The Mysteries of Melnik and Bulgaria’s Pyramids

When I first heard that Bulgaria had pyramids, I had to check them out! Here’s what we found…

About Melnik: the Most Picturesque Bulgarian Town

My first thought upon arriving in Melnik was simply “Wow”! Let me just frame this better: to reach Melnik from Bansko you take the highway looping around Pirin National park. Constantly visible in the far distance are the snowy peaks of the Pirin mountains. The road leads along gentle rivers and past dramatic, jagged rock formations. All around are lush forests and vibrant fields carpeted with blooming wildflower, poppies contrasting with the green of the grass, yellows and the vibrant pinks of thistle. Turning off the main highway ,the final part of the journey follows the Melnishka river, flowing through quaint, tumble down villages, woods and the otherworldly spires of sandstone that define the region.

The town itself is absolutely picturesque; the majority of the buildings are fine examples of Bulgarian National Revival architecture, with a unique type of stone wall for the ground floor and a larger wooden upper structure in black and white. Bridges crisscross what you would first think is a dry riverbed but actually appears to be a drainage system (you can imagine when it rains in the narrow valley, the water rises incredibly fast). The main street is lined with restaurants sheltered under huge, ancient oak trees and little shops selling local honey, preserves and of course wine, which the region is known for.

Dazzled by the idyllic, pastoral scenes of the journey, we were hungry and stumbled into the first establishment we saw, Mario Restaurant. I hate to say this (because the woman running it was absolutely lovely but this turned out to be a mistake.

We ordered the house special which was basically just a huge pile of barely unidentifiable meats with cheesy chips. At 75 BGN (37,50 EUR), it was also expensive in comparison to other meals we had. I won’t be leaving a negative Google review though because it turns out the nice woman running the place is a bit of a keyboard warrior. Tthe last person to do that received this in response:

“Such garbage as you who have no job and only write nonsense here and there, it is better not to go to restaurants at all. Eat at home and write your nonsense for yourself!!!!!!!!!!!!”

– Restaurant Mario Owner

Rumour has it that the author of the review was never heard from again.

The Pyramids of Melnik

We had planned on doing a 12km walk in Melnik but we weren’t keen on moving far after eating the greasy food so we set off exploring the area. It’s not marked on Google Maps but there is a series of footpaths taking you up the hill where you can view not only the incredible Sandstone Pyramids which Melnik is famous for but numerous churches and monasteries, as well the Slavova Fortress, originally constructed in the Byzantine period.

The view of the pyramids and the valley below is stunning; they are a very unique and bizarre geological formation. If there’s one thing that has become apparent on this trip, it is that Bulgaria has a huge amount of well-preserved natural habitat and here was no exception. We even saw a wild boar (which was thankfully at the other side of the valley)! At one point I was filming a magnificent squirrel and felt something fall on my head – I totally panicked thinking it was a poisonous caterpillar but it turned out to some kind of worm… gross!

Other Things to Do in Melnik

I highly recommend visiting Kordopulov House which belonged to a wealthy merchant family and is now a museum (entrance was 5 BGN, 2,5 EUR), giving great historical background.

Melnik was once an important trading town selling, amongst other things, wine, to Ottoman and Western European traders. The design of the house itself is a result of those trade connections, drawing on Venetian, Ottoman and even Oriental style. Despite style of these houses being known as “Bulgarian National Revival”, you can really see the similarity to the Turkish houses described in this article I found by coincidence.

We particularly loved the beautiful stained-glass windows, and the fact they had a secret room that they could hide an additional witness in for trade deals. Outside you can view the enormous wine cellars which have been carved deep into the rock (and taste wine if you wish).

The hike we planned to do follows a footpath marked on Google from Melnik to Rozhen Monastery then loops back around on the road (see AllTrails route here). We walked a little bit along the road before succumbing to our food-induced exhaustion but our initial impressions confirm it would be an interesting hike.

Rozhen Village

On the evening we drove a couple of kilometers to Rozhen, where the footpath from Melnik emerges, to visit the monastery. On top of the hill is a wonderful view of the surrounding area and in the evening light it was absolutely magical. There is also full 4G and a space to park camper vans. We saw a French couple with a bunch of dogs staying there, clearly just as awe-struck by the area as we were. There is also an old church, which is nothing special, but we were so bedazzled by the setting sun that we thought it was the monastery… it isn’t. The monastery was a bit further and is much more aesthetically pleasing!

Afterwards, we had a very light and far better meal at the Zlaten Rozhen Hotel (for 40 BGN, 20 EUR) before retiring to our guesthouse “Melnik Pyramids” for the night.

Where We Stayed in Melnik

Melnik Pyramids Guesthouse – can definitely recommend. Quaint rooms in a traditional house with a view of the pyramids behind. They have a hot tub, swimming pool and sauna outside which were brand new but not in use yet. Breakfast was included and I think they have an evening meal in main season. We paid 81 BGN/40 EUR a night.

Our Guesthouse

Restaurants in Melnik

Our tip: don’t go to the first place you see… There are plenty of other options with better reviews in Melnik. Otherwise the Zlaten Rozhen Hotel was great and good value.

We bought some absolutely delicious honey and raspberries preserved in honey in Rozhen from a little old grandma. I think it’s the best honey I’ve ever tasted. Look out for the old grandmas… They have the best stuff!

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions, comments or feedback, get in touch via the comments or write to me on Facebook (Hopelessly Nomantic), Instagram (Hopelessly_Nomantic) or Twitter (HopelesNomantic)!

Keep reading for more on our road trip; next up, Gradishte Historic Park, a surprisingly beautiful stop on the road to Yagodina.

A Road Trip through Southern Bulgaria

Check my other Bulgaria Posts for other off-the-beaten track destinations on Southern Bulgaria

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