Originally planned to be 150m high, only the 72m-wide brick base was completed before King Bodawpaya, who ordered its construction in 1790, died in 1819 and further work was abandoned. An 1838 earthquake created a dramatic crack in its sides.
Just to the north of the paya hangs the Mingun Bell, said to be the world's largest uncracked, 5m wide at the base and about 4m high. Visitors are welcome to stand inside it while someone on the outside gives it a bonk or two.
Other Buddhist temples and shrines dot the area. Reachable by a short boat ride up the Irrawaddy from Mandalay, 10km away.