An inevitable sensation of excitement builds as you approach this great monolith. If you drive toward it in a rental car, you may find yourself gasping at the first glimpse through the windshield; if you're on a tour bus, you'll likely want to grab the person sitting next to you and point out the window as it looms larger and larger. Rising like an enormous red mountain in the middle of an otherwise completely flat desert, Uluru is a marvel to behold.
Uluru is circled by a road and walking trails. Two car parks—Mala and Kuniya—provide access for several of the walks, or you can choose to do the full circle of the Rock on the Base Walk.
As you work your way around Uluru, your perspective of the great rock changes significantly. You should allow four hours to walk the 10 km (6 miles) around the rock and explore the several deep crevices along the way. Some places are Aboriginal sacred sites and cannot be entered, nor can they be photographed. These are clearly signposted. Aboriginal art can be found in caves at the rock's base.
If you're looking for an easy walk that takes you just partway around the base, the Mala Walk is 2 km (1 mile) in length and almost all on flat land. The walk goes to the Kanju Gorge from the base of the climbing trail; park rangers provide free tours daily at 8 am from October to April and at 10 am from May to September.
The Liru Walk starts at the cultural center and takes you to the base of the Rock. Along the way are stands of mulga trees and—after rain—wildflowers. The track is wheelchair accessible, and the walk is an easy 1½ hours.
On the southern side of Uluru, the Kuniya Walk and Mutitjulu Waterhole trail starts at the Kuniya car park and is an easy 45-minute walk along a wheelchair-accessible trail to the water hole, home of Wanampi, an ancestral snake. A rock shelter used by Aborigines houses rock art.
Another popular way to experience Uluru is far less taxing but no less intense: watching the natural light reflect on it from one of the two sunset-viewing areas. As the last rays of daylight strike, the rock positively glows as if lighted from within. Just as quickly, the light is extinguished and the color changes to a somber mauve and finally to black.
Uluru–Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre. The cultural center is the first thing you'll see after entering the park through a tollgate. The two buildings are built in a serpentine style, reflecting the Kuniya and Liru stories about two ancestral snakes who fought a long-ago battle on the southern side of Uluru. Inside, you can learn about Aboriginal history and the return of the park to Aboriginal ownership in 1983. There's also an excellent park ranger's station where you can get maps and hiking guides, as well as two art shops where you'll likely see indigenous artists at work. Off Lasseter Hwy. 08/8956–1128.