uluru

Take the time to discover the energy of the rock with these tips for the best things to do in Uluru.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today. He has been a journalist for more than 20 years and loves exploring different parts of Australia.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Travel Australia Today and has been a journalist for 20 years.

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The best things to do at Uluṟu

Use the table of contents to jump down the article - or continue reading for my top tips on what to do at Uluṟu.

The rock dominates the landscape out here, a red monolith rising from the flat desert that stretches out for hundreds of kilometres around it.

When you visit Uluṟu, the rock will also be the focus of much of your time – and rightly so. But it’s not the only important site here, and it won’t take you long to realise there are plenty of other things to do at Uluṟu.

Things to do at Uluru: Talinguṟu Nyakunytjaku
Me at the Talinguṟu Nyakunytjaku sunrise area

This isn’t a theme park, though. You’re not going to find those irrelevant attractions built just to entertain tourists. No, the things you’ll see at Uluṟu will all give you a deeper insight into the two elements that define this special place – the culture and the nature, which both intertwine.

From a distance, Uluṟu may just look like a big rock. You may wonder how you’re going to spend your days at Uluṟu once you’ve seen it the first time. But as you get closer, you’ll discover the textures of the sandstones, see the shapes on the rock face, be immersed in all the life that lives around its base.

Things to do at Uluru: The Base Walk
One of the walks along the base reveals the details of the rock

There’s a spiritual energy here. The Aṉangu people have felt it for tens of thousands of years, and visitors from all across the world can sense it when they’re here too. When you’re planning what to do at Uluṟu, be sure to give yourself time to find it yourself.

Things to do at Uluru: Sunrise viewing area
Even from a distance, you can see the textures of the rock

Watch a sunrise and a sunset, perhaps somewhere a bit more peaceful than the standard spots. Walk around some of the base and touch the rock, let it connect to you. And join some of the cultural experiences and guided tours to learn more about ‘Tjukurpa’ (pronounced: chook-orr-pa), which is the complex foundation of the Indigenous culture here.

How much does it cost to visit Uluṟu?

Unfortunately it’s not cheap to visit Uluṟu but the only expense that you can’t avoid – a park pass – is actually quite reasonable, at just $38 for three days per person. When it comes to accommodation, it’s expensive but there is a range of options. The same goes for food. And tours and activities can also be a bit pricey, but there are lots of free things to do at Uluṟu, such as the walks.

How many days do you need at Uluṟu?

Definitely more than one! This is not somewhere you want to rush, so be sure to give yourself a bit of time. I would recommend three days as the minimum (one day for walks, one for Kata Tjuṯa, and one for some other activities) but you could easily spend longer, if you wanted.

What things can’t you do at Uluṟu?

There are some restrictions at Uluṟu, for both environmental and cultural reasons. I would suggest you get the latest information if there’s something specific you want to know about. But a few of the main important restrictions are that you can’t climb Uluṟu anymore, you can’t take photos of some sensitive parts of the rock, you can’t fly drones, you can’t camp outside of official campgrounds, and you can’t bring pets into the national park (although dogs are allowed in some parts of the resort).

You don’t want to be rushed or stressed when you visit Uluṟu – but, having said that, it’s worth planning some activities in advance so you have a bit of an idea of the things you want to do at Uluṟu before you arrive. You won’t want to miss out on seeing Kata Tjuṯa, for example.

Things to do at Uluru: Kata Tjuta
Hiking through Waḻpa Gorge at Kata Tjuṯa

It takes time to drive between different parts of the park, so it makes sense to do things in the same area on the same day, if possible. Also, some tours and experiences can book out in the busy seasons, so it’s good to have them confirmed.

(And, on that topic, accommodation definitely books out early, so arrange that as soon as possible – more details at the end of this post.)

So, to help with your planning, I’ve put together this comprehensive list of the best things to do at Uluṟu.

Viewing areas

Throughout the day, the colours of Uluṟu change, and the shifting shadows create different shapes upon its face. You don’t just see Uluṟu once, you see it all day long from various perspectives, and it always looks new.

One of the most popular things to do at Uluṟu is to see the rock at sunrise and sunset. Although there are lots of spots where you could stop to see it, there are a few official options for you to consider.

Talinguṟu Nyakunytjaku

Also known as the ‘sunrise viewing area’, Talinguṟu Nyakunytjaku is the most popular location for people to see the first rays of the morning illuminate the rock. As a bonus, you can also see Kata Tjuṯa from here.

Talinguṟu Nyakunytjaku
The sunrise viewing platform at Talinguṟu Nyakunytjaku (after people have left)

The main viewing platforms near the carpark do have the least obstructed view, but they can also get quite busy, and you won’t forget that you’re a tourist here. Thankfully there are several kilometres of trails here that you can walk to find your own spot.

There are three shelters, which can be useful in the cold or wet weather, although I like being amongst the spinifex and other desert plants as the first light catches them.

Sunrise is a very special part of the day here and, even if you don’t want to head to this viewpoint, there are a few fantastic ways to start the day here. This sunrise camel safari is very popular – or there are some other options here:

Uluṟu sunset viewing

On the other side of the rock, the Uluṟu sunset viewing area is probably where the most photographs are taken of the site. Even if you’ve never been before, this is the image that you’ll recognise.

It’s so busy at sunset that there are actually two different areas – one for cars and one for tour buses. But, even though there’ll be lots of people here, the ropes keep them back and you’ll get a stunning uninterrupted view of Uluṟu as it glows red in the sunset.

I actually think this is also a great spot for sunrise. It’ll be very quiet and you’ll get a really interesting vista as the orange glow comes over the horizon and silhouettes the rock.

If you would like someone to organise the logistics for you, there’s this excellent sunrise tour of Kata Tjuṯa with breakfast. Or there are some other options here:

Kata Tjuṯa dune viewing

About 50 kilometres away from Uluṟu, you’ll find Kata Tjuṯa, the other main rock formation in the national park. I’ll go into more detail about Kata Tjuṯa shortly, but for now let’s talk about its two viewing areas – one for sunrise and one for sunset.

One of the best areas for sunrise is the Kata Tjuṯa dune viewing area, which has a 360 degree vista of the ochre domes. It’s quite far back from the rocks themselves, which gives you a perspective of how big they are – plus you can look over to see Uluṟu as well.

Kata Tjuṯa sunset viewing

The other official lookout is the Kata Tjuṯa sunset viewing area, which is much closer to the rocks. As the last of the day’s rays hit the ancient formations, they’ll glow red right in front of you. This is quite close to the start of the trails, so you could come here after you’ve done a walk.

Like over at Uluṟu, you can also go to the sunset area at sunrise (and vice versa). It will be much quieter, which can be nice, plus you’ll get a different impression with the shape more silhouetted, as you can see in my photo.

Kata Tjuṯa sunset viewing area
The Kata Tjuṯa sunset viewing area – at sunrise!

Either way, I think it’s worth doing at least one sunrise or sunset at Kata Tjuṯa while you’re here.

Walks at Uluṟu

Although there are lots of ways to see and experience the rock, there’s nothing more primal than just walking on the red earth, feeling the sun on your face, and touching the ancient formations.

When you take one of the main walks at Uluṟu and get close to the base, you’ll not only notice the textures and colour variances of the sandstone, you see the caves and the rockfalls, the stains from water cascading down, and the holes from wind chiselling bits away.

Many of these unique markings on the rocks are used by the Aṉangu to explain parts of their Tjukurpa folklore, almost as if it is a form of scripture written in the geology. There are some information signs along the walks to explain this, but you’ll also benefit from guided tours.

Mala Walk

One of the best walks at Uluṟu, the Mala Walk is quite short but takes you past some wonderful examples of the natural beauty and cultural significance.

The walk is just two kilometres return and should take you about an hour by the time you stop to see things along the way. Starting at an open area with some dramatic red slopes, you’ll head amongst shade-offering trees and past some picturesque caves, some of which have sacred meanings.

Mala Walk, Uluru
The Mala Walk takes you up close to the rock’s base

The rock walls start to become quite sheer and you’ll appreciate how high Uluṟu actually is. A cool and quiet waterhole at the end of the walk is a nice place to rest before turning around for the return leg.

There’s a free ranger-guided walk here every morning, which is a good way to start your day at the base.

Lungkata Walk

From the start of the Mala Walk, another option is to head anticlockwise around Uluṟu along the Lungkata Walk. It’s 4 kilometres return and will take you about 1.5 hours to walk at an average pace.

Along this route are some wonderful examples of the detailed rock formations along the base of Uluṟu, including some snake-like grooves that are said to represent the journey of a creation-era ancestor called Minyma Kuniya.

The walk may start with some hot and harsh desert elements but it gets cooler and greener as you approach the Muṯitjulu Waterhole – one of the most important life sources around the rock (and the focus of the next Uluṟu walk I would recommend).

Kuniya Walk

Of all the base walks you can do at Uluṟu, the Kuniya Walk is probably the easiest – and still gives you an excellent perspective of life around the base of the rock. From the carpark, it’s just a one kilometre return walk and you’ll easily get it done within half an hour.

Kuniya Walk, Uluru
The trail leading into the Muṯitjulu Waterhole

The main destination here is the Muṯitjulu Waterhole and it’s quite incredible to see a water source here in the arid desert, let alone all the animals that live around it. Expect large groups of birds and butterflies, for example.

This is a very important area for the Aṉangu people and, if you have a local guide, you’ll learn some creation stories about the site – although there are information panels for independent visitors. Make sure not to miss the rock art site here too.

Uluṟu Base Walk

If you have time, the best walk to do at Uluṟu is the Uluṟu Base Walk, which is a 10.6 kilometre trail that will take about three hours for the average walker. While there’s nothing particularly difficult about the terrain, you should start it early in the day to avoid the hottest hours.

Through the acacia woodlands and grassed claypans, the base walk takes you past every important marking on the rock face and, as you follow the path, you’ll be hiking alongside the most important stories of the Aṉangu culture. You don’t need to know every tale to appreciate their significance.

Base Walk, Uluru
The Base Walk is 10.6 kilometres in total

One of the nice things about the Base Walk trail is that sometimes it takes you very close to the rock, and other times it takes you a little further out, which means you get different perspectives. It’ll take you to some vantage points that you really won’t see any other way, so you’ll feel like you’ve seen the whole of Uluṟu by the end.

If you would prefer to have someone with you on this walk, you’ll definitely get a lot more from the experience with a guide, and I would suggest this excellent base tour.

Liru Walk

The Liru Walk is not one of the main trails but I want to mention it because it can be a nice addition to one of the other walks. It starts at the cultural centre and leads to the start of the Mala Walk, meaning you can park the car at the centre and then approach the rock from a distance.

The walk is just two kilometres each way and should only take about 30 minutes in one direction.

Dune Walk

And the Dune Walk is another offical trail but is very short. It’s only 600 metres return and starts from the sunset bus area. Leading up into the dunes, through the native vegetation, it gives you a chance to see some of the desert landscape that surrounds the rock.

Kata Tjuṯa

Uluṟu gets more of the attention, but Kata Tjuṯa (previously known as The Olgas) is just as spectacular in its own way. (And, remember, it is officially called Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park – and that’s because they are both very significant sites.)

About 50 kilometres away, the 36 large domed formations of Kata Tjuṯa cover about 20 square kilometres and can be up to 546 metres high. Unlike Uluṟu, which you walk around, at Kata Tjuṯa you walk through the rock formations, into canyons and around domes.

Things to do at Uluru: Kata Tjuta
The start of the walk into Waḻpa Gorge

For the Aṉangu people, Kata Tjuṯa is a sacred site for men’s business. Much of the area holds special significance and many of those stories can’t be shared with visitors. But you’ll be able to learn a bit about the cultural side of things here – and be impressed by the scenery.

Waḻpa Gorge

The most popular thing to do at Kata Tjuṯa is walk into Waḻpa Gorge. From the carpark, you’ll see the two sides of the canyon rising up with their deep red colour. As you go further in, you’ll find lots of colourful plants and wildlife that’s here because a creek sometimes runs through the centre.

Walpa Gorge walk, Kata Tjuta
In the middle of Waḻpa Gorge, with the dry creek bed

The Waḻpa Gorge It’s not a long walk and is only about 2.6 kilometres return, although you should leave yourself about an hour to do it. Here, between the two largest domes, you’ll see the textures of the sheer cliffs and find a different climate to the one you’ve just hiked from.

Valley of the Winds

The other walk you can do at Kata Tjuṯa is through the Valley of the Winds, a truly immersive experience where you’ll find yourself amongst the ochre domes that the site is famous for. You’ll get incredible views across the arid red landscape and see the details of the weather-sculpted rock.

The Valley of the Winds hike is 5.4 kilometres return and will take about two hours in total. There is a shorter alternative to just walk to the first lookout (Karu lookout) and then turn around and come back, which is 2.2 kilometres return.

The whole area on the Valley of the Winds walk is particularly sacred to the Aṉangu and they request you don’t take photos here.

Kata Tjuṯa tour

If you have a car, it’s an easy drive out to Kata Tjuṯa and the walks are well signposted. It’s fairly easy to do independently, although there’s nothing else out here, so make sure you bring plenty of water, food, and other provisions you might need for half a day.

Kata Tjuṯa from the air
Kata Tjuṯa as seen from a scenic helicopter ride

If you don’t want to organise things yourself, though, there are some excellent tours that will take you around the site, and give you expert local information about the significance of what you’ll be seeing.

There’s this 3-hour afternoon small-group tour, which is one of the best experiences to get up close to all the domes. Or there are some other options at different times of the day here:

Art experiences

The landscapes around Uluṟu are powerful and the cultural stories thought-provoking, so it’s no surprise that the Red Centre has been an inspiration for so many artists, Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

There are quite a few ways to see some of the art that has come from people who have spent time here, immersing themselves in the creativity of Central Australia.

Field of Light

When the Field of Light opened in Uluṟu in 2016, it was supposed to just be a temporary art installation. But it proved to be so popular that it’s now become a permanent part of the experience here, and one that I think is not to be missed.

The artwork by Bruce Munro consists of more than 50,000 illuminated bulbs that turn on when the sun falls and appear to be growing organically from the spinifex-covered desert. They are arranged in different patterns and gradually change colours, creating a magical effect.

Field of Light, Uluru
Me enjoying the Field of Light beneath the stars

You can’t just drive up and see the Field of Light yourself, you need to book a visit by bus from the Ayers Rock Resort. You can choose either the package that includes drinks and nibbles during sunset first, or the option where you just go straight to the art installation when it’s already dark.

Or, there is also this exclusive sunrise experience, where you’ll get a hot drink and biscuits as well.

Dot-painting workshop

When it comes to Indigenous art in the Red Centre, the most recognisable style is the dot painting. The images are normally aerial views of the land, showing landmarks as circles, people as U shapes, animal tracks, and much more.

A wonderful way to learn more about it is with a dot painting workshop run by Maruku Arts, an organisation owned by Aboriginal artists.One of them will tell you about their work and offer a demonstration, before you can try painting something yourself.

Dot painting workshop at Uluru
Learning to dot paint with Maruku Arts

The workshop takes place on the grass outside the shops at the Ayers Rock Resort, and you can book here.

Gallery of Central Australia

Also within the Ayers Rock Resort is the Gallery of Central Australia, a small art museum that has diverse collection of pieces from the local Indigenous communities in this part of the country. As well as large-scale dot paintings, there are smaller traditional works, wood carvings, and lots of other pieces.

Gallery of Central Australia
The Gallery of Central Australia at Ayers Rock Resort

It’s free to pop in and have a look and most of the artworks here are for sale. There are also biographies of the artists, so it can be a good place to do some research if you’re looking for some particular pieces.

Cultural Centre

The main Cultural Centre in the national park is also an excellent place to discover some artworks, along with lots of information about the environment and the heritage of the region.

The Cultural Centre is a series of buildings made with local mud bricks. You’ll enter through the Tjukurpa Tunnel, which has displays and a video explaining this complex concept of creation and way of living that has guided the Aṉangu for thousands of years.

Within the centre, there are several art galleries run by different organisations, which have lots of pieces on display and for sale. A bit like the Gallery of Central Australia, they are good places to do some research into the art styles here.

The Cultural Centre also has a cafe that does pretty decent burgers, and can be a convenient place to grab a bite while you’re exploring Uluṟu during the day.

Adventure

If a camel ride or a Segway tour doesn’t get your heart pumping enough, then there are some even more adventures activities at Uluṟu that may be more your style.

While the national park can certainly be a spiritual place for quiet reflection, you’ll also get some pretty incredible views with these options.

Harley Davidson

There are many ways to feel Uluṟu and one of them could be from the purr of the engine of a Harley Davidson. Why drive along the roads around Uluṟu with the air-con and closed windows when you can feel the wind in your face on a Harley Davidson!

There are lots of options for these motorbike tours, including sunrise and sunset, and Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa. You can even just head out with a rider for a quick spin, or go on a trike if that’s more comfortable for you.

For more information, check out Uluṟu Motorcycle Tours.

Helicopter ride

It doesn’t matter how from many angles you look at Uluṟu on the ground, nothing can prepare you for how it looks in the air. I used to think of Uluṟu as being shaped a bit like a loaf of bread – in fact, it’s almost as wide as it is long in some parts.

You’ll see this for yourself on an Uluṟu helicopter ride, with a birds-eye view of the rock. And you’ll really get a sense of how it fits into the broader landscape here.

Helicopter tour Uluru
Me on the helicopter with Kata Tjuṯa in the background

There are a few different helicopter tours you can do, depending on how much you want to see. I would certainly recommend including Kata Tjuṯa because it looks really different from the air than the ground. This helicopter trip will take you to both – or there are some other options here:

Skydiving

And for the ultimate view from the air, forget the helicopter – why not see Uluṟu as you fall to the ground after jumping out of a plane!

Of course, I’m talking about skydiving. Just imagine what it’s like to gaze across the vast desert around the rock, and then see the monolith come closer as you float through the air before landing not too far away from the base.

This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences and you can find more info at Skydive Uluṟu.

Day trips

You probably don’t need to even look at a map to realise that Uluṟu is quite isolated and there’s not that much nearby. But, it is possible to reach a couple of other iconic Northern Territory sights like Kings Canyon from here as a day trip.

If you wanted to see a couple of these, my recommendation would always be to rent a car and do a road trip through the Red Centre, staying overnight in some of these beautiful areas and giving them the time they deserve.

But I know not everyone has the luxury of time and you will still not be disappointed if you do a full day trip to Kings Canyon, for instance. So, here are some details for day trips from Uluṟu.

Kings Canyon

One of the icons of the northern Territory, Kings Canyon is an incredible natural site. 300 metre-high sandstone cliffs rise from a riverbed to create an enormous natural amphitheatre that you can view from multiple angles.

Kings Canyon sunrise
Sunrise at Kings Canyon

The most popular way to see Kings Canyon is on the Rim Walk, which takes you along the top of the cliffs for epic views down into the canyon. But, if you want to avoid the steep climb up, there’s also an easy walk through the shade of the trees in the riverbed.

It’s a long drive from Uluṟu but, if you have time and you won’t see it otherwise, it makes for a fantastic day trip. I would recommend this day tour from Uluṟu that will let you see all the highlights.

West Macdonnell Ranges

The West Macdonnell Ranges are another highlight of the Red Centre. The mountain range may not seem like much from a distance but all throughout its length are gorgeous little waterholes and impressive gorges.

It’s easy to spend a whole day here, swimming at Ormiston Gorge, taking in the landscape at Glen Helen, and even hiking a little bit of the Larapinta Trail which runs for 223 kilometres through the ranges.

Ormiston Gorge
The swimming hole at Ormiston Gorge

I’ll warn right now that this would be a very long day trip and is probably not advisable. I’m really mentioning it here because it could make for a nice overnight trip if you’re planning to stay at Uluṟu for a while. Or what would be even better is to do a road trip of the Red Centre and include this as one of your stops.

Alice Springs

Most people would fly into Alice Springs and then do a trip out to Uluṟu, not the other way around, but there’s no reason why Alice can’t be a day trip from the rock – although, with a drive of about 4 hours each way, it would be a very long day trip (and would be better as an overnight stay).

Anzac Hill, Alice Springs
The view of Alice Springs from Anzac Hill

Alice Springs may be relatively small but it feels like a big city for Central Australia. As a destination for tourists, there are quite a few things to do in Alice Springs, including the historic telegraph station (one of the main reasons the city is even here), along with a cultural precinct, desert park, and institutions like the School of the Air and Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Doing a trip from Uluṟu to Alice Springs makes even more sense when there is a festival like Parrtjima on, because the desert light show is a really special experience. Or check the calendar for other special events happening in the city.