Uluru and Kata Tjuta as a day trip from Alice Springs: “2023”

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Visit Uluru & Kata Tjuta As A Day Trip From Alice Springs

Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is a must do for not just every Australian but every visitor to Australia. This living landscape is more than just chance to grab that sunset pic, is a place to learn about the history and heritage of our Indigenous people.

I had visited Uluru when it was still called Ayers Rock in the early 90’s, however there was a lot less information available about the significance of this place for our Indigenous land owners then. When I found myself in Alice Springs last year, I knew I had to go back and experience it now. Unfortunately I only had a day so I booked myself on to this day trip to Uluru from Alice Springs.

At almost $300 it isn’t a cheap day but you have to remember that Uluru is 450 kilometres from Alice Springs and this trip includes guided tours, walks around Uluru along with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I did think long and hard about spending $300 but the alternative is to hire a car, drive out myself and then pay for at least one nights accommodation to get the same experience. After the trip I was very pleased that I had done the tour instead of trying to do it myself in such a limited time frame.

Your Pickup From Alice Springs

The company does pickups from most of the hotels in Alice Springs, however if your Alice Springs accommodation isn’t on the list, you can choose from another hotel close by. I was on the outskirts of Alice and my hotel was on the list so my pickup was one of the later ones at 5:45am.

They do the pickups in smaller coaster buses and then you all meet at their depot and join up in the larger bus. I liked this system as it meant that no-one had a 4am pickup to accommodate for all the stops they had to make. It worked really well.

Breakfast On The Drive To Uluru

The driver introduces himself and then pretty much leaves you to your own devices until we get close to the breakfast stop. Once at Erldunda he lets you know how much time you have and shows you where the breakfast is served. It is a self serve buffet style breakfast and while there are no gourmet options here, there was variety and the quality of the food was great.

I especially enjoyed a Korean family loving the remoteness of this tiny roadhouse and motel. You get used to this as an Australian who has travelled but it is always great to see others enamoured with it.

They also have an enclosure with some emus which was very popular with the kids on the bus. I especially liked that they haven’t tried to make the roadhouse something its not. I LOVED that it was a typical Australian Roadhouse and you could tell that overseas visitors also loved that.

Erldunda Roadhouse
Erldunda Roadhouse
The dining area of Erldunda Roadhouse
The dining area of Erldunda Roadhouse

The Journey To Kata Tjuta & Uluru

After breakfast we all boarded the bus and continued on the journey to Uluru. At this point the driver started to tell us a few Indigenous cultural stories and also explained how they kept the land at its peak. I would consider myself to know quite a bit about both Australia, its people and its flora and fauna but I had no idea that some kinds of Australian plants actually need fire to seed.

I’m sure that is the wrong terminology but some kinds of wattle need fire for their seeds to germinate. The wattle (or Acacia) are immensely resistant to drought but they need the heat from fire to allow the seeds to crack and germinate. If they don’t crack they can’t let in water.

The Indigenous people knew this and have used fire to control the landscape, germinate the plants and ensure that any fire that occurs is man made. Starting the fires at the right time of the season ensures that overgrown kindling is destroyed at the correct time of year, which will protect the tribe from sudden out of control wildfires that might be started from summer storms.

Kata Tjuka (The Olgas)

The first stop is Kata Tjuka (formerly referred to at The Olgas). Kata Tjuka means “many heads” and is sacred to the local Anangu people. Our guide gives us a brief overview of these stunning rocks and then we are free to take a stroll up Walpa Gorge Walk. This 2.5km walk showcases the stunning red rocks of Kata Tjuka and while you need to show respect and walk quietly, the trail enables you to head right up to the sheer walks of Walpa Gorge.

The breeze you encounter as you start the walk becomes almost a gale as you near the gorge. I ended up taking my hat off or I was going to loose it as the wind gets that strong. You have plenty of time to walk out and back spending time stopping along the way at the viewing platforms to take in the stunning scenery that surrounds you.

If you don’t feel like doing the walk, you can sit and take in this impressive scenery on the viewing seats scattered around the area.

Walpa Gorge Walk Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)
Walpa Gorge Walk Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

The Uluru Cultural Centre

Next stop is the Cultural Centre which is pretty good! Along with some great Indigenous art and souvenirs, there is also the opportunity to learn about Anangu culture and the parks environment and plant life. They have free presentations run by the rangers which are worth hanging around for.

They suggest that you start at the Tjukurpa Tunnel which is a great introduction into the facility. The tunnel has heaps of info about Anangu traditions, their laws and some great stories. The ceremonial songs that you hear are beautiful and really helps to export you back to the beginning of time. Its important to be respectful, quiet and considerate of this environment so take your time and learn all that you can from this great presentation.

On To Uluru

When you arrive at Uluru you are given your lunch so you are free to consume that before or after the Uluru walk. Our guide for Uluru was amazing. He explained so much of the history of the rock and also explained how the Indigenous dreamtime stories explain some of the rocks features. They are great stories and really ring true.

One of the most amazing things that I didn’t know is how the Indigenous culture manages discipline. As Australians most of us know that in Indigenous culture crime is handled swiftly and physically. A serious breach of law might result in you having your leg speared. They don’t mess around. However what I never realised is that it is usually a family member of whoever the crime has been inflicted upon that takes that disciplinary action.

So if I was to harm your daughter and she was incapable (or too young) to spear me, her father might do it. Now, even though its his family I’ve committed a crime against, it is his responsibility to care for me after I’ve been speared until I can care for myself.

This is primarily to try to mitigate any anger against other tribal members. The time you would have to commit to nursing me back to health means that you usually let go of the anger you hold against me over that time.

Your walk around the rock also enables you to see some great Indigenous art which is pretty cool. There is one point that you pass a birthing cave and you must listen to the guide here and not take photos of the cave and if you are male, they prefer that you don’t even look at the cave.

Indigenous Rock Art - Uluru
Indigenous Rock Art – Uluru

Jenny Marsden - Charge The Globe
About the author

Meet Jenny, a passionate Australian travel blogger who has explored 103 countries to date. With over 30 years of travel experience, Jenny has a wealth of knowledge to share with her readers about the cultures, landscapes, and people she has encountered on her journeys. She’s always battling unfashionably frizzy hair and you will never catch Jenny in anything but comfortable shoes. Learn more about Jenny and her travels.

Sunset View Of Uluru

After your walk around Uluru, everyone gets back on the bus and you head over to the sunset viewing area. While here the guides get out the BBQ and cook up a storm. I would say you probably get a good hour and half here to take photos and have dinner and it is a wonderful way to end your time at Uluru.

Many buses and cars stop here and it does get busy. I had to ask the man next to me to try and turn off his camera’s count down timer as it was really spoiling the ambience. He very nicely did work out how to do it so I had a nice 20 mins enjoying a wine and the sunset over Australia’s most famous rock.

After susnet and dinner we all hop back on the bus and head back to Alice Springs. There is a break at Erldunda again where you can buy some snacks, a coffee or hot chocolate. The driver is very cogniscent of everyone wanting to rest after a big day so he lets you do that.

I got back to my accommodation at around midnight so it was a massive day. Even though you are gone for 14 or 15 hours, you aren’t driving so it’s not stressful at all.

Jen at Uluru at sunset
Me at Uluru at sunset

Things To Know About Your Bus Trip To Uluru

  • The bus has a toilet so you don’t have to be concerned about waiting for stops
  • The guides can answer almost any question you have and are very knowledgeable
  • Pick up times are firm and if you are not waiting you could miss your pickup. One family we went to get weren’t there and the driver got reception to call, they didn’t answer and we left.
  • Lunch is a salad wrap which I really enjoyed however others were disappointed it wasn’t a sit down meal. I’m not sure how they would have fitted that in but if you do eat a lot, bring some snacks for the bus.

Would I recommend this day trip? Absolutely. Honestly even though it was a long day sitting in the bus relaxing or reading my book was great. The guides are amazing and the meals were good. If you only have one day to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta from Alice Springs – this is the way to do it.

PIN ME! How to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta from Alice Springs
PIN ME! How to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta from Alice Springs