Melnik has a lot to offer the history buff, the foodie and the lover of outdoors. With it’s historical, quaint Bulgarian homes, abundance of family-owned wine cellars, and the surrounding trail-filled foothills, you won’t be bored. You can spend your time visiting local shops or a wine tasting in the small town, or you can hike up to the Rozhen Monastery.Tucked beneath imposing sandstone cliffs, Melnik has historically been a wine-production center, and you’ll find plenty to sample at restaurants and even at National Revival–era house museums where vintners once lived. Melnik’s good for exploring the southern Pirin Mountains and, though seeing the village requires just one day, you may enjoy lingering on in the sunshine and quietude.
Moussaka is one of the most loved Bulgarian dishes. In Melnik, it is a mix of cubed potatoes and flavored ground or minced meat. The meat usually consists of three parts beef and two parts pork and topped with milk and egg sauce, served warm. Guvech is also a delicious vegetable casserole with meat in a clay pot. Finish your meal with buffalo yogurt with jam for dessert. Shopska salata (tomato, cucumber, green pepper & Sirene cheese), lutenitsa (smoked red pepper puree) and banitza (layered filo-dough with Sirene cheese and milk) are a must, too!
The Rozhen Monastery was built by the Melnik ruler despot Slav during the 12th or 13th century and is the only monastery restored in the first centuries of Ottoman rule that has survived to this day. The present day appearance of this old monastery dates back to 16th century. According to one inscription, the image of Christ Pantocrator together with the twelve apostles above the entrance gate of the Holy Virgin main church, was painted in 1597. Valuable monuments of 17th century painting included the external southern wall (Doomsday, Jacob’s Ladder), dated with an inscription from 1611 and scenes from the life of John the Baptist painted in 1622 in the ossuary. Aside from reaching the Monastery, there are also Roman ruins to explore.
Melnik is in one of the hottest regions in Bulgaria, but the fresh air coming up from the Mediterranean Sea makes it a bit less balmy. If you’re really adventurous, ask a local where to stay for the night. There are always families with rooms for rent. You’ll get an overflow of hospitality, spacious quarters and a true taste of what Bulgaria really is: welcoming, social and unpretentious. If you prefer more traditional lodging, reservations are a must because this quaint little spot is hopping year-round.
No matter how you decide to spend your time, you’ll want to sit and relish its charm, as much as you can. And, you’ll leave feeling like you stepped back in time, appreciating how wonderful a simple life can be.