Melnik (Bulgarian: Мелник, Greek: Μελένικο, Meleniko) is a town in Blagoevgrad Province, Southwestern Bulgaria, in the Southwestern Pirin Mountains, about 440 m above sea level. The town is an architectural reserve and 96 of its buildings are cultural monuments. With a population of 385, it is the smallest town in Bulgaria, retaining its town status today for historical reasons. It is situated on the foothills of the Pirin mountain range and is overlooked by the Melnik Earth Pyramids.
Sights and winemaking
The unique architecture of Melnik and the nearby Rozhen Monastery (located 6 km northeast of Melnik) make it a popular tourist destination. In addition, the town has been famous for producing strong wine since at least 1346. The local wine from the varietal Broad Leave Melnik Vine was reportedly a favourite of Winston Churchill’s. Lately, the area of Melnik is enjoying a revival of vine growing and wine making. Several new, modern wineries have been built and operate (Villa Melnik Winery, Sintica Winery, Orbelus, etc.), producing high quality wine from local and international varieties.
Interesting architectural landmarks include the Byzantine House, one of the oldest civilian buildings in the Balkans (built probably in the 12th or 13th century as a Bulgarian fortress), the Kordopulov House (named after the merchant Manolis Kordopulou to whom it once belonged), which also has one of the largest wine cellars in Melnik, the Pashov House (1815), which houses the Historical Museum of Melnik and the Pasha’s House, built by Ibrahim Bey, one of the richest beys in the region, during Ottoman rule. Some of the old churches in the town worth visiting are St Nicholas (built in the 13th century), SS Peter and Paul (1840), St Nicholas the Thaumaturge (1756) and St Anthony.
The area around Melnik is strikingly eroded, particularly the enormous area of cliff that serves as a backdrop to the town. This area, covering some 17 km² near Melnik, Kurlanovo and Rozhen, has been called the Melnik Earth Pyramids or Melnik Badlands. The hills in this area can rise up to 100 metres (330 ft) high. The unique formations, which can resemble giant mushrooms, ancient towers, and obelisks, were formed when heavy rain eroded the sand and clay the hills are composed of.