Wow, so I’m all nostalgic and looking back on a series of posts from one of the most memorable trips of my life – visiting the Northern Territory in Australia. That’s when I realized I had one more post that I never published from that trip! And that’s the most important too – you will see why one day. So without further ado, this is my post when visiting Uluru, the famous Red Center, and one of the most iconic landmarks in Australia.
This post is the fifth of a series of posts on the amazing time I have in the interior with YHA Australia. You can check the ‘Northern Territory’ tag to see more posts from inland and ‘Australian tags for each post I will do in Australia.
What is Uluru and why is it so special?
Uluru is a large monolithic sandstone formation in the middle of Australia. Although not the largest monolith in the world, this monolith is believed to be half a billion years old, 348 meters high and has a circumference of 9.4 km. The biggest monolith is Mount Augustus in Western Australia, 2.5 times the size of Uluru.
Uluru is special because it is home to many rare plants and animals. This is also an important spiritual site, sacred to the Anagu native people, with many caves painted with ancient rock art.
Is that Uluru or Ayers Rock?
You may have seen the name Ayers Stone used when referring to Uluru. That’s because for many years, Ayers Rock was the official name to refer to this amazing rock formation.
In short, you should call the stone Uluru, not Ayers Rock.
Why was it originally called Ayers Rock? To answer that, we have to go back to 1800. The bullet was first seen by Ernest Giles, a European explorer, back in 1872 during an expedition in central Australia. A year after that, Uluru was again seen in 1873 by William Gosse, another European explorer, on a separate expedition. Gosse later named him “Ayers Rock”, after Sir Henry Ayers, a Premier in South Australia at that time. The name survived for hundreds of years.
However, as we know about Australia’s history, European explorers did not “discover” Uluru, as it has been for millions of years and has been known by Aboriginal Pitjantjatjara / Anangu natives for tens of thousands of years. For them, Uluru is not only a monolithic stone, it is a sacred site with significant cultural and spiritual significance, evidenced by ancient stone paintings that can be seen in caves in Uluru.
Starting in 1993, Uluru was added to the official name which became “Ayers Rock / Uluru”. But in 2002, the name was reversed to “Uluru / Ayers Rock”, placing Uluru as the first official name of the rock.
Can you climb Uluru?
Starting from October 2019, it will be illegal to climb Uluru. So if you are there after October 2019 then the answer is simple – you cannot climb Uluru as determined by law.
But for now, while currently not illegal at the time of writing this post, climbing Uluru has always been very discouraged in connection with the Anangu people, who specifically spoke out against the ascent. This is because the road to the peak of Uluru is associated with an important Mala ceremony. The Anangu people believe that during the time when the world was being formed (referred to as Dreamtime), the road was the traditional route of Mala’s male ancestors when they arrived at Uluru.
So please, admire the stone from afar and don’t climb it! Still amazing to see, I promise!
How to get to Uluru
The closest civilization to Uluru is a small town called Yulara, and here is how to get to Yulara:
Yulara by Bus from Alice Springs – I take a tour bus by AAT Kings Bus Alice Spring to Uluru, which takes around six hours. Although this is not the most direct way, this is probably the best way if you want to visit Alice Springs too. Plus you can see some interesting sights on the road! Camel farms, salted lakes, and Conner Mountain “fake Uluru”.
Yulara with Direct Domestic Flights – Thanks to great interest and tourism, there is actually an airport in Yulara called Ayers Rock Airport (I guess they never bothered to change the name of the airport itself). You can find frequent domestic flights from other parts of Australia to this airport – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Darwin. I flew to Sydney from this airport! However, there are no international flights.
The place to stay in Uluru
As I said before, the only civilization near Uluru is in a small town called Yulara. In Yulara there are many upscale resorts and hotels, but it is not on budget so I stayed at the Outback Pioneer Lodge, the only economical accommodation around the area and part of YHA Australia.
Now, things to do in Uluru:
- Capture Uluru at different times of the day
The whole reason why you are here is to admire Uluru, so why not catch it at different times of the day? Yes, and I have this amazing photo to display. This photo shows Uluru in the morning (before and after sunrise), in the afternoon and at sunset.
PS: I don’t usually show this, but this is one of my favorite photos I’ve taken on all my trips, so if you want to borrow it for your own use, please ask me first and give me credit by linking back to this post. So how can you see Uluru at different times of the day? If you don’t plan to drive yourself, there are many tour options that you can take:
- Visit Yulara City
Yulara is not a big city in any way. The entire city consists of less than 2 km of this circular road, which you can walk in less than 20 minutes.
Okay, this city girl is talking again, but I am still amazed at how far from the civilization of this place. Even though Alice Springs is Australia’s geographical center, staying in Yulara clearly beats how far this place is. I have visited many other parts of the world since then, but no one feels far from this place.
At Yulara, I suggest going to the Imalung Monitoring point, where you can see Uluru from above. Walking is very easy!
- See Uluru at Sunset – Silent Dinner Sounds under the stars
This is probably one of the most famous activities in Uluru! The Sounds of Silence dinner takes you to a private room near Uluru, where you can enjoy wine and hors-d’oeuvres (which include kangaroo meat) while watching Uluru change color as the sun sets.
After sunset, you are then escorted to the dining room, where a white linen round table is waiting for you. I traveled alone, so I sat with a larger group of people. Luckily for me, I sat with very cool people – a group of Australian parents who toured cross-country bicycles from Melbourne.
- See Uluru at Sunrise – Sunrise Camel Ride with views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta
This is the first time I’ve seen a real camel! Even though I then saw (and rode) more camels on my trip to Jordan, I will always remember riding this camel as my first time.
On this tour, you start the very early day at 5:30 in the morning, to make sure you are there before sunrise. By the time we arrived at the camel farm, camels had been sorted in formation. This is because of the way camels work in the wild – they run in the personality sequence of camels. Alfa, camels who are more confident will lead the herd, followed by other herds in line formation. However, the most confident camels go last, to protect the rest of the package from predators. If you assign camels who are lacking first or last confidence in line formation, it can cause chaos and they may refuse to walk.
You are then asked to wait in line and be given one camel for the morning, and go, 10-15 camels at a time.