Located in the south slopes of Pirin, among sand pyramids with queer forms, Melnik is « the smallest town in Bulgaria » with approximately 400 residents and one of the most beautiful areas of Bulgaria. Discover its 5 fabulous faces.
Melnik (Bulgarian : Мелник) is located in the Sandanski Municipality, at only 175 km south from Sofia, 10 km east of Sandanski and 30 km from the borderline with Greece. The finding from the antiquity discovered upon the archaeological diggings testify for its centuries-old history. Melnik is a very nice and historical Bulgarian town, also known to be an architectural reserve and have great traditions in wine making. At last, but not the least, Melnik is very famous for its sand and limestone pyramids, exceptional geographical structures for the territory of Bulgaria. Several tourist routes start from here.
Strolling through the town of Melnik’s picturesque streets is a real pleasure.
The main street of Melnik is populated by typical restaurants which all seem as good as each other, as well as small boutiques selling souvenirs and local products (colored jams, wooden objects, Bulgarian foods and things).
Strolling the cobblestone streets of Melnik is a very nice first step to explore it and soak up the atmophere and customs. Take the main street of the city by walking which runs along a waterway (to your left) and go straight. To the ground, it’s earth quite simply.
The architecture of buildings and typical houses is just beautiful and most buildings are in very good conditions or for some of them recently renovated giving to the town of Melnik lot of charm. Its characteristic features are related to the geographic factor. That’s why the Melnik houses seem perched one above the other because there is not much ground and space available. You probably want book a room on every Bulgarian hotels, probably want to taste ALL the restaurants on your way, want to go into all the open doors houses or want to caress all cats. Don’t worry, you do not become crazy, it’s normal. Melnik is pretty, charming, almost seductress. How not to be tempted by the idea of exploring it. The typical Bulgarian music is heard here and there and the immersion is even larger than real ambiance captured the city.
Treating yourself to visit some historic places.
The city of Melnik, which is inhabited, is also and mainly an architectural reserve, a town-museum : 96 buildings are classified as historic monuments. Among those, the Kordopulov’s House is unavoidable. It’s probably one of the most historical place to visit during your passage in Melnik. At the end of the main street, turn left and take a steep stone staircase. Before to get there, located under the Kordopulov’s house, stop a moment to look inside the ruins of the St. Barbara’ Church, amazing area. Barbara lived in 3e century. Her father was pagan and when he learned that she had converted to Christianity, he subjected her to cruel torture and then beheaded her. Later on, Barbara was proclaimed a saint. Visiting the ruins can give you a vague impression of the grandeur and beauty of the temple on the past.
The Kordopulov’s House was built in 1754, belonged to the wine merchant Manolis Kordopulos, famous throughout Europe at the time. It’s the largest preserved National-Revival era house in the Balkans. Its basement contains one of the largest wine cellars in the town equipped with special canals and ventilation. Above, the house receives the day’s light from all four corners of the world. Also, there are decorative murals and stained Venetian glass, exquisite carved ceilings and sumptuous Baroque decoration. The house is just very beautiful and also impressive (Price : 3/5 leva – Opening time : every day, 9:30am – 7:00pm – Contact : +359 7437 2265/+359 889 557783).
We also find there a hidden door going to a secret room to quietly listen the visitors… Why not ?!
The roof terrace even has its own sundial in the heart of a pretty stone mosaic. The cellar consists of tunnels reaching over 200 meters, contains up to 300 tons of wine at the height of trade Kordopulov.
No far away, coming down from the point of view of the city, the Bolyarska House, 10e century, in ruins, is considered as the older house of Bulgaria.
Then, you can also visit the Pashova House, built in 1815 on the orders of the richest Turkish bey in the Seres and Melnik region, Ibrahim Bey. The house is elegantly and impressively planned and executed with oriels and triangular surfaces on the roof. It is the historical museum now (Opening time : every day, 9:00 am – 05:00 pm (except lunch break from 12:00pm to 01:00 pm).
Situated close to the center of Melnik in its north-eastern part, St. Anthony Church deserves a stop. Built in 1765, this church is a national cultural monument and is a part of cultural and historical reserve « Melnik ». The whole church is painted with flowers, bouquets, cherubs, seraphs, angels. Unfortunately, I could not enter in because I was in shorts (yes, you have to cover as every religious spaces) but from the outside it is very nice. For a next time, definitely !
Observe the beautiful scenery that nature offers us.
Near the city are the Pyramids of Melnik. Truly amazing, impressive, unique and splendid (not enough words to describe it), the Melnik pyramids rank among the most remarkable natural phenomena in Bulgaria. They were proclaimed the natural place of interest in 1960 which attracts tourists from all over the world. It is considered that such pyramides were formed because of the soil erosion. Take the walking road which pass in front of the Kordopulov’s House and there along. You will reach a magnificent view of the city surrounded by its amazing pyramids.
In Melnik, you can also visit other old churches as St. Nicholas (13th century), St. Nikolai, the Miracle Worker (1756), St. Peter and Paul (1840), St. Anton.
Testing the Melnik’s wine while visiting a winery.
Melnik has also great traditions in wine making, due to the unique grape varieties cultivated in the region. Winston Churchill has apparently said that « the Melnik wine was his favorite wine in the world ». Most of the people in Melnik are occupied in the wine-making industry; almost all the wine produced is premium here because of the unique sorts of grapes. Many reports have been realized and focused on the unique Melnik vintages, also explained how Bulgarian wine is getting more and more popular. On the center of Melnik, there are lot of places where it’s possible to test the Melnik’s wine. Wine Gallery, located on the main street, is the only shop in the center where you can see a complete collection of every single wine producer in the region alongside art from local artists.
Many different bottles have been recognized in international wine competitions, some of them were given gold medals.
One of the most famous winery is probably the Villa Melnik Winery, located outside the city center. I love this place I visited two years ago. All bulgarian wine lovers know this place, very modern. The owner, Nikola Zikatanov, is very passionate and friendly. Ask him, he will tell you the story of his domain. Everyday, it’s possible to organize a tour of winery and test a delicious wine for only 3 levas (or more but to have/test more). The team speaks fluently English, Russian, French, and Spanish and is very professional.
Source : Villa Melnik
Discovering the surroundings
The village of Rozhen is located 6 km from the town of Melnik, after the village of Karlanovo. The Rozhen monastery is located 1 km from the village of Rozhen and is accessible by car and on foot through an eco-trail. It is a very nice place to visit in the same time-day. It won its fame as a center of spiritual life of the region. It is the largest Orthodox monastery in the Pirin region. The monastery is relatively well preserved even today and it is visited by many tourists from different countries. The celebration of the monastery is 8 September and people from throughout the region come to the monastery to participate (more about it in my next article there).
Some of the bigger towns and interesting places in close proximity to Melnik are : Sandanski, Petrich and the Complex of Baba Vanga, Blagoevgrad, Bankso.