The Valley of the Winds walk was the highlight of our trip to Kata Tjuta – the Olgas. In fact, it was one of the best experiences of our trip to central Australia. We went excited to see Uluru for the first time but, for us, Kata Tjuta came close to stealing the show.
Kata Tjuta is in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and you will need a park pass to go there. It consists of 36 domes the highest of which is 546 metres tall which is 200 metres higher than Uluru. Kata Tjuta in Pitjantjatjara means ‘many heads’ and the area is a sacred site still used by Anangu men to this day.
Besides the view, what we most like about Kata Tjuta was that the walks took you right into the landscape. The views, both panoramic and close up, give you a great appreciation of the place.
While the Valley of the Winds walk is the main activity, there are other less demanding ways to enjoy Kata Tjuta. You can do the shorter Walpa Gorge walk and there are sunset and sunrise viewing areas.
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Valley of the Winds walk
The Valley of the Winds walk is the best way to appreciate Kata Tjuta. It takes you up between the domes and has some great views of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. From the heights of the lookouts, you descend into a valley and back to where you started.
The walk is a 7.4 km loop that takes 3 – 4 hours. The time will vary depending on your fitness and how long you stop to take in the views at the two lookouts. On days when it is forecast to be over 36 degrees the full walk closes at 11.00am and you can only go to the first lookout.
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We started the Valley Of the Winds walk early in the morning. The sun was just starting to hit the domes. From the carpark the walk begins along a gravel and cobblestone path.
Ahead of us the orange of the domes and rocky slopes glowed as the early morning shadows receded. You get to the Karu Lookout early in the Valley of the Winds walk. The views from the lookout are a great chance take in Kata Tjuta and contrast the domes to Uluru.
One of the first things you notice is that the make-up of Kata Tjuta is quite different to Uluru. Uluru’s surface has quite a consistent texture. Kata Tjuta’s domes include everything from football size rocks to car size boulders. In places you can see where boulders have come away from the domes leaving holes in the surface. The boulders now rest either side of the path.
HYDRATION BACKPACK FOR HIKING
Perfect for walking in the MacDonnell Ranges when you need your hands free & have to keep yourself hydrated. The Camelbak Sabre is an extremely tough and versatile pack that lets you can carry 2 litres of water when you’re on the go. The closed cell insulation keeps water cool for hours & has extra room for your keys, phone & cards.
The walk between the two lookouts, for us, was both the toughest and most spectacular section of the walk. There are some steep sections up and down between the lookouts as you hike around and over the edge of two of the domes.
Not long after leaving the Karu Lookout the trail begins its anti-clockwise loop. Around here there is the chance to top up your water bottle, a good idea if it’s a warm day. This section of the walk shows Kata Tjuta in all its beauty. You get to appreciate the size and texture of the domes. Around every corner the shape, curve and colour of the rock changes. Set against the backdrop of a deep blue sky it is a wondrous experience.
You’ll likely be either taking so many pictures or in such awe of the landscape you won’t notice getting a bit puffed. When you think it can’t get any better, you reach the lookout. The view down into the tree filled valley surrounded by domes is beautiful.
Read More : See the endangered Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby
After taking in the views there is a short steep walk down into the valley. From there the hardest of the walking is behind you. It had rained a day or two before our walk. In the valley there was still that fresh wet garden smell in the air and a few small pools of water between the rocks. It was a refreshing part of the walk and a nice rest before getting back into more open terrain.
The final part of the loop takes you behind three or four of the large domes you would have seen at the start of the trail. Even two or three hours into the hike, the sight loses none of its grandeur. With the sun still not too high in the sky, the rocks glowed orange as we made our back to the carpark.
There is another water station before the loop re-joins the path in and out. The final part of the walk takes you past the Karu Lookout again and back to the carpark. It was getting hot when we finished in the late morning. There are sun shelters near the carpark with grassed roofs and big wooden bench seats. I can’t tell you how comfy those seats were after the 3 plus hour walk!
40 MIN ULURU & KATA TJUTA SCENIC FLIGHT
We loved this flight over Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The incredible aerial view of Uluru is a must-see. You will also fly across to the spectacular domes of Kata Tjuta for a view that will leave you speechless. Be ready to take in iconic views of Kata Tjuta, Uluru, and Mount Connor as they line up when your pilot steers your plane to the right position.
Walpa Gorge walk
If you can’t get to the Valley of the Winds walk, don’t despair. The Walpa Gorge walk will give you a similar experience with quite a bit less effort. This is a 2.6 km, 1 hour moderate return track along a well-formed path. The track squeezes between two of the largest domes at Kata Tjuta. It finishes at a viewing platform overlooking a lush area of plants and trees.
Like the Valley of the Wind, at Walpa Gorge you are also struck by the ‘rocky road’ look of the domes. There are boulders all around the walking trail made of red rock with all sorts of other stones mixed in. You find yourself looking up at the domes trying to match the boulders to the holes they might have fallen out of.
We went to Walpa Gorge in the late afternoon hoping to spot to wildlife. Unfortunately all we encountered were flies, lots and lots of flies. They weren’t a problem for the Valley of the Wind but it might pay to have your fly net ready if you walk later in the day. At least we saw some colourful wildflowers dotted across the red landscape.
ULURU & KATA TJUTA FULL DAY TOUR WITH BBQ DINNER
Uluru & Kata Tjuta are two of Australia’s most photographed natural wonders & this full-day tour takes in both. Enjoy guided walks to the Walpa Gorge, Mutitjulu Waterhole, & the Mala Walk; visit the Aboriginal Cultural Centre; & tuck into a Aussie BBQ dinner as you watch the sunset over Uluru.
Kata Tjuta Sunrise and Sunset Viewing
There are two areas to get a more distant view of Kata Tjuta and see it change colour at dawn and dusk. The sunset viewing area is quite close to the Walpa Gorge carpark. This also happens to be the only spot around Kata Tjuta where you’ll find toilets. This is a long, ground level viewing area and can accommodate a lot of people.
Keen photographers might want to walk around a bit to get the shot they want. There are quite a few trees in the foreground. For our evening here the problem was a bank of cloud that looked like spoiling the sunset show. Luckily a gap opened up between the horizon and cloud long enough for a few rays of golden light to hit the domes. It was a brief but great sight.
You will pass the Dune Viewing area on your way to Kata Tjuta. This is the official sunrise viewing area. With only a couple of other people there for sunrise we enjoyed the peaceful view of Kata Tjuta as the soft sunlight gradually lit up the domes. We also managed to get to the Uluru Sunrise viewing platform to see the silhouette of the domes against an amber light. It was a great way to end our Kata Tjuta experience
Read More : Field of Light at Sunrise – Is it worth it?
You need a park pass to experience Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Park passes can be purchased online. The money from park passes helps maintain the park’s facilities, preserve its World Heritage sites and support traditional owners and their community.\
From 1 November 2020, a new park use fee structure for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park will come into effect.
Adults $38 for 3 days or $50 annual pass. Children are free.
Purchase your park pass here.