Next to the Sydney Opera House, Uluru is Australia’s most iconic landmark. Formerly known as Ayer’s Rock, Uluru is the world’s largest monolith standing at 348 meters tall. Uluru became a national park in 1950 where adventurous tourists would come to see and climb the rock. In 1985, Ayer’s Rock was handed back to the original owners, the Anangu, and renamed back to its Aboriginal name, Uluru. Today, Uluru is jointly run by the Anangu and Parks Australia and sees over 250,000 visitors every year. This year, I was going to be one of them.
Uluru can be visited on your own if you wish, but due to the costs of renting a car and lack of camping gear, I decided I wanted to visit Uluru with a tour. With a tour, you have the knowledge and guidance of a registered tour guide plus you get to make lots of new friends. There are loads of tour options leaving Alice Spring daily. After careful research, I decided to go with Mulgas Adventures because of their small size, reputation and their Alice Springs to Darwin package.
Day 1: Discovering Uluru
I was picked up at my hostel around 6:30 am on the first day. The bus was already packed with fellow travelers, many of which were trying to get to get a few moments of shut-eye after an early morning start. I was quickly shuttled to the co-pilot seat next to our knowledgeable and vibrant tour guide, Julien. For the next hour, he told me a bit about his tenure as a tour guide in Alice Springs and a little bit about the history of the area. Julien also knows every country’s capital and all the state capitals of the USA!
Next thing I know, we are turning into our first of many stops along the remote highways of the Northern Territory. It was time to ride a camel! Camels played an integral role in Australian Outback history. They were first imported from the Canary Islands in 1840 and used in many expeditions due to their ability to handle the harsh interior of Australia. Today, about 300,000 feral camels are living in Australia.
After we each had a quick ride, which was included in the cost of the tour, on the camels, we were back on the bus for about two hours to our last stop before we took the famed right hand turn onto Lasseter Highway. Erldunda Roadhouse is a popular spot to stop and refuel. It’s also one of the last places you’ll get mobile reception until you get to Ayer’s Rock Resort. The two hours flew by as Julien told me the long history of the Australian colonies and the difference between a territory and a state.
We stopped for a quick bathroom break at another roadhouse station, Curtin Springs, before finally making it to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park around lunchtime. We quickly dropped our roadside collected firewood at our campsite and headed into the park for our first glimpse of the famed rock.
After a quick lunch and introduction to Uluru history by Julien, it was time to begin the walk around The Rock. Uluru is surrounded by several trails that offer beautiful views of The Rock and the native wildlife and fauna. I opted for the 10.6 km Uluru Base Walk as I wanted to experience as much as The Rock as I could. The path is a wide sandy flat path that is easily walked in about 3-4 hours. There are many sacred sites along Uluru so you can only photograph the rock in specific places to ensure that no Aboriginal person can see areas of the rock they are not allowed to access. The walk is hot and exposed so bring plenty of water.
Side Note: Many people come to Uluru to climb the rock. Apparently, it is named as one of the world’s top climbs because of the number of people who died climbing it over the years. The climb is still open to the public. However, you should NOT climb Uluru. Uluru is a sacred site for the local Aborignial people, and they prefer you don’t climb it. Think about it – would you just climb the side of Notre Dame or St. Paul’s Cathedral?
After an afternoon of walking around the base of Uluru, it was time to head to the sunset spot to witness the changing colors of Uluru with a glass of bubbly! Everything is always better with a little champagne. For the next hour, we watched as the sun set behind us letting off an ever-changing light that reflected off the monolith. Uluru changed from a brown to various shades of red. It was certainly a sight to see, although, I think it was a little overrated.
Once we were back at camp, we built a fire as Julien whipped up a delicious dinner – kangaroo meat burritos. They hit the spot. We played a few games and roasted marshmallows around the fire before everyone rolled out their swags for a night under the stars.
Day 2: Epic Uluru Sunrises and Exploring Kata Tjuta
It was another early morning wake up call. But, I didn’t mind this one because we were booking it back to Uluru for the sunrise. Usually, I’m a big sunset fan, but sunrise over Uluru is unreal. I’m at lost for words to even describe it, so I’ll let the photos show you how amazing it truly was to see in person. If you go to Uluru, do not miss sunrise!
As soon as the sun rose high above Uluru, Julien hustled us back on the bus, and we headed straight to Kata Tjuta. Kata Tjuta is the lesser known large, domed rock formations located just 25 km from Uluru. The tallest of the 36 domes stands at 546 meters. Once referred to as The Olgas, Kata Tjuta is a religious site for the Anangu Aborigines. Unlike Uluru, very little Aboriginal stories about Kata Tjuta are known to outsiders.
Our tour group spent the morning walking the 7.4 km Valley of the Winds Walk. The walk has some ups and downs and rocky sections, but the views of the domed rocks are incredible. It is well worth walking the whole circuit, even in the hot sun.
After a quick lunch at the cultural center (camel burgers!) and stop into town (ice cream!), it was back onto the bus for the long drive to Kings Creek Station. Julien and I played games and chatted about travel and Australia while most of the other guests slept in the back. Before I knew it, we were at our next camp.
Several of us got the fire roaring as others helped our tour guide make dinner. Tonight’s dinner was going to be cooked by the fire. Yum! We had kangaroo steaks and damper bread; a traditional Australian bread cooked over the fire using just flour, salt, and beer. We chatted around the fire for awhile before calling it a night.
Waking up on our third day was bittersweet. I was ready for some real sleep in a bed, but I was sad to know our adventure was almost over. While Uluru and Kata Tjuta are incredible, Kings Canyon really stole the show in my opinion. I’d go back there in a heartbeat!
Kings Canyon is an ancient sandstone canyon that sits at the western end of George Gill Range in Watarrka National Park. The unique walls of the canyon were formed by erosion over the course of millions of years. The Luritja Aboriginal people have called Kings Canyon and the surrounding area home for over 20,000 years. Little is known about the Aboriginal stories and legends, but it is known to be a religious site for the Luritja.
Just about everyone in our tour group completed the challenging 6+ km Kings Canyon Rim Walk. While most of the walk is relatively easy, you do need to climb a steep staircase at the very beginning. The views are worth the heart palpitations and sweat!
Julien came with us on this hike to tell us stories and history of the canyon. Kings Canyon is fascinating. I’m not going to recite everything I learned because I think you should just go! My favorite section of the hike was the Garden of Eden. Situated right smack in the middle of the canyon is a lush green water hole. It’s incredibly peaceful and beautiful.
Once everyone was back from the hike it was lunchtime. We headed back to camp for some egg and bacon sandwiches and to pack. By 1 pm we were on the bus for the long drive back to Alice Springs. We only stopped a few times for the bathroom and to view Mt. Connor and the Salt Flats. By 6:30 pm we rolled into Alice Springs.
Since I was partaking in the two-day tour up to Alice Springs, I stayed at Haven Backpackers. A vast majority of us met later in the evening for dinner and drinks. I called it an early night as my alert was set for 4:15 the next morning.
Overall, I had a great experience with Mulgas Aventures on their Rock Tour. Our group of 20 were diverse and colorful, but everyone got along great. I have tons of new friends now! Julien, our tour guide, was top-notch. He was knowledgeable, funny, and personable. He was certainly why many of us had a great time on the tour. If you’re looking for a tour of Uluru and Kings Canyon, skip the other tour companies and book with Mulgas Adventures. You won’t regret it!
A huge thank you to Mulgas Adventures for hosting me on this tour. As with every review and recommendation on this site, you will always get my honest opinions. I only recommend the best of the best, and these guys don’t this disappoint!