Seeing Uluru has been at the top of my bucket list from the moment I discovered what a bucket list was.
Seven years ago, I tried to plan a solo road trip from Melbourne to Alice Springs, but quickly decided it was too far, too hard and too expensive. Another concern was that I thought I’d need WEEKS to see Uluru and the Outback. That’s where I was wrong. Turns out I could see everything I wanted to (and so much more) in just three days.
If you’re short on time during your travels, have limited annual leave or have a long weekend to spare, here’s everything you can squeeze into a three-day camping trip around Uluru.
No need for a scenic helicopter ride
The best part about my trip was that it actually started in the air. If you’re flying to Yulara from Melbourne, you’ll be treated to a birds-eye view of Uluru. I was lumped with an aisle seat (22C to be exact) and a few minutes before we landed at Yulara, I could see everyone on the left-hand side of the plane leaning towards the windows, craning to see the view below. Was it a kangaroo? The red desert below me? Was it the coloured domes of Kata Tjuta?
And then I saw it.
Let me tell you, it is enormous. And amazing. Unlike anything I’d ever seen before. This sacred site was absolutely beautiful from above.
Get up close to the domes of Kata Tjuta
On the three-day Uluru Adventure, it’s all about striking a balance between taking time to absorb the history and cultural significance of each area – but also to keep on moving so you can make the most of your short time in the Outback. Once I arrived in Yulara, I was picked up from the airport in the ATA bus and headed straight into Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. First stop: Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas.
Approximately 40 kilometres west of Uluru, Kata Tjuta (meaning ‘many heads’) is sacred to the local Anangu people, who have called the area home for more than 22,000 years. As we’re driving through the national park, I could see the colourful domes in the distance before enjoying their beauty up close on the Walpa Gorge walk. Pinching myself, I thought I could go home happy after only being in the Red Centre for just a few hours. It. Was. Stunning.
Watch the sun go down over Uluru
Leaving Kata Tjuta behind us, our group hit the road to see Uluru at sunset. If I had to describe this experience in one word, it would be spectacular. Or incredible. Magic, even. But really, there are no words to describe the feeling of watching the sun drop over a sacred site, home to thousands of years of history and great spiritual importance.
One of the most significant parts of this experience was forgoing a glass of champagne at Uluru, a decision made by Adventure Tours Australia following close working partnerships with First Nations communities. As a tour operator, they acknowledge that Uluru is a sacred and inherently spiritual site for the Anangu people – and not a place to raise a glass. By foregoing a drink, you’ll experience a greater appreciation for one of the world’s longest surviving cultures. After all, you won’t find anyone drinking inside churches, mosques or temples, would you?
Enjoy a million-star dining experience
After gallivanting around Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park for the day, I was starting to get pretty hungry. Imagine my surprise to find a candle lit-dinner set up for our arrival. Within moments of sitting down, we enjoyed a typical Aussie feast – a barbecue. Even better, we had a million stars hovering above us, which really took this dining experience to the next level.
Some connoisseurs would say that three Michelin stars are pretty great, but I reckon a million stars is even more impressive.
Catch Uluru at sunrise
I was warned that the nights would be chilly and the days warm in May. And sure, it was a cold start but nothing a few layers couldn’t solve. Our day started at 5.15am to allow time to enjoy breakfast (warm croissants, French-press coffee plus the usual continental breakfast offerings of cereal and toast) before jumping on the truck. By 7am, our small group was walking around the base of Uluru together.
I thought our experience the night before was unbelievable. But seeing the red and orange hues of Uluru change with the sunrise was unlike anything I’ll ever experience.
Walk around the base of Uluru with a First Nations guide
After completing our walk independently around the base of Uluru, we met with a First Nations guide Verna, for an interpretive cultural walk. Verna shared stories of her ancestors and culture, and explained how past elders lived on the land.
Visit Maruku Arts
Want to purchase an authentic artwork, made by the First Peoples of Australia? At Maruku Arts, located at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Cultural Centre, you can do precisely that. For over 30 years, Maruku has operated as a not-for-profit art and craft organisation, and approximately 900 Anangu artists make up the collective. Our guide Verna had some of her (amazing) pieces of art for sale which, admittedly, was pretty cool.
Stop at Lake Amadeus
This was a quick stop on the way to Watarrka National Park (home of Kings Canyon), but Lake Amadeus is worth talking about. Depending on when you visit, you can see the always-changing colours and patterns of the Northern Territory’s largest salt lake. Not bad for a quick toilet break with a view.
Hike around Kings Canyon
I thought breakfast at Uluru was fantastic, but once again (after another early start), we were treated to delicious scrambled eggs and hot coffee, along with the usual breakfast bits and pieces. It might sound like a small thrill, but it all adds up. Piling back into the truck, we drove to Kings Canyon to complete the Rim Walk at sunrise. Was it amazing? Absolutely. There were three options ranging from 2 kilometres to 8 kilometres available for our group: the Canyon Rim Walk, the South Wall Return Walk, or the Kings Creek Walk.
Set your eyes across a few hundred kilometres of outback landscapes
It’s a short trip, but we covered a decent amount of distance in just a few days. While you’re driving, the scenery is constantly changing. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some wild camels or horses (seriously) or a few kangaroos hopping along in the outback.
Explore Alice Springs
Our three-day adventure finished in Alice Springs. If you’ve got one or two extra days, there are plenty of activities in town to keep you entertained. Check out the art galleries, hike or cycle around the MacDonnell Ranges, or treat yourself to some tasty food at one of Alice’s great cafes or restaurants.
Make this the year you visit the Outback or jump on a camping trip around Uluru. For more details about our Outback adventures, take a look at our range of tours here.