The majestic red monolith rising in the middle of the outback is one of Australia’s symbols.
If you plan a trip down under, you will probably consider visiting the Red Centre.
Without a doubt, it’s a beautiful place, but it’s far from everywhere in Australia.
Is the detour worth the time and money?
YES, it is!
We believe that the visit to Australia would be incomplete without seeing the Red Centre.
It is far away, but it’s not that difficult to get there.
Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park
The park is a Unesco World Heritage area.
The land is owned by Aboriginal people who lease it to the Australian government.
You need to get a permit to be able to access the park.
You can get it at the entrance or buy it online; three-day or annual passes are available.
As the park’s name suggests, the highlights are Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas).
It’s about 20 km (12.5 miles) to get from Yulara to Uluru, then 52 km (32 miles) from Uluru to Kata Tjuta.
The park is easy to navigate, and the roads are sealed.
Uluru (Ayers Rock)
The area is flat, so you can see Uluru from a long distance.
Stop at the signposted lookouts for the best views (and photos).
There are separate viewing areas for tour buses and cars.
Come early to secure your spot because it can get busy with visitors trying to take the perfect picture.
‘The Rock’ changes its colours during the day but seeing it during the sunrise and sunset is unforgettable.
The Uluru climb has been closed permanently, but there is a trail going around the rock and plenty of other shorter walks allowing you to explore the site without climbing.
You can also join the daily free ranger-led Mala Walk to discover more about this special place.
Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Kata Tjuta is another must-see in the area.
It’s not as well-known as Uluru, but still worth a visit.
It’s a stunning group of rocks set in the outback.
You can get the best views from a few dedicated lookouts along the road from Uluru.
However, the best is to put your hiking shoes on and walk one of the trails among the rocks.
The landscape is spectacular but expect a lot of annoying flies, so head nets and a repellent are lifesavers.
We have done the entire Valley of the Winds Walk.
It is pretty steep at the beginning, but the second half is relatively flat.
It takes about four hours to complete.
Carry plenty of water and wear your hat and sunscreen because the second part of the trail is entirely exposed and can get very hot.
It’s a good idea to start early in the morning because the walk can be closed if the temperature gets too high.
Uluru–Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre
While in the national park, visit the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre.
You can learn more about traditional Aboriginal culture and local nature.
You might consider buying some hand-crafted paintings, ceramics and other artwork to support the local artists.
There are some free presentations, so check the centre’s website for details and times.
The fastest and most convenient way is by air.
The closest airport is Ayers Rock Airport (AYQ), located just about 25 km (16 miles) from Uluru (Ayers Rock).
Another option is the airport in Alice Springs (ASP), which is bigger and therefore has a better flight choice.
The downside is the location – it’s about 460 km (286 miles) far away.
There are flights to both airports from most major cities in Australia.
Before booking your flights, check the most updated entry requirements regarding visa, vaccination, COVID-19 tests, customs, etc.
Recheck the rules before you travel because they might change at any time.
If you like adventure (like us), consider going on a road trip.
We rented a car and stopped in the Red Centre while crossing Australia from north (Darwin) to south (Adelaide) before continuing farther east.
It was a really long drive, but it was a great adventure that we will never forget.
Driving is the best way to experience the Red Centre because it allows you to explore the place at your own pace.
You don’t need to be an experienced driver because there isn’t much traffic and the roads are in good condition.
But if you don’t drive or aren’t comfortable driving abroad, you can choose from many groups or private tours which are on offer.
They are expensive, though.
When To Go
The best time to visit this region is Australia’s winter (summer in Europe and North America) because the temperatures are more pleasant.
However, we were there in December, the middle of their summer, and we experienced rain and storms.
Seriously – what are the odds of getting a rainy day in the desert?!
It can get boiling during sunny summer days, so start early in the morning because most trails are quite exposed.
Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water.
Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort)
Don’t expect to be spoiled for choice regarding the accommodation.
The location is literally ‘in the middle of nowhere’.
The only accommodation base for the park visitors is Yulara (Ayers Rock Resort), which is the area service centre.
There are a couple of hotels, campsites, shops and restaurants, a supermarket, visitor information centre, bank, petrol station (not open 24 hours!) and other facilities.
Most services are concentrated around the resort town square.
There is a free shuttle bus servicing the town and also the airport.
Visit the information centre to see which free activities and programmes they offer.
We saw the Putitja Dancers’ performance, and learning more about Aboriginal culture was really interesting.
Sometimes the audience can join the performance (Kat did).
Yes, it is touristy but still worth seeing if you have travelled so far.
There is a lookout point beside the resort where you can enjoy stargazing.
The prices in the area are high because of its unique location and lack of competition.
The availability can get limited, especially during the holiday season, so make your reservation well in advance if you can.
We stayed at the Outback Pioneer Hotel & Lodge, which was the cheapest option at that time.
We made the reservation at the Alice Springs visitor information centre just two days beforehand.
The availability was very limited, and the best we got was a four-bed dorm with shared facilities.
Luckily nobody else arrived, so we had the room for ourselves.
The room was basic but clean. There were no towels provided, but we had our own.
It’s a large resort with many accommodation options for every budget.
The bar and restaurant are lively, and there is a great atmosphere.
There is a band playing live some evenings.
The highlight is the self-service barbecue – you can buy various types of meat, fish or seafood and cook it yourself at one of the barbecue stations.
We tried the kangaroo, crocodile, emu, beef and prawn combo, and it was delicious.
The helpful cooking instructions on the wall made cooking easy.
Our original plan was to stay in Yulara just for one night.
Fortunately, we took the advice at the visitor information centre in Alice Springs and stayed for two nights.
We recommend staying in Yulara for at least two nights to see both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
However, if you have more time, you can stay even longer to explore the area better and enjoy different activities or walks.
If you plan to drive independently, you must consider long distances.
Depending on where you are travelling from and to, it might take up to one day to get to or from Yulara.
What we thought
You shouldn’t miss the Red Centre on your trip down under. It’s a fantastic adventure.
It will become one of the most memorable places you have ever been to – guaranteed!
If you are thinking about where to go on a trip of your lifetime, the Australian Red Centre is a great idea.
What about you – are you tempted to visit the centre of Australia? Or have you been there already?
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