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Best Time to Visit Uluru/Ayers Rock Northern Territory
Experience Oz Presents

The Best Time to Visit Uluru

by Experience Oz staff

Situated almost exactly in the centre of the continent, Uluru is a giant sandstone monolith that is unusual in that it combines scale and isolation into an entirely unique package. But when is the best time to visit this popular icon?

When you're talking Australian bucket list items, there are few that can contend with what is widely regarded as Australia's red heart; Ayers Rock, or Uluru as it's known in its native Aboriginal tongue (and which has now become the official name once again).

A staple of postcards, calendars and other Australian memorabilia in stores of all kinds throughout the country, Uluru makes for an extremely photogenic natural feature that is especially beautiful at sunrise and sunset when the light brings out the red ochre hues that the rock is famous for. Uluru is also of great cultural significance in the Aboriginal culture, and its influence on their history and storytelling should not be understated.

In addition to the rock itself, the surrounding areas are also rich in other rugged highlights that reflect the untamed nature of the Australian outback such as Kata Tjuta (a.k.a The Olgas), a large, red group of rock formations around half an hour to Uluru's west, as well as the sweeping gorge of Kings Canyon and the impressive gap-riddled mountains of the MacDonnell Ranges. The combination of each of these geological wonders provides visitors with the opportunity to form an exciting itinerary. If you have a sense of adventure, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park offers a comprehensive Australian Outback experience.

Best time to visit Uluru Northern Territory

While it's an undeniably impressive spectacle, Uluru's isolation from civilisation, in general, can make getting there quite a mission. The closest settlement that qualifies as a town is Alice Springs, which lies around 450 kilometres from the rock itself.

For the majority of visitors, either flying directly to Ayers Rock Airport or making the long-yet-enjoyable drive are the likely options. Both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer flights to Ayers Rock from all Australian capital cities (except Canberra). If you're looking to drive you'll need to add a few extra days to the itinerary to accommodate for various stops to admire the rugged outback scenery of the regions you pass through.

But when is the best time of the year to visit Uluru? We polled a variety of tour operators and regional tourism authorities, and the consensus was that August to September (known as the shoulder season) is the best time to visit Uluru, for a variety of reasons that are outlined below.


Why Uluru in August – September?

When travelling to any location that is basically a desert, one of the first factors that springs to mind is obviously going to be the weather and climate conditions, and Uluru is no exception in this regard.

Despite most people's concerns about the heat, it's the cold of night that can actually prove the most discomforting, particularly if you're planning a camping trip.

While you may instantly think the most logical idea to counteract desert heat is to go during winter, with Uluru and the outback this is most definitely not the case. Temperatures often reach below-freezing levels due to both exposure and the utter lack of humidity, which can make for nights that are not only frigid but can even approach dangerous levels for the under-equipped.

Best time to visit Uluru Kata tjuta northern territory

However, in the August to September bridging period, average minimums typically hover around a chilly-yet-acceptable 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) that makes things much more bearable. Couple this with the fact that, during the day, you're likely to encounter warm temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and it's easy to see why this period comes highly recommended on the weather front.

In addition to weather, if you're lucky enough to visit Uluru after the region has received rainfall in the months prior, you'll also have the benefit of witnessing the various flora and fauna flourishing at their best. This serves to add further colour and charm to what is already an amazing experience.

Wild flowers in bloom dot the area and their greenery contrasts wonderfully with the red ochre hues of the desert and the rock in particular. Lastly, travelling during this period you'll also be avoiding the school holiday season, which can either be a blessing or a curse according to whether or not you have kids of your own.

In terms of the best things to do in and around Uluru during this time, you've got a range of options. One of the simplest and cheapest pleasures is stargazing, as the lack of cloud cover makes the desert skies as clear and impressive as ever. The Southern Cross is one of the iconic symbols of Australian culture and is on full display during this time, adding an additional dose of Australian culture to the experience.

As mentioned previously, sunrise and sunset are focal points of the day at the rock, and there are designated viewing areas for each which have been assigned to provide the best possible viewpoint of these daily occurrences; be sure to attend at least one of them while you're there.

Getting Around

To get around, if you haven't driven yourself then you'll have to make a choice between the convenience of a guided tour or hire a car. The Ayers Rock Visitor's Centre makes for a great starting point. Here you'll be introduced to local plant and animal life, history and Aboriginal culture that will provide you with a brief overview of what else is to come. Once you have your bearings, you can then turn your eyes towards more in-depth adventures, perhaps the most popular of which is an Uluru base walk.

Why a walk and not a climb, you may ask? The sacred nature of Uluru to the Aboriginal people has made climbing the rock a point of contention over the years, to the point that it has been periodically banned and, even while permitted, is still considered disrespectful. Couple this fact with the extreme challenge and occasional danger of the climb, there are several deaths per year from climbers who are either unprepared or overestimate their own fitness levels, and a walk makes for the more sensible and enjoyable choice.

Best time to visit uluru sunrise and sunset

Walks around Uluru typically take place at sunrise in order to take advantage of the effects of the natural lighting while also avoiding the worst of the midday heat. Additionally, the insight offered by the local guides will provide you with a historic overview and up-close, intimate encounter with this Australian icon.

Bear in mind, however, that regardless of how you choose to explore the rock, you'll have to pay the additional $25 National Park levy no matter what option you take. This means it's important to maximise what you can see within one visit rather than repeatedly paying fees for each time (the fee only applies to adults).

On these tours, you'll typically be taken to the most popular areas, such as the Talinguru Nyakunytjaku platform to view the sunrise, along with travelling along the popular Mutitjulu track and paying a visit to the Uluru/Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre.

Best time to visit Uluru Kata Tjuta

These walks typically wrap up around lunch time, which makes for the perfect time to rest and recharge your batteries before venturing out again in the afternoon. Kata Tjuta is usually the next point of call, as their relatively close location makes a half-day tour eminently doable. A walk in the valley between these massive rocks prior to sunset provides ample satisfying photo opportunities as the domes tower alongside you in either direction.

In truth, Kata Tjuta gets far less local and international attention than its sibling Uluru, yet it is no less spectacular when viewed in person (some feel even more so), with its lumpy red hills jutting conspicuously out of the earth making for quite the spectacle. Be sure to allow enough time to walk through the Valley of the Winds, which typically takes around a one-hour return trip. Capping it all off are the views at sunset, with the ever-changing colours on each of the domes perhaps one of the area's most iconic spectacles.

Add all of these factors together and it's not hard to see why most believe that this season is the best time of the year to visit Uluru and its surrounds.

What tips should I follow when visiting Uluru?

There are quite a few to consider; let's tackle them in bullet-point form:

  • An adventure to the outback goes hand in hand with flies. It often gets to the point that the air is thick with these annoying insects, which can greatly hinder your experience. Bring fly repellent, and a face net, and above all – learn to ignore the ones that aren't on your face and you'll have a much better time.
  • Be sure to pack lots of water with you regardless of what season you are travelling to Uluru in, particularly if you are going to be driving long distances. Many recommend carrying at least two large bottles of fresh water per adult as places to stock up – especially on the drive in from the east coast cities – are few and far between.
  • While you may see dingoes on your trip, avoid approaching or feeding them; they may look cute, but they are natural predators and feeding them simply encourages them to gain confidence in approaching tourist areas.
  • While mobile/cell phone cameras are constantly improving, if you want to get the most out of your journey you'll want to bring a proper camera. The angles of lighting and the effects they play on basic phone cameras without decent quality lenses and filters can truly hamper the photos you'll come away with. As this is often a once-in-a-lifetime trip, do yourself a favour and don't skimp on the photography equipment.
  • Ensure you bring a sturdy and comfortable pair of hiking shoes or boots; the terrain around Uluru is notoriously rough and slipping/tripping can be a hazard when wearing regular shoes.
  • Keep your mobile phone charged as much as possible. The remoteness of some locations makes the possibility of becoming stranded all-too-real. Phone reception is usually surprisingly good in the area of Uluru as telecommunications companies have made an effort given its popularity as a tourist spot, however, you may experience some patchiness if on a non-Telstra (Optus/Vodafone) network.
  • Remember the popular mantra of 'slip, slop, slap' (Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat). The desert sun can be a formidable opponent, even in the cooler August and September season, and both burning and dehydration can result. Bringing a strongly tinted pair of sunglasses is also advised.
Best time to visit Uluru Kata tjuta tips before visiting

Lastly, if you're looking for a range of other things to do in and around Ayers Rock / Uluru, Alice Springs and other locations throughout different periods of the year, be sure to visit our main Ayers Rock region section to view and book all the available tours and activities online today.

Browse All Uluru Experiences