Kata Tjuta

Kata Tjuta, also known as Mount Olga (or colloquially as The Olgas), are a group of large domed rock formations located about 365 km southwest of Alice Springs in the southern part of the NT. Uluru, 25 km to the east and Kata Tjuta form the two major landmarks within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta represents nature on a monumental scale, with the cluster’s tallest peak being 200m higher than Uluru, which sits 40km to the east. Much like its geological cousin, Kata Tjuta is most spectacular when viewed at sunrise or sunset.

The 36 domes, covering an area of 21.68 km2, are composed of conglomerate, a sedimentary rock consisting of cobbles and boulders of varying rock types including granite and basalt, cemented by a matrix of sandstone. The highest point, Mount Olga, is 1066 m above sea level, or approximately 546 m above the surrounding plain (203 m higher than Uluru).

The site is as sacred to the Indigenous people as Uluru. There are many Pitjantjatjara Dreamtime legends associated with this place and indeed everything in the vicinity including, of course, Uluru. A number of legends surround the great snake Wanambi who is said to live on the summit of Mount Olga and only comes down during the dry season. Many ceremonies were, and are still carried out here, particularly at night. One of these former ceremonies included a type of public punishment that in extreme cases included death.

This area is important and is sacred under Anangu men’s law. According to these laws, details of the stories cannot be revealed and access to some areas is restricted. You are encouraged to visit this place but as with all sunset viewing areas of the Park, please stay on the marked tracks.

Below: Queen Olga of Wurttemberg

The Name

The Pitjantjatjara name Kata Tjuta means 'many heads'. The alternative name, The Olgas, comes from the tallest peak, Mt. Olga. At the behest of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller, Mt. Olga was named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Wurttemberg. She and her husband, Charles I of Württemberg, had marked their 25th wedding anniversary the previous year by, amongst other things, naming Mueller a Freiherr (baron), making him Ferdinand von Mueller; this was his way of repaying the compliment.

Queen Olga (1822-1892) was a member of the Russian imperial family who became Queen Consort of Württemberg. She was the second daughter of Nicholas I of Russia and Charlotte of Prussia. Attractive, cultured and intelligent, she was considered to be one of the most eligible princesses in Europe. She spoke several languages, and was fond of music and painting. She and her husband had no children, probably because of Charles’ homosexuality. Olga’s husband became the object of scandal several times for his closeness with various men.

On 15th December 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official names consisting of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name. As a result, Mount Olga was renamed Mount Olga (Kata Tjuta). On 6th November 2002, following a request from the regional Tourism Association, the order of the dual names were officially reversed to Kata Tjuta (Mount Olga).

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Things To See and Do

The Cultural Centre is the perfect first stop in the park and the best spot to start learning about Anangu culture and Anangu country. From the centre, there are a number of walks that allow the area to be explored. Most of the walks are wheelchair accessible, and range from easy to moderate.

Sunset viewing Area (wheelchair access): A perfect place for a picnic any time of the day, or to watch the last rays of the sun hit the western domes. the only toilet block at Kata tjuta is located here.

Walpa Gorge walk (2.6 km return • 1 hour): this walk is more a leisurely stroll amongst Kata Tjuta’s enormous domes into a lush desert refuge for plants and wildlife. Walpa (meaning windy) Gorge is a desert refuge for plants and animals. the rocky track gently rises along an ephemeral stream, passing inconspicuous rare plants and ending at a grove of flourishing spearwood. experience the sheerness of the domes and the vastness of the landscape.

Kata Tjuta Dune viewing Area - 600m, 30 mins, wheelchair access: this short walk, located 26 km along the road to Kata tjuta, offers a magnificent panoramic view of Kata tjuta and a relaxing place to sit and absorb this ever-changing landscape, especially at sunrise. listen to the breeze whisper through desert oaks.

The Yalley of the Winds Walk (7.4 km full circuit • 3 hrs • commercial photography not allowed): If you’re after some serious adventure, you can grasp how incredibly ancient and remarkably imposing Kata Tjuta is by tackling the moderately difficult Valley of the Winds Walk. It is possible to complete the walk in one long day rather than two by starting early.

The track to Karu (1st) lookout, 1.1 km from the carpark, is moderately difficult with some loose rocks to negotiate so please mind your step and wear sturdy footwear. the view is breathtaking and worth the little bit of effort. this lookout is also the closure point when the temperature reaches 36°C or greater. the track to Karingana (2nd) lookout, 2.7 km from carpark, is challenging and very steep in places but also worthwhile. The remainder of the valley of the Winds Walk, 7.4 km complete circuit, takes you down between the domes, through creek beds and away from everyone and everything.

How To Get There

Kata Tjuta can be accessed via Uluru Airport. It is then a 55 km drive south, then west. Visitors are required to pay a National Park entry fee. Visitors can also drive along the Lasseter Highway which joins the Stuart Highway 200 km south of Alice Springs at the township of Erldunda. The drive is 4 1/2 hours from Alice Springs.

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