Nuns pass by the enormous Mingun Paya temple.

©Dominic Horner/Lonely Planet

Mingun Paya

Myanmar (Burma)

Begun in 1790, Mingun Paya would have been the world’s biggest stupa if it had been completed. Work stopped in 1819 when King Bodawpaya died, and at that point only the bottom third of the structure was finished. What's there is still huge: a roughly 240ft cube on a 460ft lower terrace. It's often described as the world’s largest pile of bricks. There's a steep staircase to the top, though since the 2012 earthquake, you can only climb midway for amazing views of the countryside.

For added drama, there are several deep cracks, caused by the massive 1838 earthquake.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Myanmar (Burma) attractions

1. Chinthe Ruins


Across the road from Mingun Paya lie two house-sized brick-and-stucco ruins, damaged in the 1838 earthquake. These are just the haunches of what would…

2. Mingun Bell

0.14 MILES

In 1808 Bodawpaya continued his biggest-is-best obsession by commissioning a bronze bell weighing 55,555 viss (90 tonnes). It’s 13ft high and more than…

3. Pondaw Paya


To see what Mingun Paya would have looked like had it ever been completed, have a quick look at diminutive Pondaw Paya, 200yd south at the end of the…

4. Hsinbyume Paya

0.34 MILES

Built in 1816 by King Bagyidaw, possibly using materials pilfered from Mingun Paya, this unusually striking pagoda rises in seven wavy, whitewashed…

5. Marlar Nwe Market

5.31 MILES

If you can stomach the smell, this atmospheric scene of fish mongering close to the Ayeyarwady River is worth an afternoon look (it gets most active from…

6. Flower Market

5.37 MILES

This small market takes up a few blocks, which by midday become littered with multicoloured clouds of blossoms and piles of cut stems and leaves.

7. Chanthaya Paya

5.78 MILES

This pagoda's claim to fame – besides its gold stupa – is a Buddha image that supposedly dates to the reign of Indian emperor Ashoka.

8. Eindawya Paya

5.94 MILES

Ranged around a sizeable stupa glowing with gold leaf, Eindawa was founded in 1847 by King Pagan Min, whose princely palace once stood here. The complex…