The Best Things to Do in Melnik, Bulgaria

Melnik Bulgaria is known to be the smallest town in the country. Despite its status, Melnik offers many sightseeing options for the visitors. 

Located in the southwest part of Bulgaria, Melnik is one of the smallest endemic wine regions with unique indigenous grapes. 

Several wineries give you the opportunity to try Melnik wine and other indigeneous varieties.

With many buildings classified as cultural monuments, the town is also an architectural reserve worth exploring.

Set in a unique geological area, the Melnik Pyramids surrounding the town offer striking panoramic views.

With abundant natural mineral waters in the region, this is the perfect place to surrender to the healing powers of water and balneology experiences.

To make the most of your Melnik stay, use this guide for the best things to do in Melnik Bulgaria.

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Visit The Wine Museum

On your  journey to one of the five Bulgarian wine regions, consider visiting the Wine Museum in Melnik. 

This small museum is located in the center of town. Built underground like a wine cellar, it recounts the history of winemaking in the region. 

All the panels and descriptions are in Bulgarian, and unfortunately none are translated.

However, with Google translate and free Wi-Fi we were able to follow along.

Nonetheless, it is worth stopping by to see the different traditional objects used in winemaking and also see the underground cellar with ancient bottles and jars.

After viewing the panels and exhibits, there is a tasting of Melnik wines included in the ticket price. We tasted three different wines from the region, white, rosé and red wines.

While the wines were not particularly remarkable, it is a nice introduction to the wines from the region.

A plate of small toasts with the traditional condiments, red sweet pepper and the local herb, tsubritsa, was served to accompany the wines.

At the end of the tasting, we were offered a shot of rakia, the local brandy traditionally served while eating the local Shopska salad.

The entrance fee is 5 BGN (approx $2.80) with wine tasting included. For non-drinkers, the entry fee is 3 BGN (approx. $1.7). 

The museum is open everyday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. 

Wine Museum in Melnik Bulgaria_AuthenticFoodQuestRosemary trying the local Melnik wine

Kordopulov House

One of the most famous sites in Melnik is the Kordopulov House.

This is one of the largest Bulgarian Renaissance houses in Bulgaria, rivaling the Plovdiv Old Town houses.

Located at the end of town, past the wine museum, this imposing mansion was once owned by a wealthy Greek wine merchant.

Built in 1754, specifically for wine production, one of its defining characteristics is the impressive wine cellar, dug into the rock, with lengthy labyrinth and underground pathways.

This Bulgarian house is also unique due to its mix of Ottoman and Venetian architecture and stunning interior decor.

KordopulovHouse_Melnik Bulgaria AuthenticFoodQuestKordopulov house perched on a hill in Melnik

Authentic Food Quest Tip: From Sofia, you can take a Melnik Tour to visit the region and taste the local wines. With transport provided, you’ll visit the popular sights in this famous architectural town including the Kordopulova House. Enjoy traditional Bulgarian lunch at a nearby village after a visit to Rozhen monastery. Before heading back to Sofia, you’ll visit Villa Melnik winery and taste the emblematic wines.

Melnik Cultural Monuments and Religious Sites

Beyond the Kordopulov House, there are a few other architectural landmarks worth mentioning. 

Up the hill behind the wine museum is the Bolyar House. This is one of the oldest Byzantine houses in the Balkans dating probably from the 12th or 13th century.

The historical museum of Melnik is housed in the Pashov House. The house was built in 1815 by one of the richest governors in the region during the Ottoman period.

There are also a few churches worth stopping at. The church of St Anthony the Great is right next to the wine museum on the way to the Bolyar House.

It is also called the church of miracles and it is the only one in Bulgaria named after Anthony the Great known as a saint-healer. 

Dating back to the late 12th century is the Church of St Nicholas, a partially preserved medieval Eastern Orthodox church.

This church was built on top of an ancient Thracian sanctuary and a 5th-century basilica. The church features rare frescoes and a bell tower which housed one of the oldest church bells in Europe.

ClaireandRosemaryattheBolyarHouseinMelnikBulgaria_AuthenticFoodQuestRosemary and Claire at the Bolyar house

Popular Trips from Melnik Bulgaria

Melnik Wineries

One of the main reasons people go to Melnik is to visit the wine region.

There are seven wineries open for visitors in the Melnik region where you can taste and sample the local Melnik wine.

The closest to the town of Melnik are Villa Melnik and Zornitza Family estate, a winery and luxury hotel. 

Slightly further away are Zlaten Rozhen winery, Rupel winery and Orbelus, an organic winery. 

Closer to the Greek and Macedonia border and 35km away from Melnik is Orbelia winery.

If you are driving in from Sofia, you will most likely pass by Sintica winery in Sandanski on your way to Melnik. 

To make the most of the wineries, we recommend scheduling your visits in advance and planning for no more than three winery visits a day.

The servings of wine at the tasting are generous and there is local food offered alongside the tasting. 

Make sure to sample the Melnik 55 made from the broadleaf Melnik grape and taste the different indigenous grapes from the region.

Read More: Learn more about the different wineries in our guide 7 Melnik Wineries You Want to Visit for Amazing Bulgarian Wines

Melnik Bulgarian Red Wines by Authentic Food QuestVilla Melnik indigenous wine varieties

Rozhen Monastery

Just seven kilometers north past the center of Melnik town, is Rozhen Monastery, the largest monastery in the Pirin Mountains.

This majestic monastery seats in the peaceful natural area of the Melnik Pyramids. It is one of the few well preserved medieval monasteries in Bulgaria.

As it is still a working monastery, be sure to dress appropriately and remain quiet while visiting.

When we visited the monastery on a Sunday morning, there was a religious ceremony taking place in the main building. 

Famous for its 16th-century frescoes and a holy icon of the Virgin Mary housed in the main building, you can also admire the wood carvings and other icons.

RozhenMonastery_ Melnik Bulgaria _AuthenticFoodQuestBeautiful fresco at the entrance of the monastery

Melnik Pyramids

These striking natural sandstone pyramids are unique natural rock formations near the town of Melnik Bulgaria.

The sculpted rocks can attain up to 100 meters and are said to be eroding, with their shape constantly changing.

The sand is of red and yellow tones depending on the time of the day, making for remarkable pictures. 

Declared a natural landmark in 1960, this site is best visited in the morning or later in the evening when the sun is low, as there is no shade.

When we walked to the pyramids on a Sunday morning, the site was peaceful and quiet. 

We were surprised how easily accessible the pyramids were despite the impressive cliffs having no  safety rail guards.

The Melnik pyramids can be easily reached by walking from the parking lot near the Rozhen monastery in 10 mins or so. 

Or if you prefer hiking up, you can walk the 7 kilometers trail from downtown Melnik.

MelnikPyramids_Bulgaria_AuthenticFoodQuestOn the cliff of the Melnik Pyramids

Authentic Food Quest Tip: From Sofia, you can take a Melnik hiking tour to visit Rozhen monastery and the Melnik pyramid. With transport provided, you will also enjoy a traditional Bulgarian lunch and taste the famous Melnik wine. 

Skoka Waterfall in Kashina Village

The Shoka waterfall, about 20 meters tall  is one of the largest waterfalls in the Pirin Mountain. 

Situated near Kashina Village, you will need to drive about 14 km north of Melnik and go just beyond Rozhen village to reach it.

The road finishes as a gravel road as you get closer to the waterfall site. Then, it is an easy 20 minute hike up to the waterfall.

If you are interested in the natural wonders, after hiking the Melnik Pyramids, Skoka waterfall is a great option.

KashinaVillage_Bulgaria_PhotocreditКочев_WikimediaKashina Village (photo credit Кочев - Wikimedia)

A Region With Natural Thermal and Mineral Waters

Beyond wineries, beautiful landscape and cultural monuments, Melnik region is also known for its thermal water springs and healing waters.

There are three main sites to enjoy the mineral waters around Melnik. 

First, Sandanski, located about 20 kilometers from Melnik, in the direction of Sofia, is known for its abundant mineral waters, healing air and climate.

It is a modern balneological center with several spas and balneology centers all around town.

Outdoor swimming is possible all year round, with naturally warm temperature and healing properties.

There is another balneology site near Rupite Village. It is known for its healing mineral water with high sulfur content due to its proximity to an extinct volcano. 

Located 20km southwest of Melnik, the natural pools of Rupite can be visited year round containing curative mud and algae.

The area was also home to the famous Bulgarian prophet Baba Vanga.

She was known as the Nostradamus of the Balkans. Vanga used to be visited and offered predictions for many Tzars and politicians.

The last area known for its natural mineral water and healing mud is the village of Marikostinovo.

Marikostinovo is located off the highway that links Sofia to Greece. Mantar Spar Hotel is one of the best options to enjoy a balneology experience in town.

It is also conveniently located a few kilometers from Rupel winery, Orbelus and Zlaten Rozhen wineries.

Villa Sintica Melnik Bulgaria by Authentic Food QuestVilla Sintica outdoor restaurant overlooking the mineral pool

Authentic Food Quest Tip: If you are looking for a place that marries winery, spa and relaxation, look no further than Villa Sintica. This luxurious wine hotel offers a multifaceted Mediterranean experience. From heritage wines at Sintica Winery, farm fresh flavors from local producers and a wellness spa to relax the body and uplift the spirit, this is a perfect getaway.

Where and What to Eat in Melnik

Eating at one of the traditional Bulgarian restaurants is high on the list of things to do in Melnik.

You will find several restaurants downtown on either side of the main street offering traditional Bulgarian fare.

These restaurants offer great options and we also recommend exploring eateries on the upper part of town. 

Just past the wine museum, there are additional restaurants to choose from. 

Here are a few Melnik restaurants that we went to and recommend.

Mehana Aleksova Kashta

We ate at Mehana Aleksova Kashta a couple of times and it quickly became our favorite Melnik restaurant. 

This traditional Bulgarian restaurant was recommended to us by both Rupel and Melnik winery owners. It was described as the best restaurant in Melnik for traditional Bulgarian cuisine.

The open air seating is unbeatable with views overlooking the town and the friendly staff makes for a warm experience.

With daily specials using local produce, you will not want to miss Luiza’s, the chef and owner’s cooking.

Don’t miss the traditional bean soup, the Bulgarian salad platter and the tasty bulgarian desserts.

We highly this restaurant to savor excellent Bulgarian flavors. The restaurant is open everyday from 8:00 am to 12:00 midnight.

Read More: Aleksova Kashta restaurant in Melnik

ShopskaSalad_BestRestaurantinMelnikBulgaria_AuthenticFoodQuestGenerous plate of the traditional Shopska salad

Mehana Petra

Mehana Petra is one of the few restaurants located on the upper part of Melnik town. 

This is a great place to have lunch after visiting the Wine Museum and Kordopulov House.

The food is simple and flavorful. Taste one of the traditional Bulgarian food specialties like Tarator soup or the Shopska salad. 

The friendly owner will probably offer you a glass of homemade wine to go with your meal. The restaurant is open everyday from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm.

MehanaPetra_RestaurantinMelnikBulgaria_AuthenticFoodQuestTraditional decor on the outdoor patio

 Mehana Old Plane

Mehana Old Plane is conveniently located at the bottom of the main street, right at the entrance of Melnik.

This traditional Bulgarian restaurant and hotel serves traditional Bulgarian food outdoors in their beautiful garden, shaded by old trees. 

Look for the tasty grilled meats and Bulgarian salads. The food was fresh and flavorful, a perfect stop to relax in between your visits to the various Melnik attractions.

The restaurant is open everyday from 8:00 am to 11:00 pm. 

MelnikRestaurant_OldPlaneBulgaria by Authentic Food QuestRelax in the shaded garden

How to Get to Melnik Bulgaria

Melnik region is the warmest and sunniest part of Bulgaria, located in the lower west side of the country. The Greek and Macedonian borders are relatively close by.

Bulgaria’s smallest town is easily accessible from Sofia the capital, Greece and the Pirin Mountains.

To make the most out of your stay, we recommend spending a few days in the region.

Melnik Bulgaria by Authentic Food QuestThe historic town of Melnik Bulgaria

From Sofia to Melnik

If you are arriving into Bulgaria from Sofia, your best option to get to Melnik is to rent a car.  At Sofia airport, there are several rental cars to choose from.

The drive from Sofia takes about 2.5  hours from the airport, driving on the freeway for most of the time.

You also have the possibility of taking the bus from Sofia to Melnik. However, there is no direct route and you will have to take two buses before reaching Melnik. 

For the best car rental rates, we recommend checking RentalCars.com which aggregates the best deals across multiple providers.

To make the most out of your stay, we recommend spending a few days in the region.

From Bansko to Melnik

If your stay in Bulgaria includes a visit to Bansko, you can rent a car in Bansko and drive to Melnik. However, you have more car rental options in Sofia and the cars are in better conditions.

From Bansko, you also have the option of getting a car transferred to you in Bansko from Sofia for a minimum of 50€. This is an option to consider if you are heading to Sofia after your visit to Melnik.

We were based in Bansko at the time, and rented a car for our Melnik winery visits. The drive from Bansko to Melnik is about 1.5 hours with most of the drive on the national road.

Similarly, there are buses from Bansko to Melnik with no direct route. However, you will be challenged finding local transportation options locally.

Melnik Wine Region by Authentic Food Quest

From Thessaloniki, Greece to Melnik Bulgaria

If you are visiting southwest Bulgaria, you may want to consider flying into Thessaloniki airport in Greece.

The drive from Thessaloniki to Melnik is only about 2 hours, which is closer than driving from Sofia. From Thessaloniki airport, you can rent a car and drive comfortably, mostly on highways. 

Make sure that the rental car company provides the vignette that is mandatory to travel on Bulgaria highways.

Authentic Food Quest Tip: Whenever you travel, you want to make sure you are covered just in case anything goes wrong. Even if you are gone for a short trip you should always travel with insurance. We use and recommend Allianz travel insurance which is an affordable option for US residents. Another great option we used prior and we also recommend is World Nomads travel insurance which covers residents from all over the world.

Where to Stay: Hotels in Melnik Bulgaria

With many things to do in Melnik and the surrounding region, it is best to stay in Melnik for a few days.

If you are looking to visit several wineries, we highly recommend staying for at least three full days to best enjoy the region.

Here are a few hotels we recommend in and around Melnik, Bulgaria.

ZlatenRozhenHotel Melnik Bulgaria AuthenticFoodQuestZlaten Rozhen hotel near the Melnik Pyramids

Zlaten Rozhen Hotel

While visiting Rozhen monastery and the Melnik Pyramids, you might want to consider staying in Rozhen village overnight. 

Zlaten Rozhen hotel located in Rozhen, is a charming hotel, surrounded by trees in a peaceful setting.

You can get to the nearby Rozhen monastery by car or by taking a walk in the gorgeous outdoors.

The restaurant offers traditional Bulgarian cuisine including delicious breakfast options. This is a great location for those seeking silence in nature.

Standard double rooms start at $33 per night.

See more prices, read reviews or to find similar hotels check: Booking.com

Zornitza Family Estate

Zornitza Family Estate is not only a winery, it is also a luxury boutique hotel combined with a gourmet restaurant. 

The first and only Relais Chateaux in Bulgaria, it offers great luxury in respect with the surrounding nature.

With a deep reverence to Bulgarian traditions, this is the ideal place for a special occasion or indulgence, Bulgarian style.

Enjoy world-class accommodations and amenities, attentive staff, and delectable terroir cuisine. 

In addition to wines, Zornitza Family Estate also grows their own fruits and vegetables, honey and soon to come, truffles. 

This is the place to go to create unforgettable moments.

Hotel Melnik

This cozy hotel is located in the heart of Melnik, above the city center. From the terrace, enjoy sweeping views of the picturesque town and the nearby Melnik Pyramids.

Hotel Melnik is designed in a Bulgarian renaissance style and offers all the modern amenities you would expect. Access high speed internet, spacious rooms, air conditioning and comfortable beds.

The restaurant offers traditional Bulgarian dishes and specialties and a wide selection of local and imported wines.  

Double rooms start at about $40.00 per night.

See more prices, read reviews or to find similar hotels check: Booking.com

Hotel Rechen Rai, Melnik

Located at the exit of Melnik in the direction of Rozhen, Hotel Rechen Rai is nestled in nature. 

Enjoy the relaxing gentle stream that passes by the hotel and the beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

Hotel Rechen Rai offers spacious apartment-like rooms with large sitting areas to spread out. Superior rooms feature a spa bath or hot tub, while regular rooms are equipped with a private shower.

If you are traveling with children, you will enjoy using the outdoor playground.

Enjoy tasty traditional Bulgarian dishes on the outdoor patio. And a tasty breakfast buffet. 

Double rooms start at about $30.00 per night.

See more prices, read reviews or to find similar hotels check: Booking.com

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7 comments

  1. What gorgeous photos and an adventure-packed trip! I have a friend from Bulgaria, and she’s shown me pictures that look like the one you shared with the red roofs and the houses set into the hillside. What a fun trip!

    Reply

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