The least visited of the Indochina destinations, with just over 4 million international visitors per year (up from a mere 14,000 in 1994), Laos is a tranquil nation of natural beauty and great historical significance. Its atmospheric northern town of Luang Prabang, which is UNESCO world heritage listed, is one of the most popular attractions in Laos for many travellers. The country is also home to one of Asia’s least known and greatest archaeological sites – the Plain of Jars.
Asia travel specialist Insider Journeys has seen strong growth in demand for Laos, with an 18% increase in year on year small group journey bookings. The company includes a visit to The Plain of Jars in Phonsavan as part of its Inside Laos small group journey.
Credit: Dee Phetchareun
Thought to date back to between 600BC and 500AD, the archaeological sites which are Laos’ answer to Stonehenge are steeped in legend. There are approximately 2,500 huge stone jars ranging from one to three metres tall and up to two metres in diameter dotted over 85 sites across the country. Australian archaeologists recently made a breakthrough in the study of these mysterious jars after spending five weeks excavating a site near Phonsavan, the capital of Xieng Khouang province.
Fashioned from sandstone, the vessels are now believed to have been used within the mortuary process. Most no longer have lids, but those that do are decorated, appearing to feature human and animal figures such as tigers, monkeys and frogs.
Credit: Ian Richards
The Plain of Jars are situated almost half way between Luang Prabang and the capital of Vientiane. The overland journey takes travellers through some of the most spectacular scenery on the long and winding road. To the north west is the picturesque Kuang Si Falls, while south is Vang Vieng, home to stunning limestone karst scenery and the calm Nam Song river.
The Inside Laos Small Group Journey starts in Chiang Rai, and includes a Mekong river cruise, a night at the Kamu Ecolodge, a visit to Pak Ou Caves, Luang Prabang, a walk between two of the Plain of Jars sites, Vang Vieng and Vientiane.
Credit: Ian Richards
Starting from $3,525 per person twin share, the 13-day journey includes:
– 11 nights’ hotel accommodation and one night’ lodge accommodation
– Breakfast daily, three lunches and dinners
– One cruise
– Transport in air-conditioned vehicles
– Small group touring with a maximum of 16 passengers, entrance fees, local English speaking guides and a Western tour leader for groups of 7 or more.