Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), Northern Territory

Petermann, Northern Territory 0872

Uluru or Ayers Rock as it is commonly known, is one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks. But, nearby, there is another natural wonder that is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta is a collection of large domed rock formations that jut out of the arid landscape to the southwest of Alice Springs. Together with Uluru, they make up the two most popular landmarks in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, which is considered to be a sacred site to the Aboriginal people of Australia. There are actually 36 domes, all boasting different shapes and sizes that make up the Kata Tjuta with Mount Olga being the highest point at 1,066 metres.

At one point in time, it is thought the structure was all joined together in one large piece of rock – just like Uluru – that had been weathered and worn down over millions and millions of years. The Olgas can be found 35 kilometres west of Uluru and are made of a slightly different rock type than their more famous neighbour.

The lengthy history of the landmark means there are plenty of stories circulating it. As well as viewing the incredible scenery that surrounds it, including dusty red dunes and tufts of greenery, you can learn all about the rich array of legends that surround Kata Tjuta and Uluru while you’re in the area.

The Naming of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Kata Tjuta is commonly known as The Olgas to visitors. It was given this name thanks to its tallest peak, Mount Olga, which juts a little higher than the other rock formations in the vicinity.

Mount Olga was named by Ernest Giles back in 1872 after Queen Olga of Wurttemberg. But, the rock formations were given a second name Kata Tjuta later in the 1900’s to commemorate its Aboriginal meaning as well as the naming after a Russian queen. Kata Tjuta means ‘many heads’ in the Aboriginal language.

The Legends of Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta, NT

The landscape surrounding Kata Tjuta and Uluru is sacred to the Aboriginal people of Australia, which means there are numerous dreamtime stories that circulate them.

There are a few legends that remember the great snake king, Wanambi, who was thought to reside at the top of Mount Olga, only coming down to ground level in the dry season. It was thought that his breath could turn a breeze into a hurricane, punishing those who committed evil deeds in the region.

Despite there being a rich heritage surrounding the Olgas, much of the mythology is not disclosed to outsiders or tourists – particularly women as, according to Aboriginal tradition, if a woman learns about “men’s business”, she is susceptible to violent attacks.

The Anangu Aboriginal peoples believe something slightly different about Kata Tjuta. They believe that the rock formations are home to spirit energy from the ‘Dreaming’. Since 1995, the site has been used for cultural ceremonies after taking a break for many years.

Exploring the Olgas

The Olgas, NT

Kata Tjuta is a magical place that really shows the true natural beauty of Australia. This part of the country is renowned for its rich Aboriginal history and its incredible displays of scenery so, if you’re in the area, be sure to check it out and learn all about the Dreamtime stories and legends that still imbue it today.

Rising to more than 546 metres above ground level, the highest point of the structure is Mount Olga, a peak that sits more than 200 metres higher than Uluru. All in all, it measures around 22 kilometres in circumference, so it is again bigger (and somewhat more impressive) than Uluru.

Perhaps the best bit of the Olgas, though, are the deep crevices that weave between the jutting peaks. The views from down here are breath-taking and prehistoric, providing an up close and personal walk down memory lane.

The region is renowned for its series of meandering walks that take in some of the best views, though many have been closed in recent years to stop tourists from trampling the ancient landscape. Even so, visitors can still enjoy up to 7 kilometres of walking trails, including the popular Walpa Gorge Walk that, at 2.6 kilometres long, is one of the easiest to complete.

For something a bit more adventurous, visitors can explore the Valley of the Winds on a longer trail that takes in some amazing viewpoints. The walk itself takes around three hours and can get very hot, but the lush foliage that has collected between the spires of the Olgas is well worth seeing if you can. If you’d rather not walk in the searing heat, you can experience a portion of the views from the Kata Tjuta Dune viewpoint that’s located near the car park.

Kata Tjuta can be found 200 kilometres south of Alice Springs, the main location for Uluru-Kata Tjuta tours. The Olgas are a stopping off point for all Uluru tours, giving travellers a first-hand look at the natural phenomenon that makes up both rock formations. The colours of the sandstone changes colours just like Ayers Rock, from bright red and orange hues to cool blues, purples and pinks at sunset. If you are visiting Kata Tjuta on your own, beware of the distance between civilisation and these two famous tourist attractions. It takes 4 1/2 hours to drive from Alice Springs to the Olgas, and then on to Uluru.

If you’re going out to the Red Centre, you can’t miss out on the Olgas and their importance to the community!

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