Exploring the Mysterious Plain of Jars in Laos

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While exploring the cultural gems of Laos on your Southeast Asia tour, spend a day unraveling the mystery of the Plain of Jars. Found in the remote Xieng Khouang province, this archaeological site features hundreds of ancient stone jars, some weighing multiple tons. Their origin and purpose still baffle historians today.

As part of your holidays to Laos, venture off the beaten path to this isolated yet quintessential part of the country. Wander among the giant jars and let your imagination run wild pondering the legends of past civilizations. A highlight of any Laos tours, the site offers a glimpse into traditions little understood outside this slice of the northern mountains.

Plan your own journey to the Plain of Jars for an off-the-beaten-track experience like no other on your Vietnam tour package. Peel back the layers of this enduring enigma and take an intriguing step back in time.

I. Location and Layout

Nestled in the Xieng Khouang plains near the town of Phonsavan, the Plain of Jars makes for an easy day trip from your Laos holidays base. Phonsavan offers ample guesthouses and cafes to fuel up before embarking on Laos tours to the jar sites. Within a 30-minute drive are three main clusters spread across 100 square kilometers: Hueang Plain North, South, and Phongkhound.

Gathering jars into centralized plazas, the ancient people incorporated the landscape into their ritual purposes. Hueang Plain North boasts the highest concentration, with more than 100 jars scattered irregularly. Walk 10 minutes to Hueang Plain South for over 25 well-preserved vessels. Further afield is Phongkhound, distinguishable by its hillside locale. During your Southeast Asia Vietnam tour package, spend a morning at each site to admire jars ranging from 1-3 meters in height, pondering their distributed patterns across the misty valley.

II. History and Origins

Though first documented in the 1920s, the jars date back much earlier, with theories of origins ranging from 500 BC to the Iron Age. As part of early burial practices or religious ceremonies, villagers transported multi-ton stones and carved hollow vessels with lids. However, the jars stood empty, leaving their intended function for ancestors or deities open to debate during your Laos tours.

Later pottery near the jars indicates settlement from 750-1050 AD by Austroasiatic iron-age people. American bombings in the 1960s uncovered many sites from your Vietnam tour package, while a 1975 plane crash led to wider discovery. Excavations revealed staircases and human remains, suggesting ritualistic practices on holidays to Laos by localized clans. However, uncertainty remains on those who erected the jars and their purpose millennia ago. Visit to contemplate possible uses and meanings of this ancient ceremony site.

Image source: flickr.com

III. Site Visits

To experience the evocative Plain of Jars up close and imagine the ancient rituals that took place here, a visit to the three main jar sites is a must for those exploring on holidays to Laos. As part of your Laos tours, visiting the three main sites offers:

  • Hueang Plain North: Largest site with over 100 scattered jars, some decorated. Wander trails among giants up to 3m high under canopy of trees.
  • Hueang Plain South: Well-organized plaza features over 25 jars averaging 2m tall arranged in linear formation.
  • Phongkhound: Impressive setting involves a steep 10-minute hike to a hilltop location with picturesque views. Jars average 1.5m.

Visitors can anticipate minimal facilities but maximum atmosphere at the sites, which offer a chance to directly engage with the mystifying jars in a way that will stir travelers’ imaginations during their Laos adventures:

  • Minimal development beyond trails, information boards during Laos tours. Bring water, sunscreen.
  • Jars carved of sandstone, some with lids, arranged haphazardly or in deliberate patterns.
  • Marvel at engineering to haul multi-ton jars. Ponder ceremonies that placed offerings or cremated remains within.
  • Opportunity to frolic among mysteries of ages past and imagine rituals that enthrall you during holidays to Laos.

IV. Planning a Visit

To best experience the enigmatic Plain of Jars and make the most of exploring this archaeological treasure on your Laos holidays, consider the following tips for planning a scenic and memorable visit.

When is the best time to go? Schedule for the dry season (Nov-May) for best access on your Laos holidays and tours. Roads are muddy during rains.

Bases: Phonsavan offers ample low-cost guesthouses and cafes for your Southeast Asia Vietnam tour package.

Tours: Book through hotels or agencies like Threeland Travel. Full-day tours visit all 3 sites with a guide (from $25 pp).

Transport: Rent self-drive cars or vans in Phonsavan or take tours. Tuk-tuks are also available from $10-15pp return.

What to Bring:

  • Comfortable shoes and sun protection. It can be hot.
  • Water and snacks. Cafes located at sites but limited.
  • Camera to capture the enormity and atmospheric details.
  • Binoculars assist examining carvings and placements from afar.


  • Admission to sites is 10,000 kip pp (under $1.50). Guides $10-15 hourly.
  • Souvenirs available such as postcards, books on history.

Other Activities:

  • COPE Visitor Centre details bombing impacts and efforts.
  • Beautiful scenery and other megalithic sites further afield.

Proper preparation ensures you maximize this mystery on any Laos holidays and tours from Vietnam!

V. Conclusion

With its hundreds of giant stone jars strewn enigmatically across the rolling hills, the Plain of Jars stands as one of Asia’s most mystifying unsolved archaeological riddles. Over 800 years after their creation, these megalithic vessels continue to captivate visitors and fire the imagination. As part of your Laos holidays and Southeast Asia tour package from Vietnam, an excursion here offers a compelling off-the-beaten path cultural experience.

Venturing to this remote valley rewards with a glimpse into the spiritual practices and engineering abilities of ancient Laotian kingdoms. While mysteries abound, seeing the jars up close and wandering the atmospheric sites first-hand enables a visceral connection to past eras. A visit to the Plain of Jars ensures you uncover some of Laos’ most intriguing history.

To make the most of planning your holidays to Laos this year, contact Threeland Travel. Specializing in authentic experiences beyond the guidebooks, our local experts can arrange dedicated transportation and guide to unlock the secrets of this legendary plain.

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