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Laos

Getting to know the Plain of Jars

The most significant attraction in the Phonsavan region is the mysterious ‘Plain of Jars’ - thousands of large stone jars, up to three metres in diameter, lie scattered across an elevated plateau of rolling grassland.

What on earth is the Plain of Jars?

The origin and purpose of these huge, spooky jars is unclear, but it's generally accepted that most are at least 2,000 years old. They range between one and three metres long, and each weigh several tons.

Laos legend tells us that the jars were created by a race of giants, whose king needed somewhere to store his rice wine. Others believe that they were placed there to collect monsoon rainwater.

Science suggests that the jars were created by an iron age civilisation. When they were excavated, many contained jewellery and potential burial goods, leading archaeologists to surmise that they were giant funeral urns. The theory is upheld by a recent discovery of underground burial chambers, and by the stone gravemarkers found nearby. Others suggest that they're miniature reservoirs for storing rainwater.

Whatever their purpose, the jars will have you pondering all the way back to your hotel!

Until 2003 it was considered risky to visit the area, due to small pockets of guerilla activity and attacks by bandits on the roads in and out of Phonsavan, but in the last five years visitors have been coming in safety to marvel at the jars.