Looking for quick tips to plan your next travel in the wild Australian outback? Check out our adventure and let you be inspired by our 3 days itinerary in the Red Center!
"We are all visitors to this time, this place. Our purpose here is to observe, lo learn, to grow, to love; and then we return home" - Australian proverb
Our itinerary in a nutshell:
Day 1: Getting there – Uluru (Ayers Rock) base walk and sunset view
Day 2: Kings Canyon & Outback Panoramas + Uluru sunset view
Day 3: Uluru (Ayers Rock) sunrise and Kata-Tjuta National Park (the Olgas) – fly back
Visiting the Red Center is a unique travel experience and you can not risk to miss something just because you did not plan all the details of your trip in advance.
Consider that thousands of tourists crowd every month the few (and expensive) hotels, all of them having in mind more or less the same activities (booking a room at the best rates and in a good position, joining a tour, renting a car, etc), consequently planning in advance (even 3-6 months before) is a must for this area. Add also that distances are huge if you have in mind a self-drive trip and most of the area is a protected park (a guide is highly recommended for some trekkings, especially for the Kings Canyon).
For these reasons we opted for the 2 days and half Piti Pass + Kings Canyon provided by AAT KINGS (all the info available at https://www.aatkings.com/tours/uluru-ayers-rock/piti-kings-pass). AAT Kings is a famous big local tour operator which offers various opportunities, from half day tours to multi-days passes; they have a dedicated corner in the visitor center of Ayers Rock but again our suggestion is to book online in advance to get the best offers and avoid to lose time once there.
For the accomodation, our choice was for the Outback Pioneer Hotel (https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/accommodation/outback-pioneer-hotel), a nice lodge with an amazing lookout on the Uluru and in a good position to reach the tiny Ayers Rock center (just 10minutes by walk) with its visitor center, a supermarket and few other stores.
This hotel is also famous for its restaurant where is possible to buy some meat, vegetables or fish and grill everything in complete autonomy on the barbecues available (for free) for the guests of the lodge.
Another plus of the hotel is the free bus transfer from/to the Ayers rock Airport (15 minutes approx.)
Our itineray day by day
Day 1: Getting there – Uluru (Ayers Rock) base walk and sunset
We reach the Red Center with an early morning flight (Cairns 7.30 am - Ayers Rock 9.55 am) to spend every useful minute of our 3 days in the outback. Against every expectation it is raining cats and dogs.. not bad considering that usually in this area it rains less than 20 days per year!
Ok no panic, our first tour is starting at 2pm so fingers crossed, after all we are in a desert: it will not rain all the day long, right?
We unpack our luggages, explore the Hotel and use the rest of the morning to visit the nearby Ayers Rock city center, a modern anonymous village whit a super useful supermarket where to grab some food for lunch and for the 2 next breakfasts.
It’s 2pm but unfortunately it continues to rain.. our base walk tour of Uluru is going to start. Aborigens called this place Uluru but most of you probably know it with its international name: Ayers Rock: the red heart of Australia and one of the most iconic natural landmarks in the world.
The natural and majestic monolith stands at a towering 348 metres tall in the middle of the desert, with a circumference of over 9km and the bulk of its mass lying underground.
It does not surprise that it has been venereted from the beginning of time. Even with the rain, driving around the the base of Uluru it is a unique experience where it is impossible to not be astonished by its incredible size and inherent spirituality of the place.
Our guide highlights how lucky we are to see this rare and totally unexpected show of suggestive natural falls falling down from the top of the monolith.
The tour continues toward the Uluṟu - Kata Tjuṯa Cultural Centre, housing an amazing collection of original paintings and woodworks where is also possible to buy some Aboriginal artworks and learn more about the Anangu people (the traditional custodians of Uluru) and the Western Desert region.
Our next leg is the awesome Kuniya Walk, where we explore some caves with ancient Aboriginal rock paintings and, on the path to the Mutitjulu Waterhole, we take a beautiful shot of a natural rock formation resembling two snake heads. Our guide explain us that it is another spiritual place linked to the myth of Kuniya, the woma python and Liru, the poisonous snake.
This waterhole was a key source of water for the Aboriginal people in the area and had been in use for many thousands of years.
Oh right, If you are wondering.. yes it is still raining.. and not only! A terrible fog is enveloping the Uluru which disappears under our eyes… our only option now is having a good glass of wine and nibbles, and hope that the weather will get better tomorrow.
Day 2: Kings Canyon & Outback Panoramas + Uluru sunset
We get up early (very early!), as our guided tour starts at 4.30 am; today we will be visiting the Kings Canyon, approx. 300 km far from Ayers Rock, in the remote and wild outback to of Watarrka National Park. The road is mostly linear and the outback does not offer often many scenic views.. joining a guided tour with a driver is definitively a good solution.
Once there we head to the scenic Rim Walk: an unmissable rocky hike up to the top of the canyon, 6 kms walk (3/4 hours) along the Rim of the canyon and the descend into a green oasis called the ‘Garden of Eden’.
During the trekking, we have marvellous views of the Watarrka National Park and the landscape around us reveals immediately the power of the wild nature with spectacular views on sandstone walls, grottos, chasms, canyon rocky gorges, falls …
Once back in Ayers Rock the sun is shining and from the lookout point of the Hotel we can finally enjoy the thousand shades of the red sunset over the Uluru and the Olgas formation: simply magic!
To perfectly end this wonderful and exciting day, we have the typical barbecue dinner tastig crocodile (it is similar to chicken but with a shrimp aftertaste) and kangaroo meat (quite similar to a beef steak)!
Day 3: Uluru (Ayers Rock) sunrise and Kata-Tjuta National Park(the Olgas) – fly back
It is our last day in the Red Center and as usual we get up very early but for a good reason: enjoy the sunrise. Weather conditions are simply perfect and we can not wait one minute more; we dress our warmest clothes and we head to Uluru (as you can imagine it can be very cold early in the morning in the middle of the outback).
Arrived at the Uluru sunrise viewing area we try to find a good position for our tripod (quite crowded site) and we relax drinking a hot chocolate waiting for the dawn…when finally the first rays of sun creeps across the desert and lights up Uluru we remain speechless in front of this simple but beautyful event.
There is something magical in thousands shade of colors of the monolith until the sun is high in the sky and the red becomes the prevalent color.
The second leg of our tour is the Kata Tjuta National Park (the Olgas), approx. 40 kilometres West of Uluru. We spend some time exploring the Walpa Gorge along the suggestive path between two of the tallest domes up to a lush oasis in the desert.
Then, we continue walking until the Dune Viewing platform to enjoy an amazing panoramic view of the 36 domes of conglomerate rock that forms Kata Tjuta formation. From this lookout it is aslo possible to spot the Uluru on the distant horizon.
The morning is going to end up and we come back to the hotel where we have just the time for a quick lunch before reaching the airport for our next leg…curious? Stay tuned for the next chapter!
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