Vegetation - Savanna - Uluru
Australia,  Oceania

Uluru base walk: Up close with an Australian icon

If there is one iconic image of Australia, it has to be Uluru. This massive monolith, sitting in the heart of the continent, combines the drama of the outback with an incredible heritage, and a silhouette which is recognisable the world over. Thousands flock to the former Ayers Rock every year; but how do you get a different perspective on a landscape that is so well known? Well, the answer is simple: take an Uluru base walk.

If you look for Uluru on a map, you will find it just southwest of the centre point of Australia, in the bottom corner of the Northern Territory. Hundreds of kilometres from the nearest town of any size, the tourist industry surrounding it has created its own: the settlement of Yulara, with its own airport receiving flights from all across Australia. Everyone arriving has come for the same reason, to explore stunning Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Yulara is really one large resort, with accommodation for every budget from campsites to luxury hotels. Having said that, a cheap destination it is not; even the most basic accommodation is pricey, but for those who can afford it the destination is one of the highlights of a trip to Australia.

Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk

Uluru is actually just the uppermost part of a massive sandstone rock, extending far beneath the desert floor. Over millennia the surrounding land has worn down, leaving a massive, domed portion exposed to a height of 863m above the desert landscape. Deeply spiritually important to the local Anangu people, the Aboriginal tribe who are the historic keepers of this land, Uluru has long been a subject of controversy. To the outsider, the Rock presents an appealing challenge: the 1km climb to the summit, steep at first but made easier by a fixed rope before it levels out higher up, is comparatively easy to undertake for those of reasonable fitness – although it can be dangerous, and even lethal in the summer heat when the climb is often shut. But, to the Anangu, for anyone other than a member of their tribe to climb Uluru is, quite simply, sacrilegious and deeply offensive.

Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk

For me, visiting Uluru for the first time, the decision was ridiculously easy. Quite aside from not wanting to be disrespectful (not to mention that the climb is still HARD), standing on top of the rock wasn’t going to give me a better view from the one on the flight into Yulara the previous day. I wanted to see the rock up close, examine its folds and canyons, and learn about the culture. Which is where the base walk comes in.

There are actually a number of different walks, of various lengths, that can be taken from the visitors’ centre at the base of the rock. The base walk is the biggie, a full 10km around the full circumference of Uluru. Taking around 3.5 hours to complete, the walk is best at sunrise, before the heat hits the desert, and in the company of a local guide who can explain the significance of the various portions of the rock.

Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk
Sunrise with Wally the guide…

We therefore set off early, the sky lightening in the east in an arrange of spectacular colours which silhouetted the desert vegetation and gave the rock a purple tone which was only a taste of the variations to come. Uluru at sunset draws the big crowds, but Uluru at sunrise had a calm and peaceful beauty all of its own. As the sun rose, the rock turned gradually more orange, but in a range of stripes and striations that were unlike anything I was expecting. It’s easy to think of Uluru as a regular structure, a smooth dome; but it is full of rifts and valleys and rocky overhangs, striped yellow and orange and red and purple. The bright green of the desert trees and bushes stand in stark counterpoint, and waterfalls either crash or trickle down the sides of the rock depending on the time of year. Mostly they appear as a series of narrow ribbons, shaping the sides of the rock and plunging into little oases of vegetation at its base. Uluru up close is beautiful and varied, and can only be appreciated in such close proximity.

Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk

The further the walk takes you from the starting point, the more the crowds thin out and the more you have the place to yourself. We could spy the Anangu township in the distance as our guide explained the various parts of Uluru and their significance to the local people. Sections of the rock are particularly sacred, and signs request that visitors refrain from photography in these areas. It makes them even more special, and forces even the most enthusiastic photographer (myself included) to breathe in and really absorb the landscape. As well as the spiritual significance of the area, Aboriginal artwork, centuries old, decorates caves and overhangs. Despite the number of visitors to Uluru each year, we felt like the first people to discover its secrets as we explored the nooks and crannies of this incredible place. It was magical.

Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk

My walk around the base of Uluru was eye-opening, both in the history and spirituality of the site, and in the beauty and variety of the landscape. It may be 10km, but the walk is level and easy, and cool in the early hours of the day, even in the summer months when I visited. It is, for me, the very best way to get the most out of your visit to this Aussie icon.

Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk

How to get to Uluru:

The only easy way to reach Uluru is by plane. It is possible to drive from the Outback city of Alice Springs (470 km / 6 hours), but otherwise, a scheduled flight into Yulara (YUL) is the only option.

Where to stay at Uluru

All accommodation in the area is at the Ayers Rock Resort. Located 20km from Uluru itself so as not to encroach on the beauty of the area, the resort has a monopoly but offers many different standards of accommodation in a variety of hotels and campsites. In July 2018, the cheapest campsite pitch costs AU$43 per night (approx US$32).

Uluru tours

A multitude of different tours are available in the area, to Uluru itself as well as to neighbouring Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon. For options, check out the Ayers Rock Resort website or AAT Kings, among others. Or why not consider a Segway tour if you don’t fancy the walk?

Doing it yourself

Fancy putting together your own self-guided trip to the Red Centre? Crystal at Castaway with Crystal has plenty of advice on how you can create your own Uluru adventure!

However you do it, it’s well worth the effort.


Want to experience an Uluru base walk for yourself? Pin this post for later!

Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk
Thousands flock to Uluru every year; but how do you get a different perspective on this famous rock? Simple: take an Uluru base walk. | Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park | Ayers Rock | Northern Territory Australia | Yulara | Anangu Aboriginal Community |Walk right around Uluru #uluru #yulara #ulurubasewalk

I'm Jill, and I'm a British blogger who has been travelling for two decades, visiting more than 70 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!

16 Comments

  • Josy A

    What stunning colours! I realise it must have been a scorching day, but your photos make it look simply stunning! It is really good that you went early and did such a pretty hike around it!

  • Emily

    Thank you for advocating a more sustainable and respectful alternative to climbing up Uluru. When I visited as a child (many years ago, there wasn’t much knowledge on this so lots of people were going up (including some members of my family). I’m glad to see awareness is building and people are slowly changing their behaviour.

    Great photos!

    • Jill Bowdery

      Thank you so much! It’s definitely great that people are becoming more aware and respectful. That climb looks HARD too – much better to show respect and get a much more interesting view of Uluru!

  • Katherine

    You’re right, that climb can be dangerous, I’m pretty sure that I heard of a woman dying while doing the climb quite recently. Plus the fact that it’s so disrespectful, I think I’d be much happier to stay with two feet on the ground. Ularu must be spectacular to see in person though!

    • Jill Bowdery

      People definitely die up there – not to mention the risk of injury in a place where it’s very hard to evacuate you. I much preferred staying down below – and you’re right, it was a real “pinch me” kind of place! Just stunning…

  • Lauren

    This sounds so wonderful! When I was living in Sydney, I never made it to the interior. When I get back to Australia (hopefully one day soon), my goal would be to traverse the middle and certainly make it to Uluru. Thanks for the information on the trail – sounds perfect – and you’re right. There’s no reason to climb it, largely as not to be disrespectful.

    • Jill Bowdery

      It’s always the way – when it’s easy (ish!) we somehow never get round to it. Hope you do get there one day. I’ve not been to Adelaide, Alice Springs or Darwin, so a trip up the middle is on my wishlist too!

  • Marissa

    I loved reading about your experience at Uluru! I’m glad to read about the reverence given to the landmark due to its spiritual meaning to Aboriginal people. It’ll be my first stop on a subsequent visit to Australia!

  • Clazz

    I’m still gutted that I didn’t make it to Uluru while I was in Australia! I would love to do the base walk, too. It makes me so angry that people still climb it when really, what are you achieving from that? I’d much rather walk around it and take it all in. That art is amazing too! Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Jill Bowdery

      You would miss so much by climbing – it’s really not the most interesting part of the rock as far as I can tell. The art was incredible – the area is so rich in history. Hope you make it back there one day!

  • Caitlin

    I am so glad to hear you made the decision not to climb the rock and also thankful you acknowledged the native people who first knew of this exceptional place. The base walk seems like a great alternative!

  • The Rock Tour

    Uluru is indeed one of the best destinations one should go to. Have an advance knowledge on the people, culture and do’s and don’ts. Other than that, you’re good to go.

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