Within the vast Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, 460km southwest of Alice Springs, lay many Aboriginal sacred sites, including Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and Uluru (Ayers Rock), one of the world’s largest monoliths.
This area is of vital significance to the Anangu people (the traditional Aboriginal owners), whose ancestors are thought to have lived in the area for at least 10,000 years and possibly far longer.
Entry to the national park costs $25, which allows the visitor to spend three days exploring the park. The park is only open during the following hours: Jan–Feb 5am–9pm daily; Mar 5.30am–8.30pm daily; Apr 6am–8pm daily; May 6am–7.30pm daily; Jun–Jul 6.30am–7.30pm daily; Aug 6am–7.30pm daily; Sep 5.30am–7.30pm daily; Oct 5am–8pm daily; Nov 5am–8.30pm daily; Dec 5am–9pm daily.
Coming and going
Driving is the best travel option, this way you can see the main sights in the MacDonnell Ranges on the way here and you can visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta at your own pace rather than when bus or tour schedules allow. There are plenty of car rental companies in Alice Springs and most hostels can organise rental cars for you, however most rental cars cannot be driven on unsealed roads.
If you don’t have a car there are several tours catering to backpackers, that you can take from Alice Springs. Tours generally take in Uluru and Kata Tjuta, visiting the West MacDonnell National Park and either Finke Gorge or Kings Canyon en route. They can be booked through most hostels and start at around $220 for a daytrip, but can cost over $900 for a five-day tour.
Mulga’s Adventures is one of the cheapest tours. Mulga’s gets mixed reviews and a lot of people do like the tour despite its drawbacks. Mulga’s three-day Uluru tour includes Kings Canyon and costs $355.
Red Rock Safaris run a good value three-day trip that also includes Kings Canyon. It costs $495.
The Rock Tour is highly recommended and probably the best value. It visits Kings Canyon and has accommodation at proper campsites including Ayers Rock Resort. It costs $355.
Wayoutback is a more expensive tour, although it offers unique experiences and many travellers say it is worth the extra money. It features small groups with transport in 4WD vehicles so you can get off the highway and onto outback dirt roads. It also includes the rare opportunity to visit an Aboriginal community. Wayoutback’s three-day tour costs $675.
Emu Run operates day trips from Alice Springs, for $220. It is a rushed tour that crams a lot into one day, leaving Alice Springs at 6am and returning at midnight, but it is a good option if your time is limited.
There is a free shuttle bus operated by the Yulara Resort that runs to the main areas in Yulara. There is also a free shuttle between Ayers Rock Airport and Yulara that picks up from all accommodation establishments including the hostel and meets all flights.
The best value and most flexible transport option is to drive yourself. Several rental car companies including Avis (tel (08) 8956 2266), Hertz (tel (08) 8956 2244) and Thrifty (tel (08) 8956 2030) can be booked through the airport or the visitor centre in Yulara.
The next best option is the Uluru Express shuttle bus, which operates a shuttle bus between Yulara, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. The first service to Uluru departs Yulara an hour prior to sunrise at the rock and runs four times a day with the last service back leaving Uluru after sunset. The Yulara-Uluru service costs $60–70 return for Uluru and Kata Tjuta costs $95–120. A two-day pass for both Uluru and Kata Tjuta costs $205 and a three-day pass costs $235.