Visit Plain of Jars
Mysterious 2,000-year-old, enormous stone jars are the primary reasons for visiting this undulating plateau in Xieng Khouang province, to the east of Vang Vieng towards the Vietnam border.
No-one is quite sure how the hundreds of jars - some of which are up to three metres tall and weigh up to six tonnes - came to be there, or for that matter what they were used for.
Local legend tells that they were made on the order of King Khoon Chuong, who threw a party for his troops following their victory over the evil Chao Angka; the jars were made to brew huge quantities of lao-lao (rice wine) for the celebrations.
A more likely explanation, however, is that they were ancient funeral urns, with the larger jars for the more powerful members of society and the smaller ones for everyone else.
More recently, the Plain of Jars was on the receiving end of a five-year aerial bombardment during the Vietnam War (see below) and as battle raged on the plateau, Pathet Lao set up a command centre in a cave next to the jars.
A number of bomb craters around this spot show the ultimately futile attempt to dislodge the communists. Elsewhere the raids caused far more devastation. Whole towns were destroyed and thousands of Lao killed, and unexploded bombs continue to kill and maim today.
Local people make the best of the situation, however, using bomb casings and twisted metal for flowerpots, cattle troughs and fences.
Top itineraries in Plain of Jars
The route from Luang Prabang in the north to the capital Vientiane takes you through a dramatic landscape of gently meandering rivers, tall limestone karst formations, craggy caves and waterfalls.
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