Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is perhaps the most famous rock in the world. A brightly coloured monument in the middle of the desert swarming with tourists every day.
It has two names: Uluru, the original name the Pitjantjatjara Anangu people gave it, and Ayers Rock, a name that white settlers gave it, but is no longer actively used. It is both a symbol for its rich cultural history and modern tourism, right in the middle of the semi-arid desert.
Uluru itself is the most popular attraction in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This huge rock formation is around 4.5 km long and 2.5 km wide. Its highest point sticks up around 248 meter out of the landscape. It’s been known as the world’s largest ‘monolith’ on earth, a formation that is made up entirely of one rock.
Research has shown that Uluru is only the tip of a huge mountain range, that also encompasses Mount Connor, 100 km away. And possibly even Burringurrah (formerly Mount Augustus) in the west of Australia. This is almost twice as big as Uluru, but scientist don’t agree on whether it’s a monolith. Their discussion and research continues.
This mountain range also contains the 30 rocks that make up nearby Kata Tjuta, (formerly known as The Olgas), which is another favourite with tourists. Mount Connor, a tabular mount about 100 kilometers north of Uluru, is not as popular. Surprisingly, it doesn’t get that much attention from tourists.
The history of the rocks is very interesting. For millions of years, the weather elements deposited sediment everywhere. But around 900 to 550 million years ago the land was flooded and a shallow inland sea was formed. The pressure of the water’s weight compressed the sand and boulders on the seabed into rock formations.
Around 350 million years ago there was a strong upward pressure that brought the sandstone rocks up, and folded them at the same time. In the following millions of years, sediment (like sand and gravel) was deposited and much of the rocks disappeared under the sediment, with only the very tops visible. You can easily see the layers of sediment in the rocks. It’s incredibly to realise that you’re there looking at the remnants of what was once a sea when you’re standing at these rocks in the semi-arid desert also known as ‘the Outback’.
Both Uluru and Kata Tjuta will eventually disappear entirely. Erosion will slowly eat away at the rocks, including the rain and the streams that creates, and the extreme temperatures between day and night. During the day the temperatures average between the 30 and 40 degrees Celsius, while at night it hovers below the freezing point. During the day the rock expands in the heat, and at night is shrinks in the cold, day in, day out.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are located in the middle of the Outback, in a semi-arid desert in the middle of Australia. This means that you can find many of its typical animals here, including 21 endemic species. There are 178 kinds of birds, seventy different kinds of reptiles, and thousands of insect types. They suit this intriguing area, that attracts people from far and wide who come to see the famous rocks, with a chance of seeing plenty of special animals.
Kata Tjuta (of The Olgas)
Kata Tjuta is the name that the Anangu people called the rocks, it means ‘many heads’ for obvious reasons. It is made up of around 30 rocks, the highest of which is 543 meter high, 203 meter higher than Uluru. Research has shown that both Kata Tjuta and Uluru are part of the same underground rock formation, of which you can only see the tops. Kata Tjuta is located around 25 kilometers from Uluru.
Mount Conner (of Mount Connor)
While Uluru and Kata Tjuta are world famous, Mount Conner is surprisingly relatively unknown, despite the fact you can see it from the road to Uluru. It’s also three times bigger than Uluru, 859 meters high. This huge tabular mountain is located 88 kilometers from Uluru. Scientists think that this mountain is part of the same rock plateau as Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Its shape is remarkably different to Uluru, though it is still a mystery why. Scientist did discover that it’s about 200 to 300 million years older than Uluru. Mount Conner is named after M.L. Conner, an Australian politician who did a lot for the pioneers that moved inland in the 19th century.
Uluru and Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre
This is a free visitors center with lots of information about the Anunga people, who live in this area. Their dreamtime history can be hard to understand for some people. You can find lots of information about the legends of their dreamtime, and also about the symbolic meaning of things and places around the area. You can also see Aboriginal art here. The center is located in the national Park.
Mutitjulu is a small Anangu community near Uluru. The people who live there are co-managers of the national park. You can go on guided tours around the area from here, which will show you how the local people have lived here for centuries, and what Uluru and Kata Tjuta mean to them.
Take a walk around Uluru
There are several walking tracks around the rock, which are ideal if you want to go explore and take photos. It’s best to go in the morning or late afternoon, when it’s cooler and quieter.
Explore with an Anangu guide
You can walk around Uluru with an Anangu guide, who will show you how they live in this dry part of the world. They will also share their dreamtime legends and history with you, a lifestyle that is different to how many people see the world. There are several kinds of tours available.
Go animal spotting around Uluru
Uluru is located in a semi-arid desert, often referred to as the Outback, in the heart of Australia. It is home to many different kinds of animals, like dingoes, red kangaroos, pink cockatoos and the wedge-tailed eagle. But you can also find the thorny devil, or the strange perentie. Keep your eyes open and ask at the visitors’ center about the best places to spot them. A good time to look for animals is early in the morning, to avoid other tourists.
Avoid the crowds at Uluru
Just like Uluru, you can see the thirty rocks of Kata Tjuta change colour at sunset and sunrise, ranging from ochre yellow to all shades of red. The highest of the rocks is around 500 meters high. The best time to visit The Olgas, as the white settlers used to call them, is early in the morning and late in the afternoon. It’s not as busy as at Uluru, especially at sunrise.
Go stargazing with the Anunga people
The local Anunga people have a different view of the world to many people, and this includes the night sky. You can spend a night learning about their interpretations of the stars, which play a central role. It’s something to behold. Their stories and way of life will stay with you for years to come.
Search for wild animals around Uluru
Uluru lies in the Outback, the semi-desert in the heart of Australia. A notably large number of animals live here, like the dingo, the red kangaroo, the rose-breasted cockatoo and the wedge-tailed eagle. However, you my also encounter the beautiful thorny devil and the peculiar perentie here.
Take a good look around and inquire after the best spots at the visitor center. Because of the heat, it is best to set out in the early morning. This way you will also avoid most other travelers.
Dine at Uluru
Known as the ‘Sound of Silence Dinner’, you can sip champagne under the stars and indulge in local bush tucker, such as kangaroo and emu, while you can hear the sounds of a didgeridoo in the background.
- January to March: it rains regularly, resulting in spectacular photos. It’s also the time that the few local trees drop their seeds.
- April to August: These are the colder months of autumn and winter, when it’s likely to be drier. You probably won’t see many reptiles as they’ll be hibernating.
- August to October: This is the time (Australian spring) when flowers bloom, and animals are out and about. The sunsets are also very good at this time of year.
- November to February: These are the hotter months of the year, with regular wild weather and thunderstorms, which can offer some great photo opportunities.
It can be very busy at Uluru in peak season. It’s quieter in August, just before spring starts.