human settlement in Bulgaria

Not to be confused with Mělník, a city in Central Bohemia, Czechia.

Melnik (Bulgarian: Мелник) is a "town-museum" in South-Western Bulgaria. The smallest town in the country, it's also notable for the geological formations surrounding it, its wine and its architecture. It's nested in the foothills of the Pirin mountain, close to the border with Greece.

Understand edit

View over the eastern end of Melnik
Earth pyramids by Melnik
Melnik architecture
Restaurant interior

With a population of about 200 people, Melnik is the smallest town in Bulgaria - its official classification as a town is traditional and maintained for historical reasons. Since 1968, it's been also declared a "town-museum". Many of its houses are either hotels, wineries, or both. Administratively, Melnik is a part of the Municipality of Sandanski, the nearest sizable town, and both are part of Blagoevgrad Oblast (Province).

Melnik lies in a hollow in the south-western foothills of Pirin. It's surrounded by picturesquely eroded cliffs in a great variety of shapes, a landform called "earth pyramids" or "hoodoos" in geography. It's assumed that the town's name is derived from the local name of the formations: "mel"-s (melove), presumably originating from a Slavic root meaning "sandy clay, sandstone" or "crumbly". The formations extend much further than the town, reaching the small village of Rozhen to the east, with a total area of about 17 km2 (6.6 sq mi). They are a nationally protected landmark.

Get in edit

Map of Melnik

Once a day there is bus to Sofia. Many Greeks from the area of Thessaloniki, Serres, Drama and Kavala visit Melnik on a day trip in combination with close by Sandanski and its good shopping facilities.

There are three bus daily from Sandanski. The 2023 schedule is 7:40, 11:40, 15:30, heading to Rozhen. Reverse itinerary is 1:20 hours after. You can catch bus at Melnik, visit monastery and come back to Melnik by trail (2 hours walk).

Get around edit

Melnik is not large in area either. You can cross it in 15 minutes on foot.

See edit

  • 1 Monument to Yane Sandanski (in the small park at the entrance of Melnik, across the street from the town hall). Stone statue of Yane Sandanski (1872-1912), a Macedonian-Bulgarian revolutionary considered a national hero in both Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Along with his revolutionary activities, he was involved in the "Miss Stone Affair", the kidnapping of an American protestant missionary for ransom which caused headlines around the world at the time. He ultimately fell victim to ideological splits within the movement; he was assassinated by the village of Pirin and buried in the nearby Rozhen Monastery.  
    • Centuries-old plane tree
  • History Museum
  • Museum of Wine - privately run
  • 2 Kordopoulov House. A large 18th century mansion of a local family of wine merchants, now a privately-run museum and a winery. The house overlooks the ruins of the family church, St. Barbara. Museum admission: 6 лв for adults (includes tasting the local wine); full wine tasting package (3-5 wines and appetizers): 22-28 лв.    
  • Boyar House - ruins of a medieval house, reportedly inhabited until the 20th century
  • On the hill south of town:
    • Ruins of Despot Slav's fortress
    • Ruins of medieval church of St. Nicholas
    • Observation spot/chapel at ruined monastery
  • Outside of town:
    • Rozhen Monastery
    • Grave of Yane Sandanski
    • Sandstone tunnel Rozhen-Lyubovishte (dug by hand in the 20th century)

The Rozhen Monastery is 6km out of the town. The easiest way to reach the monastery is to drive or walk to the Rozhen village using the asphalted road. Although a bit harder to find and use, the direct track through the sand peaks offers very interesting views. Note that the track is not marked, you should better ask for guidance.

The town has strictly kept the local architecture (unlike other provincial towns, such as Bansko).

Do edit

Walk along the creek watching the nice traditional buildings and take a tour into some wine cellars.

Buy edit

Wine, and see of you can discover why it was one of Winston Churchill's favourites. Consider that the cheap wine sold on the streets is not of a great quality.

The only ATM in Melnik is located at an expensive hotel, close to the end of town before the dirt road splits (the end of town meaning if you walk uphill through the centre). You can see it from the road, as its on the outside of the hotel. It didn't work in August 2009, though.

Eat edit

Melnik has many nice romantic taverns serving traditional Bulgarian meals. Together with the nice landscape its a pleasure to enjoy a meal there.

Drink edit

Melnik wine is intended to be drunk while young, so try to find a tavern with a house wine.

There are plenty 'hole-in-the-wall' cellars that are literally holes in the Melnik clay, which acts to keep the temperature constant to aid in the wine making process. Here, you can taste the wine as it comes out the barrels.

Sleep edit

Many of the traditional houses now double as accommodation, run by locals.

Go next edit

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