The High Place

  • The High Place - Looking down on the royal tombs - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place - Famous view - Roman soldiers tomb From its triclinium - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place - Rock hewn clifftop cistern and structures, the basin behind - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place - High Place left, obelisk hewn From top mountaintop, right - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place - Royal tombs From the High Place - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place -  - © William Mackesy
  • The High Place - Those obelisks - © William Mackesy

Key information: The High Place

  • One of the most thrilling doses of concentrated experience that we have had the fortune to meet.
  • Climb up the steep steps of the ancient route to the High Place of Sacrifice with its wide views over the monuments of the Petra basin.
  • Pass beautifully carved tombs and monuments, marvel at the work involved in creating the High Place.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating97
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest15
  • Human interest18
  • Charisma38
  • Negative points8
  • Total rating97
  • Note: Neg: crowding / popularity

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 2 hours or so
  • Maximum Altitude: N/A
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
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The High Place - Famous view - Roman soldiers tomb From its triclinium - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

This is one of the most thrilling walks ever: a sanity-threatening overdose of beauty (both physical and manmade), history, majestic scenery and downright outlandishness.

The best approach starts at the bend in the main Petra drag, under the vast cliffs into which a line of tombs royal and noble had been carved, where the main valley becomes a sheer-sided canyon. This is the reverse of the usual way of tackling the High Place, which starts in the heart of the old city, on the corner between the theatre, and the colonnaded central street.

At first you clamber over a jumble of dust and stone, a dreary and lifeless place if one did not know that this was the heart of the residential city, the earthquake-felled remains of the homes of the thousands who once lived here.

After a few minutes, you reach the base of the cathedral of rock whose highest pinnacle is the High Place. The path meanders below simple tomb entrances in the bright orange sandstone. You come across the way up the apparently impenetrable cliffs fairly suddenly: Wadi Farasa, a steep cleft disappearing up between sheer walls.

A series of steps lead to a wider levelled area and the beautifully carved and preserved Roman Soldier's Tomb. It once had a colonnade, but that is long gone and 10 feet of sand and rubble are now heaped against its facade.

Opposite is the Garden Triclinium, a large rock-hewn chamber that was once used for feasts in honour of those across the way. It has three entrances and, uniquely, carved interior decorations. There is a particularly striking David Roberts picture viewed from the back of this great cave, looking out through the entrance to the Roman's Soldier's Tomb. Trademark flowing-robed Bedouin happen to loiter there, and it is fun to spot how Roberts adjusted and distorted to make a better image.

In the outside wall of an enclosure a few steps further up is the immaculate, delicately columned Garden Tomb (said to have been a temple) and what is left of a major water cistern.

A dramatic series of steps carved out of a sheer cliff-face, with huge views opening up over the Petra basin, take you to an imposing lion, evocative of the great gate at Mycenae, carved into a slab. This is thought to have been one of the ceremonial approaches to the High Place, and the route has a pervasive feeling of formal, structured drama.

The path now meanders among the outcrops of the upper edifice, emerging onto domes above gut-clenching cliffs, with wondrous views across the ruination of the basin to the monumental remains of the Qasr al-Bint temple and the tomb-pocked cliff-faces behind it. This is astounding walking.

Eventually, you round a corner and realise that you are there, almost a little bathetically. On a platform to the right are a pair of 6m high obelisks, hewn, famously, from the living rock, involving the removal of who knows how much of their hilltop. To the left is a little plateau of sorts that drops quickly into the ravine you will shortly descend, beyond it the huge platform of carved stones that is the High Place. In the middle of it are a repository for divine statues and a circular altar. The fact that you may feel a hint of bathos on arriving at this famous, outlandish place speaks much of the drama and excitement of the climb.

Past this platform or rather, through what looks like a huge gap between its remaining halves you can walk in a few minutes out to the slabs that top the vast cliffs more than 150 sheer metres above the Street of Faades in the inner Siq. Across the way are the faades of royal tombs, cool refuges from the afternoon heat. Beyond them, more earthquake rubble and then the wadis and fractured mountains that sheltered the great city.

The way down (ie, the usual way up) is by steps cut into an even steeper and more dramatic cleft. In one place a passage has been sliced straight through an inconvenient outcrop. You will give regular silent thanks to the Nabataeans for their engineering skills. There is less to see here than on our way up the back to the High Place, though this is well compensated by the drama of the shady chasm with its trees clinging to less inhospitable corners and the glimpses out across the lower Siq.

You almost wobble when you step off the last flight and rejoin the sandy floor of the main canyon of the city, as if you are emerging from a fairground ride or a long sea journey.

This is a 2km ascent-and-descent consisting mainly of uneven Nabataean steps cut in the rock, rising 140m above the grand Petra basin, with unparalleled views across its monuments and eerie rubble. Allow 1 -2 hours depending on your fitness and level of interest in tombs and other places on the way and the sacrifical summit.

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION

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Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

The High Place -  - ©William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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The High Place -  - ©William Mackesy...
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