The famous World Heritage Sites in Laos are Luang Prabang and Vat Phou. There is an application for World Heritage Site status being prepared for The Plain of Jars.
Luang Prabang, or Louangphrabang (Lao: ຫຼວງພຣະບາງ, literally: "Royal Buddha Image (in the Dispelling Fear mudra)," pronounced [lǔaŋ pʰra.bàːŋ]), is a city located in north central Laos, at the confluence of the Nam Khan river and Mekong River about 300 km north of Vientiane. It is the capital of Luang Prabang Province. The population of the city is about 50,000.
The city was formerly the capital of a kingdom of the same name. It had also been known by the ancient name of Chiang Thong. Until the communist takeover in 1975, it was the royal capital and seat of government of the Kingdom of Laos. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The main part of the city consists of four main roads located on a peninsula between the Nam Khan and Mekong rivers. The city is well known for its numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries. Every morning, hundreds of monks from the various monasteries walk through the streets collecting alms. One of the major landmarks in the city is a large steep hill on which sits Wat Chom Si.
Vat Phou or Wat Phu (Lao: ວັດພູ [wāt pʰúː] temple-mountain) is a ruined Khmer temple complex in southern Laos. It is located at the base of mount Phu Kao, some 6 km from the Mekong river in Champasak province. There was a temple on the site as early as the 5th century, but the surviving structures date from the 11th to 13th centuries. The temple has a unique structure, in which the elements lead to a shrine where a linga was bathed in water from a mountain spring. The site later became a centre of Theravada Buddhist worship, which it remains today.
Wat Phou was initially associated with the city of Shrestapura, which lay on the bank of the Mekong directly east of mount Lingaparvata (now called Phu Kao). By the latter part of the 5th century the city was already the capital of a kingdom which texts and inscriptions connect with both Chenla and Champa, and the first structure on the mountain was constructed around this time. The mountain gained spiritual importance from the linga-shaped protuberance on its summit; the mountain itself was therefore considered the home of Shiva, and the river as representing the ocean or the Ganges River. The temple was naturally dedicated to Shiva, while the water from the spring which emerges directly behind the temple was considered sacred.
Wat Phou was a part of the Khmer empire, centred on Angkor to the southwest, at least as early as the reign of Yashovarman I in the early 10th century. Shrestapura was superseded by a new city in the Angkorian period, located directly south of the temple. In the later period, the original buildings were replaced, re-using some of the stone blocks; the temple now seen was built primarily during the Koh Ker and Baphuon periods of the 11th century. Minor changes were made during the following two centuries, before the temple, like most in the empire, was converted to Theravada Buddhist use. This continued after the area came under control of the Lao, and a festival is held on the site each February. Little restoration work has been done, other than the restoration of boundary posts along the path. Wat Phou was designated a World Heritage Site in 2001.
The Plain of Jars (Lao: ທົ່ງໄຫຫິນ [tʰōŋ hǎj hǐn]) is a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos. Scattered in the landscape of the Xieng Khouang plateau, Xieng Khouang, Lao PDR, are thousands of megalithic jars. These stone jars appear in clusters, ranging from a single or a few to several hundred jars at lower foothills surrounding the central plain and upland valleys.
The Xieng Khouang Plateau is located at the northern end of the Annamese Cordillera, the principal mountain range of Indochina. Initial research of the Plain of Jars in the early 1930s claimed that the stone jars are associated with prehistoric burial practices. Excavation by Lao and Japanese archaeologists in the intervening years has supported this interpretation with the discovery of human remains, burial goods and ceramics around the stone jars. The Plain of Jars is dated to the Iron Age (500 BCE to 500 CE) and is one of the most fascinating and important sites for studying Southeast Asian prehistory. The Plain of Jars has the potential to shed light on the relationship between increasingly complex societies and megalithic structures and provide insight into social organisation of Iron Age Southeast Asia’s communities. To visit the jar sites one would typically stay in Phonsavan.